The Student News Site of Ithaca College

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

Cooking Class Teaches Kids Confidence in the Kitchen

Kids in the Kitchen is a six-part cooking class offered by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County for elementary and middle school kids. (Sierra Guardiola/Ithaca Week)

As the clock approached 6 p.m. on Dec. 8, kids filed into the Cargill Teaching Kitchen on Willow Street with ambition in their eyes and containers for leftovers in their hands. Kids in the Kitchen, a weekly cooking class, was about to get started with its fourth session. Tonight’s focus – Mediterranean cuisine.

Kids in the Kitchen, offered by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County (CCE), is a total immersion cooking experience for kids ages 9 to 14, teaching self-confidence in the kitchen and basic cooking skills. The program is the brainchild of Josh Dolan, school and community food gardening educator at CCE. He started the program this fall along with Kaela Klapan, nutrition educator for SNAP-Ed .

“We are really trying to give the kids a breadth of knowledge of different global cuisine as well as try to fit in as many different skills as we can in the short time we have with them,” Dolan said.

Hailey Whitten (far left) works with other students to prepare kebabs using lamb, tomatoes, onions and peppers. (Sierra Guardiola/Ithaca Week)

Dolan starts the class with a guest speaker who teaches students about some aspect of food and nutrition. After the speaker, he segues into the recipes for the day and gives the students some background knowledge of the dishes they will be cooking, including the culture behind them.

“When it comes to food, cooking and eating is just part of it,” Dolan said. “To me one of the most interesting things about food is the history behind it because that’s so deeply linked with each culture that the food comes from.”

Over the course of the past three sessions, the budding chefs made chili, tacos and breakfast for dinner, but expanded their knowledge even more this week by cooking four Mediterranean recipes. The children were split into four groups, each tasked with working on either kebabs, tabbouleh, hummus and pickled vegetables, or a Moroccan stew.

One of the students, Julia Kleinberg, said she is a fan of cooking, but never found a class she liked until this one. Kleinberg worked in a team with two other students and two adult facilitators to make the Morroccan stew for dinner.

“I’ve learned that cooking is really a teamwork process most of the time and most of the time you don’t do it alone,” Kleinberg said.

Julia Kleinberg works with Jordan Brinkley to prepare squash for the Moroccan stew. (Sierra Guardiola/Ithaca Week)

Still in its pilot year, Dolan said the program got its start because of the demand for cooking classes for children in the wake of many home economics classes being cut from schools’ curriculums.

“It’s really important that kids learn some independence in the kitchen,” he said.

“Judging from how excited kids have been about it I would say it’s very needed and very timely.”

Even though the program has yet to wrap up, Chelsea Kennard, a CCE graduate intern through Cornell University’s Dietetic Internship program, said she has already heard positive feedback from parents who notice their children helping out in the kitchen at home.

“Hearing from the parents, ‘oh they helped me make dinner the other night,’ so seeing those skills transfer to outside of this kitchen is really exciting,” Kennard said.

Haley Whitten, an 11-year old student, said working with raw meat in class has helped her become comfortable enough to help her mom out at home. She said her mom has been supportive of her goal of cooking dishes with raw meat and has noticed how the class has given her confidence.

Klapan said she was a picky eater as a kid, so she didn’t have the chance to try some foods until she got to college. It’s exciting, she noted, for her to see how creative and willing the kids in this class are to trying new foods.

“I love being that new creative outlet for kids,” Klapan said. “Bringing in new ingredients and building recipes and tasting things as we go is really fulfilling for me to watch.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to Ithaca Week

Your donation will support the student journalists of Ithaca College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Ithaca Week

Comments (0)

All Ithaca Week Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *