Kids cultivate culinary skills as ‘Future Chefs’

Jamie Hult, Staff writer
Mallorie Schmidt, 5, cracks her first egg into a bowl of Turkey Apple Meatballs while Cannon Halbersma and Aria Weygand look on during the Future Chefs after-school program at Robert Bennis Elementary Monday. Jamie Hult/BV Journal

Boys & Girls Club brings cooking classes to Brandon youth
A Brandon Valley after-school program is teaching youngsters how to whisk, chop, sauté and whip up delicious meals and snacks they can duplicate at home. 
The Boys & Girls Club of the Sioux Empire launched Future Chefs, a weekly kids’ cooking class, at Robert Bennis Elementary in September. 
Sixty-five students in kindergarten through fifth grade split up into groups Monday to make Turkey Apple Meatballs and Easy Apple Coleslaw. Everybody gets a hand in making each dish and a taste during the one-hour cooking session. 
“One surprise, and this sounds weird, is that the kids would much rather chop an onion than frost a cookie – although they would much rather eat the cookie,” mused Vickie Venhuizen, B&GC grants manager. “They love to chop, and they’re good at it. Some of them even practice at home.”
Eight-year-old Cambree Cook diced her first onion during a recent Future Chefs session. Recipes have ranged from cranberry fluff salad and sweet potato salad, as the group learns about traditional Thanksgiving sides, to bean and barley soup and okra and corn casserole. 
“It’s mostly fun. It’s challenging to some people,” the third-grader confessed. “The most challenging part was when I couldn’t cut an onion because my eyes were stinging, but then I put my glasses on.” 
Another session had the little chefs scooping pumpkin seeds to blend and bake up four different pumpkin-flavored dishes and desserts. 
But Cook’s favorite Future Chefs creation so far is the no-bake truffle batter.
“It was so good. I tried it at my house and made at least 16 of them,” she said. 
 A $1,000 grant from the Brandon Community Foundation allowed the Boys & Girls Club to buy a cooktop burner, crockpot, countertop oven and frying pan specifically for the Brandon Future Chefs program. The B&GC, which has received several BCF grants in the past, was one of 19 grant recipients at the foundation’s 2019 Oak & Vine event. 
According to board member Bob Logan, education is one of the categories in which the BCF awards grants, and the B&GC’s fudning request for kids’ cooking classes piqued their interest. 
“The Boys & Girls Club is a great advocate for education of our youth in Brandon and Valley Springs,” Logan said. “The board thought it was really interesting, teaching children cooking skills; nothing like this has been requested before in the category of education.”
Future Chefs is coming to Brandon Elementary and Fred Assam Elementary this winter, Venhuizen said, and the BCF grant funds also paid for new cooking equipment for those sites. Forty-five students are on board at BE, and more than 100 have signed up at FAE.  
“They’re a little nervous about how that’s going to work,” Venhuizen said. “You just do it in small groups.”
In addition to making meals, snacks, sides and desserts, Future Chefs learn about the nutritional aspects of the foods, their origins and their histories. For instance, many students, Venhuizen said, were surprised to learn okra comes from the South. 
She feeds on the children’s sense of wonder and had to laugh when, in an early session, one student called out, “My dad is Chef Tony!”
“Well, we’re not going to making anything to that level,” Venhuizen said with a smile.



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