News and Tribune

April 5, 2013

A FEAST OF KNOWLEDGE: Kids learn cooking skills in New Albany Parks Department program

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — Donning their chef’s whites, the cooks measured and mixed their ingredients carefully, occasionally testing their quality with a taste. 

When the day was done, they went home and shared the recipes they’d learned with mom and dad.

The New Albany Parks Department and the New Albany Housing Authority began hosting their Little Chefs Cooking Class about a month ago. Children come in to learn how to make simple dishes on their own or with some help from their parents.

Kathy Wilkerson, interim director of the parks department, said giving children the ability to cook on their own is something that will follow them through life.

“We’re trying to teach kids real life skills,” Wilkerson said. “At an early age, if they learn how to cook, it really sticks with them. It’s like riding a bike, they never really forget.”

She said there are about 12 children between the ages of 5 and 11 in each of the four classes taught in different locations around the city.

Joyce Marshall, owner of Weddings by Design, teaches children the basics of making their own meals. She said everything from washing their hands before starting, other cleanliness procedures and cleanup after the fact are also taught.

“They really take pride in what they’re doing,” Marshall said. “They’re a patient group, too. They really listen well and try their cooking at home.”

Wilkerson said each child brings a copy of the recipes they make — which have included pizza, fruit salad and others — home to their parents so they can work together and make their own meals.

“It’s a great way for them to spend some quality family time together,” Wilkerson said. “I think it’s important that they also get to do this with their friends. It lets them socialize, but they also learn something.”

She also said children get to try what they make before they head home to make it on their own.

Marshall said they try to keep each recipe as healthy as possible, using low-fat meats when they’re called for and no added sugar.

Azarah Williams, an 11-year-old in the program, said she had an interest in cooking at home anyway and wanted to join the program to learn more techniques. She also said her parents like seeing her come home with more recipes.

“They get a big smile on their faces,” Williams said. “Me and my mom have cooked before, but never stuff like this. My dad didn’t even know how to make pigs in a blanket before I came here.”