CORRECTION: this story has been modified to correctly recognize the program's funding and location.
Middle school kids are hungry. Mostly because they’re also growing. So, why not teach them how to cook and get them interested in what’s actually in their food?
The Young Chef's cooking club, inspired by Carleton College’s Firebellies cooking club, a campus organization with a following that continues to grow, has been sharing its passion for cooking with Northfield youth since 2013.
This summer, members have expanded their culinary reach − working with Northfield Middle School’s summer enrichment program for 10 weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Carleton's Parish House.
“The middle school program was going so well, we decided to branch out,” said Carleton senior-to-be and Young Chefs co-director, Emily Pence.
Funded by the Carleton College Center for Community and Civic Engagement program budget and a Puzak Scholarship earned by Pence, there is no cost to the students.
The scientific focus that Young Chefs takes has continued into this summer. For example, in the first session, the group made hummus. Prompting Pence and Tori Ostenso, also an incoming Carleton senior and Firebellies member, to educate the students on the nitrogen fixation process involved with the beans used for the dip.
It’s not all science this summer though. On Tuesday, the group made pizzas and learned about the history of the ever-popular dish in America.
For example, did you know that Americans buy an average of three billion pizzas a year? And that the first type of pizza was margherita? It became popular in the states after World War II when soldiers brought it back.
Pence informed the 14 students present of all this and more, while they patiently waited for their pizzas to cook.
These weren’t the typical pepperoni or cheese pizzas though.
Students broke into four groups to create Margherita, Greek, sausage and pesto pizzas.
Students also learned how to caramelize onions and crush garlic properly.
“The lower the heat (on the stovetop), the sweeter the onions will get,” Ostenso told the students as they gathered around to take a closer look.
When the students were asked why they wanted to take the class. The resounding answer was “I like to eat,” A few students were interested in more than just the outcome though, stating that they like to cook.
Other students were inquisitive about the ingredients, “What exactly is basil?” one asked while chopping up the green leaf. And with four different pizzas to taste test, some students’ competitive sides came out: “My pizza’s better than yours!”
After all of the assembling and learning, the students had one last thing to do before digging into their homemade ‘za: Explaining to the group what exactly went on to the pizza.
“We’ve found that if kids have an active role, they are way more apt to eat it,” Pence said.
Pizza may be popular and known to most, but that’s not the case for all of the dishes on this summer’s menu. Chocolate beet cake being one of the most interesting.
“We always keep it healthy,” Ostenso said.
Healthy and local. The group gets most of their produce from local farmers. They’re also planning to take a trip to a local farm to pick berries and Carleton’s Cowling Arboretum.
Whether learning or eating, kids seem to enjoy the experience.
“They ultimately have a lot of fun,” Pence said.