Cooking class puts kids in the kitchen

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WAYNESBORO—With the holidays approaching, the focus in many homes will be on cooking and baking, but one local woman hopes to keep food preparation on the minds of kids all year long.

SueChefs.org is a local 501c3 nonprofit organization that encourages and teaches kids and teens ages 5-18 the value of nutrition, while also providing opportunities to learn how to create healthy snacks and recipes.

Founded four years ago by Sue James and her young sidekick, Eve Dickey, SueChefs is an opportunity for adults to mentor children to make good food choices and take responsibility for their well-being.

Each month (the third Thursday), the chefs unite in the kitchen to teach kids how to create snacks or meals.

“I started this program because, with all my years in childcare, I saw kiddos having an interest in cooking, but due to our fast-food lifestyle, some children are not able to acquire cooking skills,” James said. “One of my daycare children, Eve, and I began cooking together at my house and inviting other children to attend.”

Seasoned to taste

The cooking classes had been in-person at the Alexander Hamilton Memorial Free Library prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but for the remainder of the year, will be held via Zoom.

The monthly programs are free.

“We don’t think people should have to pay to learn to cook,” James explained.

She said the secret ingredient of the interactive cooking programs is camaraderie, especially at times like the past year.

“We know people are isolated and alone,” she said. “They’re all over social media, but they have little authentic reactions with people.”

Through the live half-hour classes, aspiring chefs can participate in a variety of ways.

“The recipes are always on our flyer and we post it ahead of time on our Facebook page what they might need to cook along, so they can either cook along with us or they can watch and cook it later,” James said.

And when it comes to healthy choices, there are options for that, too.

“We talk about a low-fat version or a regular version,” James said. “We’re making them together and you have an opportunity to see that it doesn’t taste much different, but the calories may be different.”

On the back burner

Coming early next year, James plans to expand the program for another audience. “We’re going to embrace adults into our SueChefs world,” she said. “We’re finding there are a lot of adults looking for healthy food and looking for ways to do life differently.”

James said she is thinking about splitting the course into a twice-monthly program—one for older children and adults and one for younger kids.

She’s also looking for a new location to do the live programs.

“We need a location that has a semi-commercial or commercial kitchen that would hold 25 to 30 people so it would allow them to interact and sit and eat,” James explained.

In the meantime, interested epicureans can discover upcoming programs at SueChefs.org. The next event, “Nacho November,” will be held at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18.

“I get excited about it,” James said of sharing her love of home-cooked food with others. “It is so important that people in the community can have a place to go that is comfortable and is practical and inspires hope.”