Training young chefs

Hands-on class teaches children cooking basics

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Omelet Breakfast Bites


36 tater tots

1/2 cup diced ham

1/2 cup diced peppers

7 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup shredded cheese

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease a muffin pan well.

Place three frozen Tater Tots in the bottom of each muffin tin and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove and press tots down to form a base using a glass cup.

Return to oven and bake five minutes longer.

Remove from oven.

Reduce temperature to 350 degrees.

Top each cup with 1/2 teaspoon diced ham and 1/2 teaspoon diced peppers.

Whisk together the eggs and milk and pour mixture into each muffin tin nearly to the top.

Sprinkle each with a little shredded cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until egg is cooked.

Recipe provided by Chefs in Training.

Ask most elementary school children what cooking involves, and many will answer with putting a frozen pizza in the oven, or zapping a bowl of canned ravioli.

That’s why Julie Werner teaches the Chefs in Training classes through Camas Community Eduction. She is trying to show children that they can learn to cook dishes that are easy to make and taste good.

“I have so much fun with the kids and enjoy teaching them a skill that they can take with them and use their entire lives,” she said. “Here, we learn to cook from the basics.”

She was first approached about teaching the class after others noticed Werner enjoyed coming up with fun snack recipes for the children who attend the Camas School District’s extended daycare program. Werner works there and at Grass Valley Elementary as a paraeducator.

“At first I was taken aback and didn’t think I could do it,” Werner said. “But once I began teaching, I really enjoyed it.”

Classes are held once a month and last for two hours. There, children in first through fifth grade create seasonal dishes, and get to eat their creations in class, and take some home. Courses are limited to approximately 16 students.

Azlin Wong, a fourth-grader at Grass Valley, has attended 25 of Werner’s classes.

“My favorite things to make are brownies and chocolate chip cookies,” she said. “Cooking is something I have been interested in for a long time. I really enjoy hanging out with people and learning about different things. I also like that you get to eat what you make.”

Mike Marnella has attended five cooking classes with Werner so far.

“My mom wanted me to learn how to cook and I thought it would be good to know how to make stuff,” the fourth-grader said. “My favorite is to make cookies from scratch.”

Third-grade twins Sophia and Helena Schuett have taken 15 cooking classes.

“I thought it would be fun to make new recipes at home for lunches and dinners,” Sophia said. “I also like making new friends in class.”

Added Helena, “I love to bake and wanted to learn more about it. My grandma loves to cook, so we also cook with her at home.”

Werner scours the Internet to find easy-to-make, kid-friendly recipes.

“But a lot of the time, I end up going back to the recipes that I grew up with, which don’t use any ‘quick’ items that have artificial ingredients,” she said.

Her favorite aspect of teaching the class is when her students realize an ingredient they aren’t used to, such as rosemary, can taste good in a recipe.

“I will show the kids a certain ingredient, and they will shake their heads and say they don’t like it,” Werner said. “Then, they come back the next class and tell me it was really good and made a difference. They are always surprised about that.”

Parental feedback has been positive as well.

“They are really happy that their children are learning to cook,” Werner said. “With the kids, I am hoping they learn to be confident that they can cook and develop a love for it.”

Werner’s classes typically fill up at least a month in advance, so she recommends registering early.

“The class will end, and parents will sign their children up for the next one right away,” she said.