PCC Cooks

Ami Karnosh

What’s For Dinner? Class for 4-6 year olds

PCC Cooks is a popular program hosted at various PCC locations throughout the Puget Sound area, and student ages range from two to 80 years. The purpose is to get people into the kitchen and to showcase some of the premier ingredients available at the stores. Cooking instructors range from chefs to skilled cooks who share a passion for cooking education. The topics range from non-cooking snack planning to elaborate meal and wine pairing. I have recently been contracted with PCC Cooks to teach a holiday baking course for young children over the holiday season. Until my class, I am attending as many classes as I can to learn from other instructors. In June, I attended “What’s For Dinner?” taught by Ami Karnosh, a professional chef, certified nutritionist, and author of Let’s Eat: A Book About Food.

When I walked into the generous classroom, the first thing I noticed was how much fun the students anticipated having in the course. This class was designed for young chefs aged 7-9 years old. They were seated around tables with their adult supervisors, usually a parent or guardian. A light snack was also provided, because this course took place around dinner time.
Ami, who was wearing a microphone so she wouldn’t have to holler to be heard, began describing the foods we would be preparing. As she talked about the ingredients, she showed us the packages, so when the recipes were prepared at home, the adults would know what to purchase. The ingredients were mostly pre-measured or pre-portioned so that each table could do a few small steps to complete the recipe.

Before the kids made their individual food items, Ami demonstrated the steps they would be following. She encouraged the kids to try new foods, but she didn’t force them to use them. She also provided lots of individual hands-on time, helping each child complete the preparation step before moving to the next step. There was lots of laughter as each young chef put his or her own spin on the step. One student spent extra time making sure that his Caprese salad was exactly even distributed over his plate and had the same amount of cheese on each bite.

We started by making a “chicken” nugget, in which the chicken was substituted out for seitan, a wheat gluten meat substitute. This eliminated the risk of exposing the children to raw chicken, and it introduced them to a new food in a familiar medium. When we completed that food, she gathered up the nuggets and baked them.

There was no sitting around. While the nuggets baked, we assembled our Caprese salads and played a food identification game. The kids gathered around the instructor and took turns putting their hands into a box which was hiding a secret food. Then they had to guess what the food was. Amused adults exchanged looks as kids guessed that the food was brown, orange, or green without even seeing it. Then they worked on figuring out what the food was, based on how it felt. Then we made our dessert – a vanilla wafer and yogurt parfait topped with plenty of fresh fruit.

In no time, the nuggets were done. The class prepared to eat. Another class had ended, and the instructor and her volunteers successfully taught a class of nine 7-9 year olds how to make dinner. In all the excitement, Ami maintained control and focus during the recipes. If the kids became boisterous, she would pause, and she would say, “raise your hand if you can see me,” and would wait until the room settled and all hands were raised. The volunteers continually kept the class room clean by gathering up used utensils and ingredients, and they kept the prep and demo areas clean and uncluttered. The class ran very smoothly.

When I was young, I would have given all my baby teeth to attend a class like this. It was comprehensive, hands-on, and the recipes were designed so that young chefs who were new to knife handling and cooking could participate. The adults probably enjoyed the class, because they didn’t have to do much, other than assisting shaky hands and keeping the kids on task.

I would recommend to participants to eat a little bit of food beforehand, because you won’t really get to eat until the end, about 45 minutes or so into the class. I would also recommend bringing a camera, because the joy on the kids faces really merits photographing to share with family who couldn’t attend. Dress to get messy and have lots of fun.

Look for and sign up for classes at PCC Cooks. Course cost and dates vary, so look online or pick up a catalog. Sign up early, because the classes fill up quickly.

If you like to cook and teach, contact Jackie DeCicco to get an application to propose a class. Courses are quarterly and seasonal, so continue checking back.