Chef’s Club

Students become young cooks in a

In this Jan. 19, 2017 photo, Maddie Lee, 10, learns to use a can of soup as a rolling pin during the first meeting of the Quick Fixin' Young Chefs Club winter session at the Fort Dodge Middle School, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The popular club gives students a chance to learn basic cooking skills. (Hans Madsen/The Messenger via AP)

By HANS MADSEN

The Messenger, Fort Dodge

FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — Before the new members of the Quick Fixin’ Young Chefs Club at the Fort Dodge Middle School could do anything, there was one important task to attend to.

Getting their adult-sized aprons adjusted to their fifth- and sixth-grade frames and getting them tied on securely.

Instructors Terri Halstead and Nancy Martin helped them out and then gave them some good news about their new garments.

“At the end of the club,” Halstead said, “you’ll be able to take these home.”

Colby Doebel, 12, was well-prepared.

“I’m ready to cook,” he told a classmate. “I always have a skillet in my back pack.”

He joined the club to learn more.

“I know something about cooking,” he said. “I want to be capable enough to cook a meal on my own, like an actual meal.”

Shylen Hicks, 10, joined up with some previous experience and a set career goal.

“I like to cook,” she said. “I want to go to culinary school so I can open my own bakery.”

Her friend Maddie Lee, 10, wanted to learn too.

“I want to learn how to cook,” she said. “I don’t cook that much at my home.”

The middle school students have 10 different clubs that they are able to select from. Each consists of a weekly meeting lasting eight weeks.

Kim Bodholdt, culture and climate grant coordinator, said that the cooking club is one of the most popular.

“We started the club last winter,” she said. “This cooking club filled up in 10 minutes. There’s a waiting list.”

Each club is supervised by a school staff member who’s frequently sharing one of their own interests with the students. Both Martin and Halstead enjoy cooking.

“I got started with my grandmother,” Halstead said. “I was the oldest of 10 kids. I kind of had to learn. I didn’t have choice.”

Once in their aprons, the next step was making sure that good food safety practices were followed.

“We’re going to wash our hands,” Halstead said. “Count at least to 11 or say the alphabet.”

Facing a table covered with ingredients and a crock pot, the next step was looking it all over carefully before rushing into the chicken enchilada dip recipe.

“What should we do first with this recipe?” she asked. “Make sure you have all your ingredients.”

The recipe includes three cans of chicken. Kayla Olson, 11, got to open one of them with an old-school manual can opener.

She knew how to use it, but needed just a little more strength.

“I have used one,” she said, “but it’s really hard.”

Madison Pommer, 10, was looking forward to tasting the results when the group was done.

“Now we make real food instead of Ramen noodles,” she said.

Martin said there are several goals for the cooking club.

“We want them to have fun,” she said. “Learn some basic cooking skills, make it at home and share it with their families.”

During one of the club’s upcoming meetings, they’ll travel to Iowa Central Community College to visit the Culinary Arts Program facilities and meet with instructor Tom Pritchard. They may also, for fun, try to do an informal cooking contest based on the Food Network’s show “Chopped,” where each contestant is given a basket of ingredients and a fixed amount of time to prepare them.

“I’ll try to figure out how to do ‘Chopped’,” Haltead said.

Doebel has already figured out how to win that.

“During the dessert round,” he said, “always turn all your ingredients into ice cream.”

Winning the appetizer round might come pretty easy if the students prepare Thursday’s chicken enchilada dip. Once they tasted it, the club members rated it a confirmed two thumbs up.

The Kerbal Space Program also held its first meeting Thursday.

It too is popular.

“They design space ships,” Bodholdt said. “There are 36 students in that.”

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