Jaclynn makes breakfast sushi during a Child To Chef cooking class. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Program teaches cooking skills to kids

Kids can gain confidence and independence in a kitchen.

Rahmeca Rodriguez and Dwane Butler see the possibilities.

They are the backbone of a program, Child To Chef, a Kent nonprofit that teaches at-risk youth and children from low-income families the fundamentals on how to safely make easy-to-prepare, healthy meals. The purpose is to inspire youth through culinary arts and education.

“It’s just giving something back to the kids,” said Rodriguez, the program coordinator at the Kona Kai, a popular downtown Kent coffeehouse and sandwich shop that has opened its doors this month to a series of free weekend cooking classes for kids age 7 to 17. “This could be their career. … They (one day) can have their own business. … They can take this far. There is so much is out there for kids today.”

On this Saturday, a group of 7- to 9-year-olds stepped to the table to make breakfast sushi, a banana-based, yogurt-embraced meal dressed with blackberries and Fruity Pebbles.

For company CEO and Chef Butler, it’s a quick fix, a kid-friendly option. Butler came to Rodriguez with the idea to teach classes at Kona Kai Coffee, and classes soon took shape.

“I would like to think it is easy enough for a 7-year-old but unique enough for a 17-year-old,” Butler said of the program.

The class menu will also cover baked foods – putting a creative spin on chicken and corn dogs – and help young chefs prepare healthy-food-filled Easter baskets.

The month-long free class preview drew 60 kids, Butler said.

The Child to Chef program will begin a 32-week program in June for a fee. The class will meet for two hours each week.

Scholarships may be available to help pay a child’s way to class. For more information, call 206-605-6331 or visit childtochef@yahoo.com.

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