‘Chef and the Child’ teaches life skills

Published 10:19 am Tuesday, July 9, 2024

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

They were quick to point their knives in the correct direction.

That had cleaning materials at hand.

They knew where the bowls, spoons and plates were stored.

And with the help of two regional chefs, young people attending the Davie 4-H “Chef  and the Child” program learned the basics of working in a kitchen.

Prior to the program, Nathan Gale, 12, had mostly just cooked microwave popcorn at home. That may soon change, as he learned how to make lasagna, arrange food, and make cookies and ice cream.

“Everything has been good, except the tea,” said Gracie Youker. “I like learning new stuff. I learned how to cut stuff correctly.” At home, she likes “making brownies and stuff like that.”

Chefs Al Romano and Don McMillan were on hand to give the students pointers, part of the Chef and the Child program through the Americal Culinary Federation.

“This is a way to hone in on some life skills, like cooking,” said Abby Williams, Davie 4-H director. The students learn how to act in a kitchen, how to handle and use sometimes sharp implements such as knives. It paired well with the 4-H Farm to Table summer program, where young people visited a beekeeper and a local farm. The final day of the Chef and the Child was spent visiting a local restaurant.

“Not all of these kids will become chefs, but all of them will eat,” Romano said. “To me, this is a basic life skill.”

McMillan told of his travels to 64 countries, where he always tasted the local cuisine.

“The best food is not at some fancy restaurant, but at someone’s home,” McMillan said. “You can learn how people live. Street foods will tell you a lot about a country.”

Both chefs became familiar with a kitchen as children.

“A lot of memories involve home cooking,” Romano said. “When you get older, food can bring back those memories.”

“My grandmother made the best peanut butter cookies and the best chicken and dumplings,” McMillan said. “I have the recipes and make them, but they’re never the same.”