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Kids are cookin' in Finland

Marc Smith, kitchen coordinator at the Clair Nelson Center in Finland stands alone in a room soon to be filled with eager teen cooks. Photo by Ken Vogel.

On November 8, the kitchen at the Clair Nelson Center in Finland will be hosting its first youth cooking class for area teens. There will be three classes from 1- 3 p.m. held on Fridays, culminating on Dec. 6 with a team cooking challenge.

With the help of a grant from the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation the kitchen at the center was designed for commercial use. The kitchen can also be utilized and leased out to individuals who have a home- based food production business. When the classes were announced, it was clear that they idea struck a nerve with local kids. The center's kitchen coordinator, Marc Smith, said the class filled its 13- student roster very quickly and appealed to both genders.

"I am excited about the high number of boys that expressed interest in the class," he said, adding that the goal of the youth cooking class is to provide area teens with information about healthy eating choices and cooking for themselves. The classes, he said, will give the kids hands-on opportunities to explore the topic, while making it fun.

"It's really important for teens to learn cooking skills that they can use the rest of their life," Smith said.

The course, taught by Nancy Olson, Kathy Nelson, Amy Gardner and Kerry Greer, will focus instruction on everything from safe knife handling and sanitary concerns to "mise en place,"-- the preparation of equipment and food. The course will start off with basic preparation, food groups and preparing a breakfast meal. Phase two will be making homemade pizza and a presentation from the Organic Consumers Association, a non- profit organization promoting food safety and organically grown food. The students will be given groceries to take home to practice for the final phase, a team cooking challenge.

On the last day of the program the students will be divided into three teams responsible for preparing a chicken entrée dinner. Smith said there will be a panel to judge the meals and discover what the students have learned.

The classes are sponsored by the North Shore Federal Credit Union and the Organic Consumers Association.