The kids in the kitchen

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It was spring break last week, and by Friday, children were ready for something new to do.

Twenty-one lucky children spent the morning at Russell's Catering in the kitchen, where they cooked their own lunch under the watchful eyes of Pampered Chef consultants Heather and John Denton.

They had so many wanting to participate in "Kids in the Kitchen" that, Heather said, in addition to Friday's session, they also held a mini-class for 15 children the day before.

Each child got a cookbook with their name on it, and inside were the recipes they followed: nachos, cupcakes decorated to look like baseballs, steak fries and sliders. The theme, as one might guess, was "Ball Park Foods." The cookbook also told about cooking tools and techniques, and some fun learning activities to do at home.

Heather and "Chef John" effortlessly kept a mixed group of boys and girls, ranging in age from 5-12, focused on preparing food. Beyond their Pampered Chef roles, the couple work as teachers.

Heather teaches math at Marshall County High School. John teaches English at Cornersville Middle School. They both coach as well. The Dentons met when they were at Bethel University in McKenzie. She's Marshall County born and raised, while he's from Muscle Shoals, Ala.

They started conducting Pampered Chef parties a year and a half ago to make some extra money and except for three, they've done all the parties as a team.

"He's good at cooking," Heather said, "and I'm good at talking."

A Pampered Chef party can be "whatever the customer wants," she said. Recently they produced a 13-year-old's birthday party and a fiesta. Last week was their first venture into "Kids in the Kitchen."

"I hope the kids learn and have fun," Heather said.

Friday, they started by getting the cupcakes ready to bake in Russell's oven. Then they went on to making cheese sauce for the nachos. After a break to eat the nachos and drink Kool-Aid or lemonade, it was time to work off some energy in the parking lot with a couple of food-themed relay races: flip the frozen waffle; and baseball-and-spoon.

Back inside, everybody got a potato, and Heather asked, "Why do we have to wash potatoes?" and back came the answer from the children, "'Cause they're nasty!"

The children got to use the Pampered Chef "veggie wedger" to cut the potatoes in wedges, and the garlic press to prepare some garlic to season the hamburger meat. Heather and John showed them a clever way to mix hamburger and seasoning without getting your hands dirty: put everything in a plastic freezer bag, push most of the air out, close it, and squeeze the bag until the ingredients are combined.

While the hamburger meat and potatoes were cooking, the cupcakes were covered with white frosting and decorated with pieces of red Sour Straws to represent the seams on a baseball.

Finally, it was time to eat the main course, steak fries and sliders, and then, all too soon, it was time to go home.

Parents had to pay for their child to participate, but each child got to select some Pampered Chef products for themselves.

The Dentons plan to repeat "Kids in the Kitchen" at Russells at least twice while school is out this summer.