Several of the budding chefs brought their own aprons for a “Cook with Your Kids” class in Sharon. Others dressed casually in colorful T-shirts.
Makenna Marks, who was the youngest student in the session at Thyme in Your Kitchen, wore a colorful pink ensemble, complete with a perfectly pleated chef’s toque.
The chatty 3-year-old from Bethel Park near Pittsburgh was among a dozen girls and boys up to age 13, accompanied by their moms, who made and munched a menu of dishes put together by Chef Bryce Stanford and his sous chef and son Logan, 7.
The breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert recipes included fruit and vegetables from the dad side of Stanford’s brain. The kid side also remembered to feature bacon; chocolate, of course; cheese; and marshmallows during the session at the downtown boutique that offers classes to cooks of every age.
Bird’s Nests made with pancakes and decorated to look like faces let the kids mix batter, fry eggs and add decorative finishing touches to their culinary creations. They used eggs for eyes, banana slices for noses, apricot halves for ears and a wide smile of bacon for a mouth.
They also helped to make Pizza Bagel Bites, Chicken Alfredo with Tater Tots and Chocolate-covered Strawberry S’mores that completed the menu.
“First of all, everybody wash your hands,” ordered Stanford, a chef at Iron Bridge restaurant. He gave some initial instructions and his eager students got started on the breakfast dish.
“I did it!” Alessandra Matteo exclaimed after she cracked the shell and opened an egg that plopped into the pan. “I want to do another one.”
The 6-year-old Pulaski girl’s co-worker, Emma Miller, watched with interest and surprise.
“That’s just weird when it does that,” the 8-year-old Sharon girl said, startled by the lively popping sound of eggs sizzling in the skillet.
A team of older girls from Farrell took the class as members of their 4-H group.
Saraea Cooper, 13; Brooklyn Davis and Micah Ferguson, both 12; and Cheaney Ferguson, 8, are members of Fit to Excel.
Monique Ferguson, a teacher and 4-H program director, said the class for her daughters and their friends was a natural fit for the group’s mission of promoting good nutrition, backyard gardening and exercise.
Stanford took charge of sautéing sliced chicken breast and making the pizza and alfredo sauces because they required high heat. His young students tried their hands at mixing, topping dishes and gobbling up the goodies they were learning to cook.
“Mine is a wolf,” Brooklyn said after making her pancake face. Pointing to Saraea’s, she added, “that one is a dog and Cheaney made a pig. It’s too cute.”
Max Davis, 5, of Hermitage, suddenly turned shy when it was time to flip his pancake as it browned in the pan. “You do it,” he pleaded with his mother, Natalie. “We’ll do it together,” she said.
While the kids worked, their moms were paying attention to the chef’s technique for quickly turning cream, herbs and grated romano cheese into a velvety alfredo sauce.
“The cream has to be really cold or it won’t thicken properly and the sauce will break,” he said, while pouring cream straight from the refrigerator into an empty pot that had been sitting on the burner for a couple of minutes to get blazing hot.
The cream sizzled and quickly began reducing, thickening as Stanford seasoned it with some salt and pepper and a mix of dried garlic, basil and oregano.
He added grated cheese and a knob of butter at the end for additional flavor and sheen. The sauce was ready in just minutes to pour over the penne pasta the kids had been boiling at their work stations.
Stanford dressed the pasta with the chicken and sauce and poured it into pans.
The kids arranged tight ranks of Tater Tots on top and generously sprinkled on grated Cheddar jack cheese before the pans went into the oven for a final short bake to bring everything together.
Helping to make s’mores got Kaylee Sims thinking about other favorite desserts she already knows about.
“I have an Easy Bake oven that I cook on,” the Sharon 7-year-old said. “I made red velvet cupcakes.”
Having a chef at home has turned Logan, who will be in second grade in September at Hermitage Elementary School, into a pint-sized foodie.
He’s ready to help out in the kitchen almost anytime.
“I like making steak,” he said.
“I like steak and pasta. It’s my favorite thing to make with my dad.”
Thyme in Your Kitchen, 79 E. State St., Sharon, has upcoming classes for children and adults.
Info: 724-704-0124 or www.thymeinyourkitchen.com