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Kids learn the art of cooking and healthy eating through Kroger's Chef Junior program

POSTED: April 19, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Erin O. Smith/The Times

Ayleen Rodriguez, 8, gets instruction from Chef Jared Shipp during a class April 1. Over the last few months, children have made waffle sandwiches, lettuce wraps, fruit pizza, macaroni salad, banana pudding and vegetable dip at various workshops.

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Collins Pruitt has big dreams for her future.

The 7-year-old wants to be an architect when she grows up since she likes drawing and building. For now though, she’s taking classes to help her learn to cook — a skill she hopes to one day pass on to her future children.

Collins has been attending the Kroger Chef Junior program at the Jesse Jewell Kroger store for the past few months. The program teaches children about nutrition and gives them a hands-on approach to cooking. Participants receive instruction from a chef on how to make a recipe, a recipe card and a kitchen tool, such as tongs or a brush.

“I think it’s pretty incredible,” Collins’ mother Wesley Pruitt said. “I wasn’t taught to cook myself growing up, and I’m making sure my daughter’s not in the same boat.”

Collins said she has fun putting the ingredients together, and shrimp pad Thai is her favorite dish she’s made.

“You can make it, you can have fun with it and then you can eat it and see how it tastes,” she said.

Having fun is one of chef Jared Shipp’s favorite parts about teaching the class. He said seeing children smile as they learn to cook makes his job that much easier.

“He’s really great, wonderful with kids,” Wesley said of Shipp. “It’s phenomenal. We’re really pleased with the whole thing.”

Shipp oversees the Kroger Chef Junior program at the store at 1931 Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville. Kroger offers the class as a way to foster a lifelong love of cooking for its young shoppers.

“Nutritional education begins at a young age,” said Glynn Jenkins, public relations director for Kroger’s Atlanta Division. “ ... and the Chef Junior program is just one tangible example of the many ways we proudly support the communities we serve.”

During the past few months, children have made waffle sandwiches, lettuce wraps, fruit pizza, macaroni salad, banana pudding and vegetable dip at various workshops.

Selected recipes as well as healthy lunch and snack options for home or school are simple to make, Jenkins said.

“They love being able to get in here and make the food up,” said Shipp, who has a culinary degree from North Georgia Technical College.

The workshops last 30 minutes between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on two Saturdays each month. Workshops in the area occur at the Gainesville Kroger and Kroger at 378 Marketplace Parkway in Dawsonville.

Children receive an apron, chef’s hat, recipe box, cooking utensil and patch. Additionally, each chef junior takes home a recipe card with step-by-step instructions to continue the experience at home with a made-from-scratch recipe.

Pad Thai, a Thai dish that’s a mix of noodles and shrimp, is one of the upcoming workshops, as well as fruity guacamole.

“We hope introducing the importance of nutrition through this program at a young age will encourage smart, nutritional choices throughout the children’s lives,” Jenkins said.

Participants are encouraged to register in advance at Cost is $7. Workshops are recommended for children ages 4-10 years old, but all are welcome.


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