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Eighth-graders start small business thanks to school cooking class
Chef Giovanna Garcia instructs eighth-graders in her culinary program at World Language Academy. In almost every class students get a hands-on lesson, Garcia said. - photo by For The Times

Wynne Kelly and Kylie O’Donnell grinned from ear to ear, holding their first paycheck.

The eighth-graders at World Language Academy in Flowery Branch recently started a small business, thanks to the culinary program at their school.

“This class can give students such a sense of real life, of reality, of what they could be,” said Chef Giovanna Garcia, who instructs the program. “These girls perhaps won’t be chefs, because I see so much potential in them for so many things, but they’ve got a sense of pride, of organization, of working hard and getting rewarded for it.”

Kelly, 14, and O’Donnell, 13, started in Garcia’s culinary program when they were in sixth grade. This summer, they decided to take what they learned and start a small business baking sweets for events.

“My dad is a chef, so he cooks a lot at home and I grew up in the environment,” Kelly said. “It’s very important at our house and in our families.”

O’Donnell said they got the idea for their business from watching Cupcake Wars in May.

“We said, ‘Hey, why don’t we try making cupcakes?’” she said.

They started by baking lemon cupcakes for a baby shower. Their first paid gig was catering the birthday party of a young boy at World Language Academy.

“I tutor him in Spanish,” O’Donnell said. “So I was talking to his family about it, and they knew we had our business and were telling me all their Pokemon ideas for this party.”

Kelly said they baked a dozen vanilla cupcakes with edible Pokemon decorations.

“We went to her house at 8 in the morning,” she said. “The cupcakes had designs that I had been making out of fondant that were a couple different characters he liked. Then we made a cake, one layer chocolate and one layer vanilla, and decorated it like a Pokemon ball.”

Since, they have also baked three dozen cookies for a woman hosting a holiday cookie exchange.

Both girls said they are interested in utilizing their cooking skills as a future career.

“It would be something nice to have to fall back on,” Kelly said. “I really enjoy it.”
But Garcia said she is most pleased to see her students using what they learned in class in a practical, real-world way.

“It gives me a sense of pride,” she said. “I see them now being able to come up with their own recipes, to work by themselves in the kitchen, and if it’s not in the kitchen, it’s now out there in the real world.”