Through REC Room Program, Kids Conquer the Kitchen

Ariel Van Cleave
Students prepare tomatoes to be added to their recipe for halibut tacos.
Ariel Van Cleave photo

     A program through Homer’s R.E.C. Room called "FORK Club Cooking Classes" is trying to get kids to feel comfortable in the kitchen. Teens get tips on using healthy, local ingredients while getting a taste of what’s it’s like to be in a commercial kitchen.

     A group of seven kids was paying close attention to Megan Palma as she started explaining the best way to cut a tomato. They were standing around a covered pool table at the Alibi in downtown Homer, which is serving as a make-shift classroom for the evening. Megan is owner of Alibi a la Carte. She and her pupils were doing the prep work for the restaurant’s halibut tacos. 

    “I tried to pick an item that would taste good, be healthy and be fairly easy. And I wanted them to see, as much as possible, from start to finish,” she said. 

    Megan was focused on safety. She was surrounded by a small group of kids who probably don’t interact with kitchen knives on a daily basis like she does. But her students were handling themselves well. At least until they got to the onions. Ultimately, everyone was able to fight through their watering eyes and move on to the fresh lime juice and garlic. Finally Megan talks cilantro. 

     But this is only the prep work for the main event. Megan took the kids into the kitchen two-by-two to pan-sear the halibut and warm up tortillas. Danielle Couch and Ian Brant were first up. 

     In no time at all, the halibut is cooked to perfection and Danielle and Ian were both heading back to their prep areas. They added the guacamole, pico de gallo, red cabbage and Megan’s Baja sauce. 

     It’s safe to say Danielle’s favorite part of the evening was eating the taco. Ian had a different take.

     “I thought the salsa was pretty good. And especially the avocado because you could actually put your hands in and start to mix it; it got all messy,” he said.

     Ian also mentioned he thought he did a nice job with the knife considering he’s only just starting out. Megan said she was happy with everyone’s performance; especially when you take their ages into account. Most were between 7th and 9th grade. 

     “At first they were a little squirrely, but… I was amazed at how quickly their skills developed just in one day,” she said. 

     Megan said she also likes the fact that her students learned and completed a recipe from start to finish.

     “Even if they do cook at home, they’re still just assembling already prepared food. So I think it’s nice for them to see as much as we could do it in two hours,” she said.

     There are two more classes in the works with this program. One focuses on edible art and the other will teach kids how to prepare Thai dishes. And unfortunately for all the adults, the classes are open to 12 to 18 year-olds only.