Colonial Heights United Methodist Church cooking class a big hit

Holly Viers • Aug 26, 2019 at 9:31 AM

KINGSPORT — Before the summer, sixth-grader Aaron Blair didn’t know much about cooking.

He was familiar with the measurements used in food preparation, but had limited experience with making a dish from start to finish. That all changed when he decided to attend a summer cooking class at Colonial Heights United Methodist Church, of which he is a member.

After five weekly sessions, Blair now knows how to prepare several dishes and is much more confident in the kitchen.

“I did have fun, and class was amazing,” Blair said. “We made everything from scratch, and we made banana bread, chicken pot pie, baked spaghetti, ice cream and cookies.”

The church hosted the class for the first time this year, and based on its success, organizers plan to hold another one in the coming months.

“It was kind of a unique ministry, and people really enjoyed it,” said Chris Brown, pastor of the church. “It empowered the youth and helped them learn some valuable skills in the process.”

Coming together

Church member Sam Hiester first introduced the idea of a cooking class to Brown in the spring. Hiester developed an interest in cooking at a young age and took some professional culinary courses, but he was interested in the possibility of teaching a class himself.

Brown expressed a shared interest in offering a class at the church, and from there, the planning process began. Called “Loaves and Fish,” the class was geared toward young teenagers in sixth through ninth grades and taught basic skills such as how to use various utensils, how to prepare a homemade dish and how to properly clean a kitchen.

Most of the participants were church members, but a couple came after learning about it through word of mouth, Brown said. The class began the last week of June and continued for five sessions once a week, Hiester said.

“It’s nice to see young kids learning about cooking, because it really is becoming a lost art,” Hiester said. “So giving them this opportunity to learn a skill that’s going to stick with them far beyond the actual class is really more than we could have hoped for.”

A big impact

Eight students regularly participated in the class, which was offered at no charge. Donations were accepted from parents and church members, and those funds were used to purchase ingredients and supplies, Hiester said.

As things were cooking, Brown said, church volunteers would lead the students in devotions on topics like the ingredients of faith. Once the food was finished, children were allowed to take some home to their families, and extras were taken to the church’s shut-ins and elderly.

After the class had ended, the students put their skills to the test by making lunch for the congregation following a Sunday morning service. Called the “Loaves and Fish Café” the meal served as a fitting end to their weeks of training, Hiester said.

“We fed roughly 150 people across two feeding times,” Heister said, “and the eight kids did everything. … We did baked spaghetti and chicken pot pie, and they did everything from making everything to the place settings to the drinks to serving. I was really, really impressed with them.”

What’s next?

Plans are already in the works for another youth class, which will be open to new and returning participants. Classes for high school and college students and adults are also being explored.

“One of the things I think it really helped do for the kids was it gave them some confidence, and I think it also was something they really enjoyed,” Brown said. “Several of the parents shared how their kids would come home and they would want to make dinner. So it kind of empowered them … and we were able to tie in making food with spiritual food that we need in our lives.”

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