Celeste Villegas, 10, wanted to help her mother cook meals, so she joined a cooking class at Juniper Elementary School in Bend.
“I surprised her,” Celeste, a fifth-grader, said as she chopped vegetables.
Celeste and about 10 other fourth- and fifth-graders from Juniper are taking a free after-school cooking class run by the Assistance League of Bend.
On Tuesday, the students learned how to make healthy tacos with beans, cheese, lettuce and turkey. Sitting along two banquet tables, the students cut vegetables, cooked ground turkey on a stove and assembled the dish.
At the end of the four-week class, the students will take home a cookbook with all the recipes they made. The league also teaches the class at Bear Creek Elementary School in Bend.
Cindy Rowley, a league volunteer, teaches the class with other volunteers. Along with the mechanics of cooking, students also learn how to pick out healthy foods, Rowley said.
“We're teaching them about making good choices,” Rowley said.
Standing at the head of one of the tables, Rowley held up a bowl of beans. She wanted students to tell her what the beans added to the tacos.
“Beans are a source of ...” she said, leading the class to an answer.
After waiting, Rowley gave hints.
“It begins with a ‘p,'” she said.
After a few more seconds, the class shouted, “Protein!”
Some of the students had never worked in a kitchen much before taking the class, which is in its second week. Ten-year old Kendall Dezember said she hadn't cooked much before but has enjoyed the class.
Cooking has been more difficult than she expected. Grating cheese was easy. Chopping celery, that was more difficult, the fourth-grader said.
“It's been kind of medium, as in some things are hard to do,” Kendall said.
Michael Whitefield, 10, enjoys cooking, so he took the class.
As long as the food is tasty, he said he doesn't mind preparing difficult dishes. And he's happy to try different combinations of food, though one effort didn't work out during class on Tuesday.
After Michael, a fifth-grader, took a bite of celery he'd filled, he grimaced.
“Cream cheese and sunflower seeds didn't taste that good, but I thought it would,” Michael said.
Fifth-grader Natalie Pless, 10, signed up for the class because of her career ambitions. Between bites of her taco, which was spilling over with fillings, Natalie said she wants to be a chef.
“When I'm older ... that's kind of like my dream,” she said and took another bite.