Parkrose High guys learn to rock the kitchen

If you could smell the great dinner these guys were cooking up, you’d read about it right now

Proving these guys can really cook, these Parkrose SUN students, (the one furthest away from the camera was too shy to give his name) Dakota Wright, 9th grade, and Alex Heiden, 10th grade, put the finishing touches on a Chinese dinner fit for kings.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
On the Monday afternoon we visited the school not long ago, it wasn’t difficult to find the SUN School cooking class at Parkrose High School. All one had to do was “follow their nose”.

The savory scent of caramelized, sizzling onions and chicken, pea pods, and spices wafted through the first-floor hallway.

Inside a small, but well equipped modern kitchen, we were somewhat surprised to see young men – not young women – cooking up a full-course Chinese-style dinner.

SUN Schools Life Skills instructor Sarah Shumaker is dishing up a bowl of made-from-scratch egg-flower soup made by her students.

Teaching important life skills
Sarah Shumaker, a Life Skills instructor, told us she’s been holding these classes on Mondays and Wednesdays of each week.

“These classes are all about cooking and eating wholesome meals,” Shumaker explained. “These life skills are important, because sooner or later, the students will move out of their houses, and will need to cook for themselves.”

Dakota Wright, a freshman, said this was his first experience cooking. “I’d like to do more. Who knows? When I get older and get my own place – some candlelight and a nice dinner might make a nice date, you know?”

During our visit, students – and staff members – looked in through the kitchen door to see what was cooking, attesting to the delicious aroma that permeated the school’s halls.

Exploring different cuisines
“At each session,” Shumaker explained, “we cook different types of foods.  At the last session, we did African cuisine. This time, we’re preparing Chinese cuisine. In addition to helping the students learn to cook, it opens there eyes to different styles of cooking, and the cultures that created them.”

Another student, sophomore Alex Heiden, agreed that he’s learned there’s a big difference between cooking a meal from scratch and dining on frozen package dinners.

“I like cooking, but I also like eating,” confided Heiden as he dished up Citrus Chicken and pea-pods. “The favorite thing that I’ve made here so far is assuredly the shrimp we made last week.”

Heiden seemed unsurprised that no gals were in class that evening, adding, “some the greatest chefs are men.”

Jill, Alex Heiden’s mom, sits down to a dinner that her son helped prepare.

“Parents are welcome to come to the classes,” Shumaker pointed out. “It’s great when they come and are part of it.”

The instructor added that the class can host a maximum of eight students, “because it gets kind of chaotic in a small kitchen. Students learn how to work together, and work with the ingredients and the kitchen tools at hand.”

Parkrose SUN Community School hosts a wide variety of after-school classes and activities. To get involved, contact their program director, Trevor Todd, (503) 408-2640.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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