Eielson youth make tasty pieces of art Published Aug. 15, 2007 By Airman 1st Class Nora Anton 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- A month and a half ago, youth center staff and children didn't know that a certain perplexity while making oatmeal cookies would turn into such a valuable and fun learning experience for Eielson's youth. "We didn't have all the ingredients, but we still wanted to make the cookies," said Stephanie Cox, youth center staff member, "So we took what we had and told the kids they could add whatever they wanted." It turned out to be a success among the children and sparked an idea amongst staff to create an event with a premise similar to television's Iron Chef, only tailored to the youth center's agenda. Each Tuesday, ingredients and supplies are laid out and the children are free to make the food anyway they want. Recipes are supplied, but following them isn't mandatory, although most children used them as guidance. Afterwards, three staff members conduct a "blind judging" of the dishes, which are numbered, and choose the best one. They are learning about different cooking techniques like chopping, slicing and blending, said Ms. Cox. They also learn what foods go well together and the aesthetics of prepared dishes. This past Tuesday (Aug. 14), pastries are on the menu and chefs, Kaleb Albert, son of Heather and Staff Sgt. Matthew Albert, 354th Contracting Squadron, and Kendall Butler, son of Thomasenia and Master Sgt. Linwood Butler, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Kunsan AB, Korea, are excitedly pouring fruit, and cinnamon and sugar on top of dough. This is also the final competition the children will compete in before cooking an entire meal and serving it to youth center staff and children Aug. 17. Kendall admits he likes the creative freedom and independence the cooking competition gives him. "I like it because you can make food," said Kendall. "It's the first time I've really cooked by myself." Kendall is not the only one who enjoys a new-found talent for cooking. Ms. Cox said the children who participate, aged 9-12, really enjoy this and look forward to it every week. "They amaze me every week," she said. "They're so good; I love seeing how the children have progressed." Altogether, the children have made their own pizza, pasta, salads and dressings and dips. Parents have gotten involved by providing family recipes and helping their children practice at home. "My parents think it's a good chance to learn and help them in the kitchen," said Kyle Albert, Kaleb's twin brother. "We want to show our mom that we can cook--plus it's fun." Kyle is a two-time winner at the youth center--but decided to sit out this time; he won for best salad dressing and best pizza. "It was a comedy pizza," he mused. "It had barbeque, tomatoes, olives, Tabasco and chicken--it made my mom and dad laugh because it looked so funny, but it was really good." All in all, Ms. Cox likes the attitudes the children have towards cooking and is happy that the new event made a difference to them. "Now the kids go home and watch cooking shows like Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen, then they come in and say, 'Did you see that on Heck's Kitchen last night?!'" As for the pastries, the judges couldn't decide which tasted better. "They both tasted so good," said Ms. Cox. "It was a draw."