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Salmon Arm classes help young budding chefs gain confidence in the kitchen

Couple launch educational opportunity with Zest Commercial Food Hub

His tostada carefully topped with seasoned mashed black beans, cut veggies and grated cheese, Callum awaits the next step, when teachers Becky Dochstader and Will Miller place the class’ “projects” in the oven to bake.

One of the Bite and Beverage Academy’s Little Chefs at Zest Commercial Food Hub, Callum’s confidence in the kitchen is apparent. He said he’ll sometimes help prepare food at home, “making spaghetti and stuff.”

Charlotte tops her tostada with cheese she grated after learning a safe technique with Miller. She too has a knack for food prep picked up while helping out at home.

“I help my mom cook sometimes,” said Charlotte, noting she enjoys making crepes.

While Dochstader and Miller provide a recipe to follow, the young students are encouraged to taste things and, from there, create according to personal taste.

“Giving kids autonomy, you get so much buy-in to learning,” said Dochstader, who was an educator in Prince George before she and Miller relocated to Salmon Arm.

Under their Bite and Beverage Academy brand, Dochstader and Miller recently partnered with Zest Commercial Food Hub to offer a variety of cooking classes to the community. Three of them are geared toward youth: Little Chefs (ages 6-8) Junior Chefs (9-11) and Teen Chefs (12-17).

“We approached Zest just because Zest is a phenomenal facility, and really, the perfect place to do it so that partnership began…,” said Dochstader. “All the cooking classes are Zest events, they’re all hosted by Zest and they did amazing things, they purchased a bunch of equipment specifically for the cooking classes. They really invested because they’ve always wanted to do cooking classes.”

For Dochstader, the Chefs classes were an opportunity to work with kids, and Miller an opportunity to share some of his extensive culinary knowledge gained through years in the food industry.

“We’ve always been a good match – we have very complimentary skills,” said Dochstader.

While the Chefs classes are tailored to the specific age groups, they all touch on the following: foundational skills, nutrition, creativity, independence and food safety. Through these, Dochstader and Miller aim to inspire confidence in their young, budding culinary artists.

“We want them to have more confidence in the kitchen and be able to replicate some of those skills at home with or without adult supervision…,” said Dochstader.“We wanted kids to be able to go home and have their parents be excited because the kid could come home and make themselves a snack independently.”

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Dochstader and Miller themselves have been inspired by some of the skills their students have brought to the table. For example, Dochstader noted while making tostadas with the teen class, one of the students decided to make his own pico de gallo, as he thought it would be a good addition.

“I think there’s kind of a stereotype with kids sometimes that they’re lazy and just want their parents to make their food… but I think kids really love to do things themselves, they love to have autonomy, they love to be in control of what they like to make,” said Dochstader. “That’s something that’s maybe not surprising, but I love seeing it in action.”

While teaching kids is new to Miller, he is enjoying sharing his knowledge while learning from his students.

“I’m learning how they generally like to approach their own problems with the things they have, with how they get really excited about certain things,” said Miller.

In addition to the six-week Chefs programs, Zest with Dochstader and Miller also have some non-age specific courses in store including a fermentation basic/pickles and sauerkraut class on April 17, a class on whole animal butchery/chicken on April 24, one on short- and hand-rolled pasta on May 1 and a meat curing fundamentals/ Canadian bacon and tasso ham class on May 8. The couple would also like to offer future classes for kids, possibly fall, winter and spring sessions.

For more information, visit Zest Commercial Food Hub on Facebook or

Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor of the Salmon Arm Observer, Shuswap Market, and Eagle Valley News. I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to keep our readers informed and engaged.
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