Raise your hand if you like wasabi

Cooking studio opens minds and mouths

click to enlarge With her kids classses, chef Denise Perry hopes to change the minds of picky eaters. - PHOTO BY ELIZABETH FARRAR
Photo by Elizabeth Farrar
With her kids classses, chef Denise Perry hopes to change the minds of picky eaters.

Ameilya walks in, goes straight to the sink and then takes her place at one of two tables. While waiting for her cohorts, she indulges me to answer my questions. She talks excitedly about making noodles. “It gets messy. It’s so cool!” She goes on about folding and making hills and whisking egg yolks. I can’t keep up. Now, she’s explaining three types of baked mac ’n’ cheeses she’s done. While she admits she doesn’t know how to make chicken “yet,” she says, she boasts she has prepared butternut squash lasagna for her mom’s friends. When I asked about her preferred vegetables, she shared that she doesn’t like eggplant or squash. “Unless it’s fried,” she added. “I like beets in my cottage cheese,” she smiled. Ameilya is 12.

The studio has no doubt played a large roll in shaping Ameilya’s sophisticated palette; she’s taken nine classes at the Copperpot Cooking Studio, including tonight’s Sushi Rolling class.

If you haven’t already heard, the Copperpot Cooking Studio is the savory between Pease’s and Baskin Robbins on Laurel. (See ‘A recipe for gratitude: Cooking up family fun this Thanksgiving,’ Capital City Parent, Winter 2017). The mastermind and owner of the operation is Denise Perry, a relentless celebrator of home cooking. Her vision was and is to create a community space in the great neighborhood where she lives, one that is accessible and provides new cooking techniques. With her kids classes, she hopes to change the minds of picky eaters. “It’s important to introduce kids to food early. Healthy relationships with foods are formed.”

Cooking outside the home gives kids the feeling of independence. Mattie, age 12, says she likes being able to cook without her parents. “It’s awesome here!” Likewise, the cooking studio is an alternative outlet in Springfield. “There are not too many options for young kids besides sports,” Denise says.

click to enlarge Kids go home from Copperpot with a new understanding of food.
Kids go home from Copperpot with a new understanding of food.

At 4:30 sushi class begins. Eight children are seated around two tables with cutting boards and peelers and yes some with knives. Denise explains that sushi means rice and not raw fish. The pearly shaped rice grains are passed around for everyone to feel. And all hands are on deck. The older crew peels and cuts the cucumber and the younger grates the carrot and mango. It’s a menagerie of color, texture and smells. “When can we open the fish eggs?” asks Ben, referring to the psychedelic orange Masago on the counter.

As the kids work away, Denise narrates with fun facts. She explains that this sushi rice is full of starch. “It’s like edible glue.” And later, “Did you know that cucumber seeds cause burps?” This info is well received and conversation ensues.

By 5:30 both a finished Copperpot Roll and an Inside-Out Roll is in everyone’s dish and the tasting begins. While the class ends at 6, most all parents sidled in noticeably early, presumably to get a taste of their kiddo’s freshest invention.

Though it’s not soccer practice or gymnastics class, kids at Copperpot peel, grate, cut, tear, roll, measure, stir, fold, whip, whisk and “make hills,” going home with a new understanding of food. I recommend enrolling every child aged 6-12 in these hands-on Montessori-esque classes. Check out copperpotclasses.com for more information.

Elizabeth Farrar of Springfield teaches languages at Speakeasy Language House in Springfield.

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