July 28, 2005 | By: Aimee Nielson

Star Chef participants came to UK to learn about aromas and flavors.

Some eastern Kentucky students chose to go back to school during their traditional summer vacation time – this time without books and exams. As part of the Summer Enrichment Academy, students took a class offered by the Mason County Cooperative Extension office designed to teach them culinary skills.

The Star Chef curriculum covered basics such as cutting and measuring, as well as allowed students more creativity with such activities as carving swans from apples and making baked Alaska.

“It’s a program designed by University of Kentucky Food and Nutrition Specialist Sandra Bastin for children in 4-H,” said Debra Cotterill, Mason County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. “They learn cooking skills, handling the knife safely, food safety, how to read a recipe and nutrition facts. They even learn about the calories they consume and the physical activity they need to do to burn those calories up.”

As part of the Star Chef program, students took a trip to the University of Kentucky, where they learned about the way foods are flavored, toured food labs in the animal and food sciences department and sampled cheeses from around the world. UK food scientists also talked about career opportunities in food science and possible starting salaries.

Ten-year-old Isaac Reed participated in the Star Chef program. He said he enjoyed the experience and learned a lot he could practice at home.

“I’ve learned a lot of interesting stuff, how to handle a knife and how to slice julienne foods, how to sauté and how to stir fry,” he said. “I don’t think I could ever do it without proper teaching, and I saw this in this enrichment academy so I signed up for it. I’ve always dreamed of a career in science, but if I can’t do that I will have something solid to fall back on.”

Isaac Reed learns to slice zucchini with a chef's knife.

Cotterill said the program also helped some students overcome fears about cooking.

“One of the students had been burned with splattered grease before, so he was very much afraid of the stove and the heating,” she said. “He has gotten past that – he put baked Alaska’s in the oven yesterday, so he is doing really well. I don’t believe most of the students had ever even held a knife. They learned to slice, dice, julienne, and different sizes of those.”

At the end of the two-week program, students were presented certificates of accomplishment, Star Chef resource books containing all the recipes and cooking lessons from the program and an official chef’s hat.

The Star Chef program was offered as part of the Summer Enrichment Academy held at St. Patrick’s School in Maysville, and because of its success, Cotterill said she may offer it to adults as well.

“Some of the adults that have been around watching the students for the last couple of weeks, they have become very interested,” she said. “So I think I am going to offer an adult class for basic cooking skills sometime in the future.”


Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Debra Cotterill 606-564-6808