Last updated: July 24. 2013 2:43PM - 249 Views

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Joseph Pratt

PDT Contributor

Local students are gearing up to dive into the world of chocolate at the Sixth Annual Kids International Cooking School, a fundraiser for the Portsmouth Area Arts Council. The event will be held at the Friends Community Center on Saturday, April 13 with a morning and an afternoon session.

“Being the sixth year for this school, we decided to shake things up a bit and go with one theme for all the countries,” Becky Lovins, PAAC executive director said. “We usually give our chefs the freedom to pick a country and dish to teach the kids to prepare, but this year, we decided to stick with international recipes centered around chocolate as the dessert countries are always the most popular.”

For $12 a ticket, students ages 6-16 will learn about the origins of chocolate and its uses in desserts around the world. They will get to fix spicy Mayan mud fudge, Australian chocolate crackles, French truffles and even make their own chocolate painting.

Oscar’s, located in the Holiday Inn, is returning for their second year to the cooking school. They will be teaching the kids to prepare an authentic Swiss chocolate fondue and will have several types of traditional fruit to sample with it.

Anna Gourley, banquet coordinator at Oscar’s, will be leading the booth of Switzerland for the Arts Council’s chocolate themed cooking school. Gourley is helping out for the second year and returns because of the enjoyable atmosphere and the fun of teaching kids how to enjoy food while being safe.

“We’re doing a chocolate fountain with marshmallows and our theme is Switzerland,” Gourley said. “We will be wearing shirts with the Switzerland flag on them and we will be discussing the Swiss chocolate that we will be serving from our fountain.”

Last year, Oscar’s had a Japanese themed booth and their volunteers dressed as geisha. A lot of thought goes into planning the lessons and this year is no different, as Gourney leads the project.

“We have been discussing the different little bits of Switzerland and trying to find a way to incorporate them all into something fun for the kids to do,” Gourley explained, “It’s been about a month of planning now and I think we’re ready.”

While the cooking school is a lot of fun for the students, Gourney is glad that they take a lot from the experience as well.

“I think the cooking show will be fun; the kids get out and moving around, learning new things, and they’re having fun, so it doesn’t feel like they’re actually learning,” Gourney said.

Patsy’s Inn will also return this year with a take on American chocolate tempering and dipping.

Amy Barnhart, PAAC board member and local artist will lead the students through the creation of their own chocolate painting. This session will be inspired by the work of Australian painter Sid Chidiac and students will leave with a completely edible original piece of artwork.

Also participating is Karen Davis of the Girl Scouts, Melanie Parlin, local caterer, Jamie Burroughs, local cake decorator and candy maker.

“We have such a great group of volunteer chefs this year helping us out,” Lovins said. “Their generosity of time and effort makes this all come together.”

Karen Davis, coordinator of the Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland, will be returning for her third year at the school and will be sticking to her Mexican theme. Not only will kids be making an interesting and spicy chocolate at Davis’ booth, but they’ll be learning how it is made from scratch.

Davis will be teaching her kids to make what she calls Mayan Mud, a spicy chocolate with cinnamon and chili powder. She began instructing this lesson when she taught elementary Spanish at Notre Dame and will be teaching it again at this year’s cooking school.

With giant, blown up images of the Mexican culture and step by step processes on how the cocoa bean is picked, dried out, and then ground into powder, the students will get an ideal image of where one of their favorite treats comes from.

“While they [the students] are mixing their fudge and creating their Mayan Mud, I’ll be teaching them about the process of the cocoa bean during our quick, twenty minute lesson in cooking,” Davis said, “Hopefully they will walk away with some knowledge.”

The cooking school gives kids more than an opportunity to learn to make various treats, it gives them the chance to try food they normally don’t have the opportunity to try.

“I think the kids take a different experience from the cooking school, as far as being able to taste new things,” Davis said. “When you give them the hands-on experience of making the food themselves, they are more likely to try the different foods. Kids are more picky than they are adventurous, so with the hands-on method it gives them the opportunity to try things they hadn’t tried before.”

The cooking school will be opening its doors for the sixth year and will also be refreshing their concept by giving the school a chocolate theme. Davis thinks this should attract the interest of more kids.

“I would like to invite everyone to come out and enjoy the cooking school this year, especially if they’ve come out before and thought that they might not want to return for the same thing this year,” Davis said. “This year is all chocolate and will be totally different and the kids will get to walk away with some really good tasting things.”

Tickets are on sale at three locations around Portsmouth. The Holiday Inn on Second Street, Patsy’s Inn at 1016 Clay Street and the Girl Scout Office at 2374 Scioto Trail. Group rate tickets are available for groups of 10 or more including scout troops, and church and home school groups. For more information about the Kids International Chocolate School call PAAC Executive Director Becky Lovins at 740-351-3642 or paac@shawnee.edu.

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