Every lifelong passion begins with curiosity and a sampling of what’s possible. In Kimber Foshe’s growing middle school culinary club, the future tastes as good as it looks.

The after-school program at Merrill Middle School started as an activity to provide all students, virtual and in-person, an opportunity to connect during the pandemic. Students join a Microsoft Teams meeting once a week and cook together from their own kitchens. Word of mouth has increased participation from 10 students to as many as 75 in a matter of months. Foshe, a school counselor, said the hunger is there for an activity that is safe and meaningful.

“It gives the students something to create and share with their families during the pandemic ~ to create a spirit of giving and purpose during a time when students are isolated from their friends,” Foshe said.

While Foshe’s class nourishes the mind and body, high school kitchens are waiting for students who want to explore a deeper connection with their inner ‘foodie’. Central Campus Culinary Program Chef Monica Wilson Cross  visited virtually with Foshe’s club during an ‘Ask the Chef’ meeting, answering questions from her fledgling food preparers.

“Kimber Foshe has opened a door that many students might not have even known was there,” Chef Wilson Cross said. “We can build on their curiosity and show them firm career paths.”

Wilson Cross said the jobs most students dream about are Executive Chef or Executive Baker, but there are 300,000 jobs in the industry in schools, colleges, hospitals, convention centers, amusement parks and zoos, cruise lines, hotels, sports venues, and assisted care facilities. The field is growing in popularity.

“I believe TV cooking and baking shows, and social media like Tik Tok play a huge role,” Wilson Cross said. “Students see something cool that someone made in a video and want to learn how to do it.”

Foshe gives middle school students the opportunity to bring their small screen inspiration to life, diving into recipes that include Oreo Truffles, Homemade Mason Jar Ice-Cream, Energy Bites, Homemade Granola and Cake Pops, to name a few.

The club is sponsored by the Merrill PTA, Merrill Activities and also uses school counseling funds to purchase the ingredients so every student can participate. Foshe creates the culinary kits herself on weekends. She delivers them to students at their homes, in their classrooms and makes kits available for other virtual families to pick up.

To each recipe, she also adds a dash of Social Emotional Learning.

“Kind of like hiding vegetables in a smoothie,” she said. “During meetings, I almost always spotlight ’empathy’ or how someone else might be feeling and honoring that feeling. This week it was someone had something stuck in their teeth. I want them to think about how would they respond in a way that didn’t hurt their friend’s feelings.”

And the culinary club naturally mixes in responsibility, time management, organizational skills, staying on task and problem solving, she said.

What do the kids think? Foshe says she mostly hears, “What are we making next?” and “Can my friend join, too?”

Fortunately, the recipe choices are endless and there’s always room in a virtual kitchen for one more chef to explore a world of possibilities.

Follow @kimberfoshe on Twitter to keep up with Merrill Middle School Culinary Club creations.

Published on