Free program gets kids cooking

WAYNESBORO – Celebrity Chef Guy Fieri once said, “Cooking with kids is not just about ingredients, recipes, and cooking. It’s about harnessing imagination, empowerment and creativity.”

Sue James, of Waynesboro, couldn’t agree more.

The local author and childcare provider has founded

Partnering with the Alexander Hamilton Memorial Free Library, each month, James hosts a live cooking class via Zoom for children and teens age 5-18.

“I started this program because, with all my years in childcare, I saw kiddos having an interest in cooking, but due to our fast-food lifestyle, some children are not able to acquire cooking skills,” James said. “One of my daycare children, Eve Dickey, and I began cooking together at my house and inviting other children to attend. By last fall, we had five or six children coming once a month. It was great fun, great learning with great food too.”

James said the children began to call themselves SueChefs, a play on words from the French culinary term for a learning chef, and so the project began.

After a few monthly classes at the library, COVID-19 hit and, with creativity as a key ingredient, the program went virtual.

“[The library] set up a Zoom link, made flyers and helped us to come up with ideas for children to follow along as we cooked online,” James said. “The SueChefs came over to my house and we practiced social distancing as we developed a format for the 30-minute Zoom.”

James then reached out to Kim Shockey at Patriot Federal Credit Union for help and the financial institution became a program sponsor.

“[Kim] also has tremendous sewing skills. She worked quickly so each SueChef had a personalized apron for our first Zoom online cooking class,” James said.

Each class is focused on not just food preparation, but also on educating kids on safe kitchen skills, as well as the cost of food and service to the community.

Previous classes have focused on homemade barbecue sauce, salads and omelets. Next month, a nachos class will be held Nov. 19, with a Dec. 17 class focused on desserts.

For a complete schedule visit or to register for the classes, contact afrancis@ahmfl.

All classes are—and will remain—free. “We are committed to fundraising, sponsors and or donations to keep our program free,” James explained. “Everyone should have the chance to learn to cook.” She said she is in the process of filing for nonprofit status.