Youth members of the Cooking Club at the Sagamihara Family Housing Area School Age Center put their hands on fresh pizza dough they made together Jan. 30 at the SHA Club's Pacific Rim restaurant. The club members were there to learn how to make pepperoni pizza from scratch, and they later ate their own creations. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs)
Youth members of the Cooking Club at the Sagamihara Family Housing Area School Age Center put their hands on fresh pizza dough they made together Jan. 30 at the SHA Club's Pacific Rim restaurant. The club members were there to learn how to make pepperoni pizza from scratch, and they later ate their own creations. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs)

Youth Cooking Club members at Camp Zama make pizza from scratch, gain tasty life lesson

by Noriko Kudo
U.S. Army

CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Feb. 7, 2019) -- A man in crisp chef's whites approaches a table carrying two fresh-from-the-oven pepperoni pizzas. The eight girls seated there leap to their feet and cheer, eager to grab a slice, but equally proud to see the end result of their own efforts in the kitchen earlier that morning.

The girls, all members of the Cooking Club at the Sagamihara Family Housing Area School Age Center, got hands-on experience Jan. 30 during a trip to the SHA Club's Pacific Rim Restaurant, where executive chef Noah Brewer taught them step-by-step how to make the Italian culinary favorite.

The Cooking Club is meant to impart to its young members life skills, independence and the self-confidence to make prepare their own food and make responsible nutritional choices, said Edward Litzinger, the supervisory program specialist at the SFHA SAC.

Brewer started by teaching the children how to make the literal foundation of pizza: the dough. This involved mixing flour, sugar, water, yeast and olive oil, and then kneading it and rolling it flat. Brewer said he wanted to ensure the class was interactive, so each of the girls had a hand in measuring and mixing the ingredients. It was evident how much the children enjoyed being part of the preparation process, he said.

"They were very eager to learn," said Brewer. "I had the girls come up one at a time. Everyone got to participate as opposed to me just doing all the work."

The students were able to let their artisanal side shine during the next step: spreading the tomato sauce and topping everything with heaps of mozzarella cheese and slices of pepperoni. Madison Swanigan, 11, an aspiring artist and cake decorator, said this portion of the class was a perfect combination of elements of those two activities.

"We were able to be creative with [the toppings] and make our own design," said Madison.

Once the girls finished with the toppings, Brewer led them into the kitchen for the final step. As he slid their creations into the oven and closed the door, the girls waved and exclaimed, "Bye, pizza!"

That enthusiasm showed throughout the day, Litzinger said. The girls were engaged in the preparation process and enthusiastic about actively participating, reveling in the chance to get their hands messy.

"They did excellent," said Litzinger. "I hope being part of this club gives them the confidence to go into a kitchen and cook for themselves."

Erin Hutton, 9, said she enjoyed the class because it was interactive and she had a good time working alongside her classmates. The best part, of course, was finally getting to eat what they had all made together.

"It tasted delicious to eat pizza we made ourselves," said Erin.

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