Orlando cooking program teaches kids how to succeed in the kitchen

Engelwood Kidz Zone gives students the opportunity to learn how to cook

ORLANDO, Fla. – Students at the City of Orlando’s Engelwood Kidz Zone are learning big life lessons in the kitchen.

Yamira Lee, whom the children call Chef Mira, said the city began to test the classes in October with high school students and then expanded to middle school students in January.

“We teach the kids life skills. So we try to bring them into the kitchen to understand not only the body of nutrition, but also they could survive when they go out to college or decide to leave home,” Lee said. “So we keep the classes simple, but we do teach them the basics of safety, management of products, safety temperatures for their food, how to work as a team. Sharing all of the tools in the kitchen.”

Lee told News 6 she focuses on recipes with a cultural background for the students but adds a healthy twist.

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“We take those recipes they learn at home, and again, we turn them a little bit, and instead of using regular oil, we might use avocado oil or pink Himalayan salt. They are learning about what are free radicals in food. What are antioxidants? So that’s to me is important because you want to know what you are eating is also helping your body, helping you perform better,” Lee said.

Lee said she became a holistic life coach after dealing with her own health struggles.

“Working now with these kids has been a blessing to me because I feel like everything I’ve learned all these years and I’m able to share it and it going into a good part, and it’s going to make a difference in their future,” Lee said. “When we get done with the cooking and they sit down to eat and they relax and are talking about how much they like the food and what they learned, I know they leave home with some of the ingredients to make at home, and that really fills my heart.”

And Lee said she knows that the skills learned at the Kidz Zone translate to home life.

“I’ve had parents, some of the mothers come in, and they’re so happy that their kids are learning to cook because one, they can help around. Two, if you have a parent that works long hours, you don’t have to worry about the child at home not eating properly and not knowing how to do anything,” Lee said. “At the last class, it was funny. One of the moms came, and she said, ‘She won’t even fry an egg at home, and look at her here.’ I know that it’s making an impact on them and their families. If they have younger siblings, they can also help out with meal prepping, too. And that to me unites the family when everyone brings something to the table.”

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About the Author:

Julie Broughton's career in Central Florida has spanned more than 14 years, starting with News 6 as a meteorologist and now anchoring newscasts.