Georgetown Hill Early School director Allen Dudley has run the program, which is open to students from kindergartners to fifth grade, for the past three years. Dudley — known as "Mr. D" to the students — admitted that when he started the program he didn't think it would be so successful.
Between 10 and 15 students attend the class, learning to prepare and cook simple dishes, including quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches and sushi rolls.
Dudley said he emphasizes the fundamentals of cooking such as keeping the kitchen clean, kitchen manners and especially following directions step-by-step. Dudley said his classes start with the students washing their hands – one of the most basic rules of cooking.
"For them, following directions is part of life," he said.
During the class, Dudley displays the raw ingredients on a table so the students can see what they are making. Dudley said one of his challenges is getting the children to eat certain dishes, but being a picky eater himself, he understands their concern.
"I don't make anyone eat it. If they don't want to taste it, they can take it home or some other student will eat it," Dudley said. "But if you make it yourself, it makes it easier to eat."
One second grader, a returning student to the cooking class, said his favorite part of the classes was making the fried rice egg.
The class uses little grills, convection ovens and woks for cooking, but they do not use grease, which can pop and burn the students, Dudley said. The class also avoids certain foods on the menu such as peanuts and pork, Dudley said.
Potomac Elementary PTA president Michelle Benaim said her children have been taking the cooking classes for a few years and said it got her kids interested in cooking with her.
"Every time I am cooking now, they want to help," Benaim said, joking that her children's help is both good and bad. "It is certainly messier, but a lot more fun."