PERRYSVILLE, Ohio—At Vermillion Baptist Church, pastor’s wife Elizabeth Bird teaches culinary arts classes for children, a ministry that is “not for profit but for passion,” she says.
Elizabeth, wife of Pastor Bob Bird, says that “cooking classes are a powerful place for learning, because food is something we can all relate to, be excited about, and apply in our lives.”
As a professional chef, Elizabeth was surprised to realize how many adults—let alone children—in her area did not know how to cook. So she approached Bob with the idea of using her culinary training to build relationships in the church’s community as a gospel witness.
“Thus was the creation of the Tammy’s Rose Culinary Academy,” she says.
The academy meets at the church. There Elizabeth teaches cooking and baking for kids in kindergarten through third grade, fourth through sixth grade, and seventh through twelfth grade. Courses last four or eight weeks, with up to eight students attending each course. The students also take field trips, eat lunch at the church or at a restaurant, and receive a chef’s hat and apron to wear during the sessions.
For one course, Elizabeth designed a program for a homeschool co-op. “It took some work because of a large jump in age groups. But we made it work,” she says.
The course consisted of six classes over a period of three weeks. The goal was for the students to learn to prepare a meal for their families.
So during the four-hour classes the group learned to bake bread (even learning about flours, yeast, and pre-ferments) and baked loaves of bread to take home; went on a field trip to a grocery store (whose staff “pulled out the red carpet for us,” Elizabeth says); enjoyed a nice meal in a restaurant; made soup, salad, and meat (chicken, pork, and beef); and studied desserts, making Italian custard and cupcakes (on which they used their newly acquired piping skills).
In the last class—”the grand finale of the course,” Elizabeth says—the students prepared a meal for their families to enjoy at the church: chicken cordon bleu, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, salad with freshly made dressing, and mini cheesecakes.
“The last day was special because they went from the ‘working’ chef hats to the ‘tall’ chef hats,” Elizabeth says. “An exciting moment for sure!”
Through the culinary academy, Vermillion Baptist Church is hoping to “build relationships with folks in our community” and “effectively communicate the good news of Jesus Christ,” Elizabeth says. She is “looking forward to God continuing to use this for His glory.”
Elizabeth invites churches to contact her if they want advice on setting up a similar program. She would be “more than happy to help,” she says.