CROSS CREEK — They feasted on baked phyllo stuffed with chicken, ham, mushrooms and cheese. And they nibbled on fresh cantaloupe with a splash of raspberry dressing.
Sounds a bit lofty for kids.
But the menu last week was part of the "Budget Gourmet" series at the Young Chefs Academy, a cooking school for kids age 6 to 13 with locations in New Tampa and Brandon.
And this month, the theme is as much to help parents as the kids themselves: dinner for four that costs less than $10.
"I couldn't imagine cooking anything for under $10," said Liz Turrell, whose 6-year-old son Brandt takes part in cooking classes at the academy. "I guess you could if you were creative enough."
The cooking school provides recipes and instructors who teach kitchen techniques and talk about fresh ingredients in classes that last about 90 minutes.
In a recent class, instructor Dawn Hart discussed April's theme.
"You know we're in a recession right now," she said. "These are hard financial times."
Each week this month, they will create low-cost meals like glazed ham steak and Parmesan scones; broccoli gratin, french carrots and roasted chicken; and pizza burger, cake-in-a-mug and oven fries.
Before they began the week's lesson, Hart had the kids read the recipe instructions aloud. When she pulled out whole cantaloupes, one student asked: "Is that a fruit?" Another exclaimed: "It's a bowling ball!"
Hart told them to scoop out the seeds.
"How come we can't take them to make a tree?" Brandt asked about the seeds.
Wearing Kevlar gloves and using specialty plastic knives, they cut, chopped, sliced and mixed. When Hart pulled out the delicate phyllo dough, some of the kids were fascinated.
"Is this napkin or food?" asked 7-year-old Fiona Walsh. "Can we touch it?"
After 15 minutes in the oven, the children sampled their work.
"We encourage them to at least taste it," said owner Rich Williams. "They're more willing to try something that they made."
Turns out, Brandt tried the raspberry dressing and did not like it. Fiona loved it.
Turrell said that since enrolling in classes a few months ago, Brandt now is more apt to try new foods. At home, he likes helping his mother cook. Once, as she wondered aloud how to prepare the chicken, he offered this: How about baking it in white wine or chicken broth?
After chomping down on his phyllo chicken and nodding in approval, Brandt gave his mother a taste.
"Take just a small bite," he said.
Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813)909-4613 or firstname.lastname@example.org.