Ten kids between the ages of eight and 11 have congregated in the kitchen area of the Subway South Soccer Complex on the University of Manitoba campus for their daily dose of cooking instruction.
This was the group's last day of the Mini U Kids in the Kitchen day camp, which runs in one-week blocks six times throughout the summer months.
They've already learned how to make multicultural bites such as quesadillas and Vietnamese summer rolls, and today, their final three-hour chunk of kitchen time is being spent making a classic, kid-friendly dessert: cupcakes.
But first, as part of the program's educational mandate, instructor Tina Tran dispenses some knowledge about different food-industry jobs; from farming to food styling, the U of M human nutrition student covers it all in her day's brief lesson plan.
It's hard to keep the kids focused on answering questions when sweet treats are on their minds, so Tran concedes and divides the nine girls and one boy into two equal groups to begin the hands-on portion of the afternoon.
"I like how we have a lot of teamwork and we get to cook." –Lauren McKenzie
Ingredients are collected and carefully measured with the help of two other Mini U staff members who help keep the energized kids on track; little fingers slide down the paper recipe, ensuring no steps have been missed. Some of the fingers sneak into the bowl for a quick taste test.
It's immediately clear why, of the 62 programs offered at Mini U, Kids in the Kitchen is one of the most popular.
"Kids in the Kitchen program is kind of like concert tickets, it sells out in two minutes," says Mini U director Jay Gamey. "It’s kind of our little rock-star program when it comes to registration."
Lauren McKenzie, 7, is confident as she measures out vanilla and cream and adds them to her group's batter. After her job is complete, she passes the tools to the next girl, who has been patiently waiting for her turn.
"I like how we have a lot of teamwork and we get to cook," Lauren says, adding her favourite recipe of the week was banana bread.
Answering questions is nowhere near as much fun as making cupcakes, and Lauren's eyes dart over in the direction of her friends, who continue the work in her absence.
"Do you want to go back over there and keep baking?" the Free Press asks.
"Sorta, yeah," says Lauren, already on her way back into the kitchen.
— Erin Lebar
Photography by Ruth Bonneville