By Max Frazier
Ann Wiard is all smiles as she watches over the prep area at TasteBuds Kitchen, her brand-new business at 5600 Post Road. Around twenty 4- to 8-year-olds are hovering over three shiny metal tables covered with flour and dough. The kids, lively and engaged, are inside making garlic knots on an overcast morning.
“This is our Baking 101 camp. We do a camp every week in the summer,” said Wiard. The small children mangling dough into garlic knots make up the morning camp which lasts all week, three hours a day. The next group that’ll come in is the 9-13-year-olds in the afternoon, who will make three to four recipes just as the younger group prior to them did.
“There are 11 different camps during the summer, which means 11 themes,” a different one each week, said Wiard. “Last week’s theme was Around the World, this week is Baking 101, and next week is Plant to Plate which is focused on using things in nature to make different foods.”
Sporting green aprons, the counselors in training are helping Wiard supervise the bustling arena of chatting and laughter. Today the campers are making chocolate babka, garlic knots, and zucchini flatbread. The aim, Wiard says, is to make at least one sweet dish, one savory, and the others can be anything.
“They get very excited,” said Wiard. That’s because they get to eat their creations after they’re finished baking, she said.
“It’s really fun,” said 8-year-old Bella. “It’s two thumbs up!” she said, gesturing a thumbs up with one hand, raising the other, and wearing a big smile.
Hands covered in flour, dough and a buttery garlic mixture, the masters-in-training had just put the finishing touches on their garlic knots that are now ready to hit the oven.
Wiard talks to happy campers lining up to wash their hands, smiles abounding.
Mackenzie, a young chef (some might say a 4-year-old prodigy) sits at her table eyeing the ovens where her garlic knots are baking. When the topic of favorite and least favorite meals comes up, Mackenzie offers her somewhat unconventional choices.
“My least favorite meal was the cake,” she said, with a shy smile. “And my favorite meal so far was the salad.”
The children are attentive and tuned in for what might come next. There’s an air of excitement in the kitchen – always something new to learn.
“The coolest thing is, a parent just told me that her child will actually come home and try new things because she tried new things here and she liked them. The idea is to use ingredients they don’t always use at home. But because they made it themselves, they’re actually happy to try it and they end up liking it most of the time,” said Wiard.
The 35-year-old Wiard, who has an MBA from Providence College, worked 10 years as executive director of the non-profit Good Neighbors, a food pantry and soup kitchen in East Providence. Wiard says her previous work was very rewarding, but she needed a change. She wanted a good balance, which for the young owner means interacting with kids and adults while also focusing on food.
Besides being a place to socialize and meet new friends, Taste Buds is also a learning environment teaching kids cooperation and teamwork. The kid sessions which are held on weekdays, are aimed at teaching children the invaluable skill of making one’s own food, while the adult sessions on the weekends are more informal, entertainment experiences. And as an added bonus, the adult sessions are BYOB (bring your own booze).
Business is good. There have been few if any slots unfilled since the grand opening a little over a month ago, Wiard said
“East Greenwich has been very good to us. The people have been very welcoming and friendly,” said Wiard, voicing her gratitude at the community’s support.
If the young chefs are any indication, Tastebuds Kitchen appears to have the right mix of ingredients for success.
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