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Kittys Kitchen gives kids free lessons in cooking Chinese food
Lyasha Nuncio grabs an oversized sucker that she won during a raffle. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

Kitty Mei knows all too well that kids don’t often appreciate the taste of Chinese food.

It’s something that in her decade as a staffer at a pair of Manteca restaurants she saw time-and-time again – parents opting to dine out while young picky-eaters try to order a hamburger or a hot dog off of the menu.

But maybe if they cooked it themselves, she thought, they’d finally appreciate not only the process that went into making the ethnic dishes but also gain a taste for everything from fried rice to wontons.

And Monday morning she saw that exact scenario play out before her.

Mei – the owner of Kitty’s Kitchen in the shopping center that now houses Dollar General on North Main Street at Alameda Street – taught young grillers the ins-and-outs of making foil chicken, noodles and egg rolls and other tasty treats that she knew they would end up enjoying once they finally sat down to eat it. The class was free.

“It’s wonderful to see the kids having a good time and enjoying the food,” she said, finally getting the chance to sit down and enjoy a plate of food herself. “This is definitely something that I’d like to do again – we’d have to plan it so that it happens during a vacation or over a holiday.

“But everybody had fun.”

Parents like Jennifer Davis were floored when they saw their children actually putting in time to prepare food that they normally wouldn’t even give a second look at.

The smiling faces, Davis said, showed that the proof was in the pudding and that Mei’s idea had proven to be a successful one.

“I think it’s something that’s good for the families and something that’s fun for the kids as well,” she said. “And it lets the public know about this new business and what they’re doing that’s different.”

For 14-year-old Kira Mindmueller, spending one of her last days of summer break in a kitchen with a bunch of younger kids wasn’t what she had imagined when she was making sure that all of her ducks were in a row for her foray into high school.

By the end of the hour-long session, however, she was having a blast – helping those much younger than herself get the hang of cooking while enjoying some of her favorite Chinese food.

“Making the foil chicken and helping out were probably my favorite parts,” she said. “I was really surprised at how well it turned out. It was really good.”