Elliott Test Kitchen | Fort Madison
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Elliott Test Kitchen | Fort Madison


>>I have two passions — education and cooking. And I really want to put those two together for the community. How are those things doing, buddy? Yeah.>>Kumar Wickramasingha started the Elliott Test Kitchen in Fort Madison because he wanted kids to have a place to go for extra help after school. Kumar comes from Sri Lanka, a country that deeply values education.>>Okay. So what I want you the two of you to do is pick the tomato. I want you to pick the basil. So get all the red ones, all the tomatoes. My goal is after school, I want any kids who need help with any kind of schoolwork, math, science, I want them to come here. But at the same time, I have teachers comes here. So, I bring both of them in here, and I use the food as a binding agent, practically a bait, to get them in here.>>In exchange for their time, teachers who volunteer get to enjoy a delicious meal prepared by the students.>>Cold water, ladies and gentlemen. A former chef, Kumar enjoys teaching the kids how to prepare and appreciate healthy meals and snacks.>>The kids who’s going to help me cook it are the ones who do not have any homework or who get their homework done fast or who really likes to cook. So the main goal is if you come here and you have a lot of homework you need to be doing, and you are more than welcome to sit and get your homework done because education is the number-one priority here. Put a little bit more to the top. There we go, perfect. We are going to be cooking fried strawberries as a dessert. But then also we’ll be making BLT pasta salad, which we are going to be using fresh tomatoes right out of our backyard. In the morning, I go around all the grocery stores local, and I found the best deal and what’s the freshest and what kids are going to like. That excites me to tell the kids, “Hey, I keep feeding all of you, and this is how much it costs, but look how good it is.” There you go, man. Put half and half into each one.>>In math, I had a B plus, and then I got up to the A plus, which is a big difference for me. I really like doing desserts because it’s kind of like an art to me, like the way you can move the whipping cream in a certain direction and the drizzling of the chocolate. It’s kind of cool to see me make something and then have people eat something that I actually made. [ Indistinct conversations ]>>When the homework is done and the food is ready, it’s time to eat. The teachers take time to celebrate successes, and everyone sits together as a family.>>All right, kids. Come on in. Okay.>>We come from a low socioeconomic-status area. When you have people that are invested in young people, that’s what can make all the difference in their lives. You see that with some of the kids that Kumar’s taken on that help him cook. And these kids just blossom in front of your eyes. They have talents and abilities that nobody knew that they had. A lot of our kids don’t even sit down at a table and eat at night. And so they have a place where they can sit. They can learn what proper table etiquette is, what it is like to have conversations with adults and things like that. So it hits so many different… social skills, employability skills, educational skills that they’re going to need for the rest of their life.>>Following the meal, Kumar has a second group of students preparing for the ACT college admissions test.>>This is considered one of my greatest accomplishments at this place. My goal was to get 15 kids, and we are, right now, at 25 kids. It might be even 27 kids. So it’s very humbling to see this need and that people taking advantage of it.>>The test kitchen is Kumar’s way of giving back to the community that helped him when he first arrived. And he doesn’t want it to stop here.>>I want these kinds of things popping up every single small town in Iowa, and that’s my dream.

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