It’s always interesting to see the reactions of young chefs when they are told fish is the dish for Cooking Club. In some groups there is always a student or two who says “I don’t eat fish” or “I don’t like fish.” The chefs in our spring class didn’t respond that way at all. Quite the opposite; they had both eaten fish and LIKED it.

“My mom makes a seafood bowl and I love it,” Mayalee Ramos said before we started on Roasted Cod Topped with Savory Breadcrumbs.

And even those who hadn’t eaten baked fish were eager to see what cod would taste like.

For the second week in a row, our meal had two parts — the fish, of course, but also baked carrots to add color and flavor.

To make sure each chef had a role, we started by giving each student a carrot and peeler so they could get a feel for the utensil and practice peeling with the large end down for effectiveness. Then they showed off the cutting skills they had learned and chopped the carrots into bite-sized rounds.

When we asked which food would need the most time in the oven, most guessed the fish and were surprised that the hard, dense carrots would take longer.

Once the carrots were roasting, our team divided up tasks. JoshLynn Hill took charge of melting the butter, Joel Rodriguez measured the breadcrumbs, Jomarys Vega Santos chopped parsley, and Mayalee Ramos grated lemon zest.

Mayalee’s job attracted the most attention, because it was a new and different challenge. She quickly proved that she had seen grating before and had a colorful heap of zest ready in no time.

Then our students took turns combining the butter, parsley, zest and breadcrumbs to top the fish. Everyone was interested in working with the fresh filets of cod, and especially to see what it would feel like uncooked. Our chefs wanted to touch it, smell it, and in the case of an adventurous JoshLynn, to taste it raw, as if it were Sushi. Then each chef took a turn patting the breadcrumbs onto the fish chunks and sprinkling the leftovers over the foil-covered sheet pan.

While the fish baked, our chefs set the table so we could show off both parts of the meal on serving platters.

When the fish came out golden brown, Mayalee used a spatula to arrange it on the serving dish and Joel proudly paraded it to the table. The class loved how the fish smelled and looked, and how eating together allowed them to pick their own pieces.

“How do you think it will taste?” we asked.

“It’s delicious!” Mayalee declared.

“But you haven’t even tried it yet,” we said.

Jomarys quickly solved the mystery, revealing that “One time when you weren’t looking she took one and tasted it.” At that point, everyone else dug in and tasted for themselves what they had created.

“I love the breadcrumbs” JoshLynn said. “I want to take some home to my mom.”

That was Joel’s plan, too and everyone agreed it would be a good dish to share.

At the end, Mayalee had the best description of all for the experience. “I think this meal was exotic,” she announced. “Delicious and exotic.”