EAGAN, Minn. — The group of children from the Mt. Airy Boys and Girls Clubs wandered around the grocery store for a few moments Tuesday afternoon, trying to find the cooking class they were scheduled to attend.
When they arrived at the right room at the Hy-Vee in Eagan, there was quite the surprise waiting for them.
Not only were the young people going to try their hands in the kitchen, they were also going to do so with "The Chef," Vikings running back Dalvin Cook.
"I just told them we were going to a grocery store [to cook]," said Anee Thor, who is with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities. "They were quite surprised when they were meeting someone from the Vikings."
Amaria Zaymon, 10, and 7-year-old Journii Newell were among the kids with astonished looks on their faces.
"I thought we were just going to cook and then leave," Amaria said.
Journii added: "I didn't know it was going to be him."
Instead, Cook and Anna Heronimus, a registered dietician for Hy-Vee, teamed up to help the kids create a healthy yet yummy meal for the night.
"It actually turned out better than what we thought it would," Cook said. "The kids were excited, and I was excited to get going with them.
"Just getting away from football … I love working with kids," Cook added. "I have a little cousin, and I love him and adore him. Just being around them is fun."
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and Hy-Vee teamed up to host a local Boys and Girls Club for a "Cooking with Dalvin" event.
They started out by making the main course, football-shaped calzones stuffed with chicken, broccoli and cheese.
The group then moved on to pita pockets filled with guacamole and topped with red peppers before whipping up a fruit smoothie that included yogurt, fruit, chia seeds and honey.
They capped off the night by making chocolate-covered strawberries and trail mix.
Thor said the group members chosen for the event like to pretend they are chefs on a regular basis.
"They love cooking, so this was also a plus for them," Thor said. "They like being in the kitchen … we do a lot of imaginary playing in the kitchen, so for them to actually cook something is huge."
Amaria, who said the event was "100 percent" fun, said she enjoyed showing off her skills.
"I never got to actually see a real football player," Amaria said. "And I've never gotten to cook with other people, besides my mom."
Perhaps the most entertaining part of the night was the conversation back and forth between the kids and the Week 15 NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
At one point, Cook was asked, "Are you on TV?"
"They're loving Dalvin in there … the questions that they're asking him are great," Heronimus said. "They love that he was here tonight and cooking right along with them."
Added Cook: "I like it because kids really don't have a filter on what they say. You can just freelance and be you with them, and they love that."
Heronimus said it was important to expose the kids to healthy eating habits at a young age and start on their cooking skills early.
"We're having lots of fun … the kids are loving the hands-on experience," Heronimus said. "When they actually have experience and get to go from [preparing it] to cooking it to baking it, they're more likely to taste it and try it."
After the cooking was complete, Cook presented each little chef with a swag bag that included a T-shirt, an autographed card, a holiday hat and a bracelet for rides and attractions at Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America.
"It was good, man," Cook said. "Everything we put together turned out good. The kids liked it, and I liked it, too."
It was a ton of good memories and good food.
"This is something that the kids will always remember," Thor said. "As we walked in, they were saying that they couldn't wait to go back to the club and tell everybody about this fun field trip."