Youth Athletics Recreation Development (YARD) is adding a culinary program to its menu of services in Yelm.
In the first class on Saturday, Sept. 23, students ages 7 and up will learn how to bake apple pastries from guest chef Jaydean Hamilton, a professional cook who grew up in Yelm. The class, which takes place from 10 a.m. to noon, will allow students to make and decorate six tarts that they can bring home.
Hamilton is on vacation from her job at Panorama 2962 in Germany on the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. Her mother, Samantha Beattie-Beaver, who works at YARD, contacted her daughter about the new program this summer, and Hamilton is excited to teach her first class.
“I’ve always had a desire to teach kids how to cook. Not just kids but teenagers and even adults,” she said. “I’m really good with kids and helping them evolve their flavor profile and their tastes to be more accepting of food. I think it will be a really good opportunity to test the waters and see if I am successful with teaching.”
Hamilton lived in Yelm for most of her life, graduating from Yelm High School in 2011. While in high school, she attended New Market Skills Center as part of its culinary arts program. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the Art Institute of Seattle in culinary arts and restaurant management and a minor in baking.
“New Market was where I established the real love for cooking,” Hamilton said. “I decided that cooking was just what I knew best, and I really enjoy cooking.”
Her introduction to the food industry was an internship at Cafe Flora in Seattle, and she also worked in hotels, hospitals and as a personal chef. In 2019, she earned the opportunity to work at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on a military base for 15 months.
“I did it off of a whim, and my whole anticipation was to come back after the 15-month contract, but I ended up really liking it, and I got extended at the job that I was doing,” she said. “I ended up becoming one of the lead cooks for the restaurant.”
Hamilton said it was a dream come true to travel to cook. She had been trying for several years to get a job that would take her abroad, like a cruise line job. She applied for the entry-level position at Edelweiss, allured by its free dorm-style accommodation, with low expectations. Now, a job that was initially a short-term experiment on a whim is a long-term career plan for Hamilton.
“I ended up getting an apartment in Garmisch. Once I had the apartment, I said that I’m not leaving. That was just one step to getting my residency and my visa with getting a job on the economy. I ended up working at Waffle House there, and at that point, I was like, ‘I’m going to make it here. This is now my home. This is where I feel comfortable. This is my peace.’”
Despite living in Yelm for more than 15 years, she now considers Germany her home and Yelm the place where she got her start.
“Wherever I end up years and years down the road, Yelm will always be my start, but for now, I’m going home to Germany, and I think that’s going to be my home for a while,” she said.
While she is temporarily back in her old stomping grounds, she will speak with students in the district about basic culinary techniques and methods before the class on Sept. 23. While she will return to Germany in a few weeks, she hopes that the new culinary program at YARD will bring the Yelm community together.
“I feel like it’s just a really good opportunity for the community to come together and become more of a community,” she said. “I know it’s hard with small towns like this to come together and do things, but I think it would be a really good opportunity for not only learning but being able to make something yourself. I always think that giving people the experience of cooking is more rewarding than giving them money.”
Spots are still open for the first class, which costs $65 to register. The class will be limited to 10 students. Go to www.yardathletes.com to register.