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full circle

Minnesota woman is head chef of cooking program she attended as a child

Donyelle Williams has come full circle, teaching kids how to cook nutritious meals in the same kitchen where years ago she discovered her love of food.

Williams, 27, is the chef and kitchen manager at Cargill Kids Cafe in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Williams teaches local children everything from how to safely cut up vegetables to how to clean up the kitchen, adding in lessons on eating healthy and balanced meals. Annually, the cafe feeds 160 kids — they receive breakfast and lunch during the summer and snacks and dinner during the school year, five days a week.

The cafe is run by Perspective Inc., an organization that assists mothers and children in need. When Williams was in elementary school, she was part of the program while her mother was undergoing treatment for drug addiction, and the cafe gave Williams a chance to have experiences she otherwise wouldn't have had, like trying new cuisine, learning where food comes from, and going on field trips.

"It's great to have these kids be able to look at people who went through this program or who look like them or who come from situations like them, and see that there's more to life than just what your current struggle is," Williams told the Star Tribune. The cafe's dietitian, Kay Guidarelli, said it's clear that Williams not only has "the talents in cooking and kitchen management, but she's got a great relationship with the kids. I tell her that's something you just can't teach."