EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - The last time you saw Shawn Sanders, chances are she was smiling and happy and surrounded by smiling happy children.Sanders loved cooking and made kids love it, too.Sanders, a local chef, launched Little Chefs of Vail, a program that saw her Little Chefs cook an entre from a different country each week. As homework, they took home enough food for dinner for four people.Sanders died earlier this week from multiple injuries suffered in a traffic accident. She left behind dozens of Little Chefs and hundreds of friends and admirers."It was her program, and her loss is tough. We love that Little Chefs program," said Ann Lynch with the Sebastian hotel in Vail.Cooking is classicCooking is like classical music, Sanders was fond of saying. You start with basic ingredients, add a little imagination and you soon realize that it's not what you have, it's how you give it to people. Mozart started like this. So did her Little Chefs.Sanders spent her life setting children on the right path.She was born Sept. 24, 1977 in Nashville, Tenn., the second of nine children.Her mother suffered a stroke when Shawn was about 13, and Shawn basically raised her siblings while her mother recovered and her father ran his toy company.She landed in the Vail Valley about 12 years ago where she lived with her husband Worth Sanders.In 2010 she combined her two passions, children and food, by creating Little Chefs of Vail.Her reasoning was as elegant and classic as her cuisine: You're going to eat your entire life and you're going to cook your entire life. You should enjoy both, Sanders said.Anyone who has ever spent time in a kitchen for anything more than studying the refrigerator door for the pizza delivery number understands that cooking involves all kinds of skills: Math, reading and comprehension, a little chemistry and the clear understanding that if you can read and follow directions you can do anything. Little Chefs learned all that, and also things like how to make their own pasta, starting with fresh ingredients and ending by learning to twirl it properly. For Little Chefs, homework is things like trying a new vegetable. Ketchup does not count no matter what Nancy Reagan says."She basically raised my kids for five years and was like a second a mother to them," said Julie Bergsten, vice president with Slifer, Smith & Frampton Real Estate.Kelly Pope's children are 8 and 10 years old. They'd cook with Shawn for two hours and come home with dinner.Her son Ethan was part of that first group that worked in the Sebastian hotel kitchen."My kids would come home excited about salad," Pope said.Pope met her through a friend at Miller Ranch park where Shawn was playing with some preschool children she was caring for.Pope watched as Shawn broke out homemade curry salad, a broccoli salad and homemade rolls for her youngsters. Pope was flabbergasted when they ate it, liked it and asked for more."She was unbelievable with children and in the kitchen. She blended her passion and was incredibly successful," Pope said.Shawn recruited some of the parents to help her handle the business side of Little Chefs."As I came to know her, I realized she was for real and the kids were all the better for it," Pope said. "She empowered the kids and had an extraordinary way of making them feel special. You'd consider having another kid if you could hire her as your nanny."Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.
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