Parents can't help but worry about their children when they send them on Mormon missions.

But Tami Mack had one less concern than most mothers and fathers after her son Jordan attended "Called to Serve Dinner," a cooking class for prospective proselytizers.

"As a parent, you hope they are able to take care of themselves," the Bountiful mother said, "and cooking is big part of that."

The four-hour class, which also caters to young adults headed to college or who are newly married, focuses on the basics — from how to read a recipe and plan meals to cooking meats, breads and vegetables.

"If you have the basics down, you're going to have a life of deliciousness," teacher Lindsey Joy Smith said, "and you can skip over the Ramen noodle phase."

Smith is the founder of The Chipper Chef, a culinary business she runs out of the Bountiful home she shares with her husband and six children.

Several years ago, she attended the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School, which she described as a "delightful nightmare" as she learned French cooking terms from instructors with Scottish accents all while attempting recipes using the metric system.

When she was through — graduating with merit — she knew she wanted to combine her love of food, with the teaching degree she previously had earned. She was also drawn to young adults, having served as a leader in the Young Women program for teenage girls in her Mormon congregation.

Smith, who does regular cooking demonstrations on KSL's "Studio 5," also has written "Feast," a book of personal and religious stories as well as recipes.

She said the recipes and information she shares in "Called to Serve Dinner" classes are universal and can be used no matter where a young man or woman goes on a mission, whether it's Montana or Madagascar. Students learn basic sauces, the correct rice-to-water ratio and how to properly prepare an omelet.

"We also learn to make bread, which for most [students] is a first," she said. "We always conclude with a sit-down meal with the food they have made, and there are always leftovers to take home and brag to their family about."

Smith used to schedule her classes in advance, but found teens were more likely to participate if they attended with friends or people they knew. So today groups of six to 10 people can book private missionary cooking classes whenever convenient, she said. The class costs $50 a person.

Cooking lessons are just one way families try to ensure that missionaries stay nourished while serving. There are numerous books for these novice cooks that offer recipes with minimal ingredients and simple directions. Mormon congregations often create cookbooks that they give missionaries, and sometimes mission leaders and their wives will have recipes for the young men and women in their care.

Cooking classes are "exactly what we needed," said Mack, who also enrolled her daughter Lindsay in the same class as her brother Jordan. Lindsay is away at college this fall, but plans to go on a mission next year.

"Depending on where they go, it's safer for them to cook themselves, rather than eating out," Mack said, noting that even though she taught her children basic cooking skills, the "Called to Serve Dinner" class seemed to get them more excited about being in the kitchen.

"I felt like they would rather listen to someone else," she said, "and it wasn't a chore to them."

kathys@sltrib.com