These youngsters are ready to dish, dish, dish.
They, in no short order, have signed up at Young Chefs Academy, the new cooking school that provides weekly classes and workshops for kids, tweens and teens who are interested in developing and sharpening their culinary skills.
The academy provides a kitchen space for kids passionate about learning how to prepare, sautee, mince, season, mix and match recipes and, finally, present meals and dishes.
“They may address me as ‘chef,’ but they always don’t want a chef because sometimes real chefs aren’t always good at breaking down and teaching (how to cook),” said co-owner and head chef Paul Neale, who, by trade, is not a traditional chef. “They have to learn some things, like using a real knife, and you teach them technique and why it’s held this way, and safety and efficiency.
“But when you teach them something and it clicks, it’s just amazing to see the progress and how they get better and then the food is better.”
Neale, along with his wife, Lisa, opened the new location of Young Chefs Academy in Lutz in October, adding to their other location in Seminole. The Wesley Chapel residents were searching for culinary classes for their 12-year-old son, T.J., when they happened upon the Young Chefs Academy franchise, which turned out to be the perfect opportunity to launch a business.
However, neither were trained chefs, with both working in the corporate world before retiring.
“We are good cooks, we are not chefs — we’re here to teach that now,” Lisa said. “When we were looking (for T.J.), we found (Young Chefs) and thought it would be neat to own and teach that, and it’s all the rage with (cooking) shows, but it’s also a life skill. So, we fell in love with the concept.
“Young Chefs teaches us everything we need to know to teach,” she added.
Some of the academy’s staff are chefs. Some have been cooking for a lifetime and are passionate about it, some are culinary students and some are culinary students to be.
Lisa said it took about two years to get into their new location that comes with a fully functional kitchen and appliances. All classes will provide the food, tools, recipes and the know-how to prepare various meals. Some of the meals will be easy; some, more difficult.
It then comes down to the adult chefs to teach the younger versions proper techniques in preparing, from slicing and dicing, to food preparation. That also includes why certain foods take certain flavoring better and what pairs best.
Each class has about 10 to 12 young chefs, but Lisa added the spaces filled up fast.
“Young Chefs can teach you how to cook, how to prep, how to pair, how to slice and dice,” she said. “What we can’t teach is the passion for cooking, for food, for preparing it for others. We’ve seen with the kids we have so far that passion for them to cook, which is what makes teaching these cooking classes just so amazingly fun.”
Paul added: “I like to cook, I’ve always been in the kitchen, but I’m not a chef. The franchise teaches you how to cook, how to prepare, how to teach, but it’s a life skill, and kids will try things they normally wouldn’t. They’re making it, but then trying food they might not normally eat if they weren’t making it, because now they’re proud of it.
“They want to try it and they want their parents to try it.”
Paul and Lisa point out the popularity of cooking by youth may not necessarily be new, but the boom of cooking shows on TV has helped get kids into the kitchen either besides, or in addition to, say, a soccer field or karate or ballet studio.
“Plus, parents have to cook, so kids want to be in the kitchen with them,” Lisa added. “It’s something they want to do with them, so I think a lot of these kids want to participate as something the family does together.”
Whatever the reason may be, these young chefs are eager to dish out meals.
“I love coming here so far because I like how they give you the recipes to try and you have to learn how to do it — you taste it and keep trying till you get it right,” 10-year-old chef Noah Diaz said. “You gotta learn how to cut and actually how to prepare (food), and you have to actually learn how to do all the things you would in a kitchen. You’re learning how to cook different things and that’s a lot of fun to me.
“Plus, you then learn what food goes with which and how to pair recipes and make dishes — you’re learning how to be a chef!”
Young Chefs Academy
Where: 23606 State Road 54, in Lutz
Details: This academy provides weekly classes and workshops for kids, tweens and teens who are interested in the culinary arts and in developing, building upon and sharpening their cooking skills.
Info: Visit WesleyChapelFl.youngchefsacademy.com.
Published November 08, 2023