Among the options, Young Chefs Academy Atlanta Midtown has a schedule of classes six days a week for ages 5 and up. Taught by chef instructors, the curriculum covers subjects such as kitchen safety, proper food handling, food preparation, cooking and baking techniques, and even a bit of math, science and history.
Ty-re Dixon, the Atlanta Midtown franchisee, discovered Young Chefs Academy with his 10-year-old daughter, Brooklyn.
“She said, ‘Dad, I want to take cooking lessons.’ So I went online, Googled cooking lessons for kids, and found Young Chefs Academy,” Dixon said. “She started taking lessons, and I started talking with the owner, who wanted to expand the franchise. I don’t know how I talked myself into this craziness, but I did, and lo and behold, here I am.”
Dixon is a Morris Brown grad, and describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur.” But he’s always loved cooking. And he got into the restaurant business as a co-owner of Just Loaf’N New Orleans Po Boys.
He said there was another reason he became interested in Young Chefs, though. “There’s a lack of home economics and other personal skills kids have in the school system now,” he noted. “That’s what I had growing up. I grew up under my grandmother’s apron, watching her bake cakes, and letting me lick the spoon. That was a real bonding experience.”
In response to the pandemic, Dixon has assumed a much bigger role in the business, taking over as general manager, and working in the office every day.
“It was a chance for me to really become more hands-on, and really become the face of my business,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that when parents were coming in, I had answers for them about what we were doing for safety.
“We’re a cooking school, so we wash our hands multiple times during class. But we’re also doing temperature checks, wearing masks and practicing social distancing.”
Currently, Dixon is working on a platform for virtual cooking lessons, with hopes of getting online in a few weeks.
“I made a pretty good investment in equipment, so that’s the direction we’re going in,” he said. “With the numbers being much lower, we’ve got to be able to make money outside of these walls.
“Food is the thing that brings families and communities together. We want to be able to teach kids the joy of food and cooking. Our instructors have great culinary backgrounds, but the key is working with kids, and making them feel comfortable.”
With all that said, you might wonder what Dixon’s daughter Brooklyn is cooking these days.
“She loves to cook breakfast,” he said. “She makes bacon in the air fryer, toast in the toaster, and cracks and scrambles the eggs. About every morning, she gets up and makes her own breakfast, which is great for somebody who’s 10.”
Tips for cooking with kids
The recipes Young Chefs Academy instructors use are written by chefs with input from nutritionists, franchisee Ty-re Dixon notes.
But the instructors are not only teaching kids how to cook, they’re making sure they’re safe, and having a fun experience.
With that in mind, here are a few (perhaps obvious) tips for cooking with kids:
Safety first. It should go without saying, but children shouldn’t play around with sharp knives, hot burners or ovens, or heavy pots and pans.
Keep it simple. Pasta, or popcorn, or that old standby, pancakes, can still be exciting and satisfying.
Challenge taste buds. Try new flavors from time to time. You might be surprised by what your child doesn’t find yucky.
Sheet-pan meals. They’re perfect for getting creative with ingredients, and kids can easily help prep and assemble them before the pan goes into the oven.
These recipes from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp were designed for cooking with kids. The instructions note that you should read your recipe all the way through before you begin, and get everything out and get ready to cook.