Chefs For A Day
858 75th St., Willowbrook
4747 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Both schools are available for small or large parties and groups
with classes for all ages, from tots to teens. Both schools also
have several great classes for the holiday season, but space fills
up quickly, so reservations are wise.
Cooking is often a family
affair in our household, but now that my son is older, he's
progressed past helping me stir and measure or dropping chocolate
chips into the cookie dough. Luckily for us there are great
Chicago-area options that not only help budding gourmet chefs
develop their palates, but also educate them to enjoy being
lifelong cooks and healthy eaters as well. To see what these
cooking schools were all about, William, 11, joined a couple of
Chefs for a
The scent of warm apple cider
wafts through the air at Chefs For A Day in Willowbrook. In the
sunny, comfortable space, a group of boys and girls are putting on
aprons and sipping cider being ladled out by chef/owner Laura
Gathered around a stainless
steel table in the center of a professional restaurant-style
kitchen, today's class is eager to start making homemade pretzels
and fruit salad. First they add the ingredients and knead the
dough, while Chef Laura directs them and answers questions. Next
the class moves on to knife skills, and soon younger kids are using
plastic kitchen knives to chop their fruit, while the more
experienced chefs are dicing with stainless steel knives and a
confidence many adults would admire.
Soon each chef is sitting
down to a hot pretzel with salt, spicy mustard or cinnamon-sugar.
Parents are encouraged to sample the pretzels, cider and a fruit
salad peacock whose tail features the products of the lesson.
Everyone is eager to share what they learned. Co-owner Ruby Melliza
hands out kids' cooking magazines to parents as the class wraps
"We have a real emphasis on healthy eating and knowing where
your food comes from," says Chef Laura, who has won the prestigious
Those Who Excel Award of Excellence from the Illinois Board of
Education for her work in hands-on cooking in local schools and for
promoting nutrition education. "We have a farm-to-kitchen
connection with locally sourced produce from Twin Garden Farms in
Harvard, Ill. We want to help all of our young chefs learn to be
The Chopping Block
The storefront of The Chopping Block in Lincoln Square is filled
with cookbooks, linens, kitchen gadgets and a lavish demonstration
kitchen. We are taken upstairs to the "hands-on" kitchen-a long,
sunlit room with several "kitchens" set up like a home chef's
dream. My son and two other teenage boys are here to learn to make
a homemade meatball calzone and caesar salad from Chef Luke
Taking turns chopping garlic,
mixing meat with seasonings and herbs, and forming meatballs for
the oven, the three boys are soon talking about how much they enjoy
cooking and eagerly moving on to rolling out the dough for their
"Keep things simple, seasonal
and approachable," says Chef Sara Salzinsky, chef/instructor and
curriculum coordinator. "I like to emphasize that you don't need
too many ingredients to make food taste and look great. By putting
together just a few flavorful ingredients and cooking them
properly, you'll have a winning dish."
Soon the boys are whipping up
caesar salad dressing and homemade croutons. The calzones come out
of the oven just in time to be served with the salad, family-style,
at a round dining table set in a corner of the room. Parents and
siblings share the results and
"Cooking with kids is really
satisfying," he says with a smile, packing up the few leftovers for
us to take home. "They just dive right in, ready to learn and have
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