Lil’ Chef School in Irvine celebrates 10 years of teaching local children a passion for cooking.
Tracey Doty started cooking with her mom and grandma at a young age.
When she was still in elementary school and around the holidays, they would spend the whole day cooking during a given holiday. As she got older, she started doing more cooking and even made dishes ahead of time, so the family could devote more time on their other holiday tradition: a family card game.
“Baking was huge around the holidays as they would make fudge, butterscotch and pecan candy rolls from scratch,” she says.
But it wasn’t until college that her love of cooking truly flourished.
“My last semester we were limited to a suite where we only had a refrigerator and a microwave — so my roommate and I would cook everything in an electric skillet and we made everything, from stuffed chicken breasts to macaroni and cheese,” she says. “I’ve been cooking ever since and realized that even for children, if they were involved in the cooking process, they would be more apt to try the food they created.”
This year Lil’ Chef School in Irvine celebrates its 10-year anniversary. Originally opened as Young Chefs Academy, the cooking school for kids (and adults) offers birthday parties, cooking classes, camps, workshops, special events and field trips to children starting at age 4. The camps and classes focus on kitchen safety and teach kids how to cook with the help of age-appropriate cooking techniques. Most of the dishes the children learn about are made from scratch. Kids can taste everything they make.
The lineup of camps is extensive, including holiday mini day camps throughout the year as well as 12 weeks of Summer Cooking camps that are each a week long. Campers are divided into smaller age groups so that they get to cook and work with their peers.
“We get a lot of kids that are glued to the food channel, so they are interested and eager,” says Doty.
By Jessica Peralta