Everyone seems to want to be a chef these days – even kids.
In recent years, a number of cooking schools have popped up in the Louisville area offering classes for people who yearn to prepare their own gourmet meals.
Some have opened their doors to little hands, offering courses teaching children how to select produce from a farm, how to prepare intricate courses, and even how to design their own restaurant.
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But for the most part, local schools have focused on adults, with occasional classes geared toward under-16s.
That changes this month with the opening of Mesa Kids Cooking School, a New Albany, Indiana store designed specifically for kids ages 7-14.
The new school comes from the owners of Mesa: A Collaborative Kitchen, which has been offering monthly children’s classes since it opened last summer at 216 Pearl Street in New Albany.
Co-owner Ysha Bass said the children’s classes are always full, but the kitchen setup was never meant for her.
“My husband and I decided the kids needed their own space,” Bass said. “The Mesa room isn’t exactly kid-friendly.”
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The new kitchen is located less than two blocks from the first in the subway station complex at 154 E. Main Street.
It’s a 1,200-square-foot facility with scaled-down equipment that can accommodate up to 20 children per class, Bass said.
But don’t think of Mesa Kids as a fancy daycare. According to Bass, culinary school is a serious training center designed for kids who want to know what it’s like to work in a kitchen — before they’re old enough to actually be employed in one.
Children who enroll in one of the school’s four-week courses or week-long camps learn how to use proper knife skills and safety techniques. They learn how to prepare four-course meals and can enter baking competitions.
“[Kids]are very alert and aware of what’s going on in the culinary world,” Bass said. “They have a lot of knowledge about what they make. It is encouraging to see that there is a need for this.”
Outside of class, Mesa Kids will also offer a Black Coat program that will only enroll 10 students every two years.
The year-long program is designed for children who want to pursue a career in cooking – and local chefs are already hungry for potential new talent.
“Chefs in the area have shown a keen interest in working with these children,” Bass said. “We want to set up internships in different restaurants.”
Ella Foster, 11, of Jeffersonville, said she wants to be the next Gordon Ramsey.
She first got a taste for cooking at Turnip the Beet in Louisville and was officially hooked after taking three more classes at the original Mesa.
She plans to take more classes at Mesa Kids School, where she hopes to learn how to properly grill a steak and how to cook dinners that could support her family (even her pesky siblings).
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“It’s just fun,” Ella said of cooking. “I have two other sisters. It calms me down when they yell in my ears and stuff.”
Ella’s mother, MJ Foster, said they were lucky to have something like Mesa in southern Indiana.
“I’m really glad they’re investing in kids,” Foster said. “It’s really important.”
Mesa Kids will offer week-long camps through the end of the summer and begin four-week courses this fall.
Camps are $169 for members and $199 for non-members. An annual membership to the school costs $99 and includes discounts on camps, classes, and merchandise.
To find out more about the school, visit mesakidscookingschool.com.
Bailey Loosemore: 502-582-4646; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @bloosemore. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/baileyl.
CHILDREN COOKING CLASSES
Do you have a little chef in the making? Take them to one of these Louisville-area shops where kids as young as 2 can learn to bake, stir-fry and sauté.
- cooking in the cottage, 3739 Lexington Street — The St. Matthews company offers standalone classes that teach children how to make dishes like pizza, sushi, and crepes. The next available class is on Monday 16 July from 11:30am to 1:00pm. Tuition costs $50 per student and is available to children ages 7-12. Learn more at cookatthecottage.com.
- Foxhollow farm, 8905 Kentucky 329, Crestwood — Fourth-generation farmer Maggie Keith invites children ages 8 to 12 to take a tour of her family’s farm and learn how to cook with the produce grown there. The next class is on Wednesday, July 25 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. and costs $50 per student. Learn more at foxhollow.com.
- Mesa Children’s Cooking School, 154 E. Main Street, New Albany – The founders of Mesa Collaborative Kitchen in southern Indiana now have a separate location that caters specifically to kids, offering week-long camps and four-week classes ranging from $120 to $199 per student. Families signing up for membership receive a discounted rate. Visit mesakidscookingschool.com for more information.
- Turnip the turnip, 1164 S Brook Street — The Old Louisville store offers classes, camps, and classes for children ages 2 to 16. One-to-one classes start at $25 per student, while week-long camps range from $180 to $315 per child. A seven-week course costs $260 per student. Visit turnipthebeetlou.com for all options.