Looking for cooking classes for your kids in the Orlando area? I had the opportunity to visit some with my son. Here’s what I found…
Families are always on the go. Between school, sports, activities and jobs, it’s not easy to find the time to sit down at the table and eat together as a family. And on those occasions when everyone happens to be at home at the same time, there’s still the challenge of finding foods and recipes that everyone will enjoy. So what’s a family to do?
“Include your kids in the meal planning, grocery shopping and food preparation,” suggests Kari King, a registered dietitian and local teacher. “Giving them ownership will help kids develop a sense of pride, and they will be more motivated to participate in the kitchen.”
For busy parents who are looking for ways to connect with their kids, Yamira Lee Johnson (breakingbreadwithmira.com) recommends making family meals a priority when possible. “I believe that we create powerful bonds with our children when we sit down as a family and share a meal. It’s not just about the nutrients in the food; it’s about the connection we make as a family.”
And what about finding ways to encourage kids to make healthy choices when it comes to food? Gary Appelsies is a chef, nutritionist and the director of healthy eating for the YMCA of Central Florida’s 22 locations spanning six counties. He offers strategies to help families change the way they think about food. His suggestions include allowing kids to continue to eat the foods they enjoy but with a healthy twist. For example, he recommends baking chicken tenders instead of frying and adding pureed butternut squash or carrots to macaroni and cheese.
Chef Gary also suggests continuing to introduce new foods over and over again. “Our taste buds change over time. There may be foods that your kids won’t eat when they are young, but they may end up liking it as they get older. Ask your children to take a ‘no thank you bite,’ meaning they must try one bite to see if they like it. Over time, they may end up enjoying it.” Chef Gary answers questions and provides more healthy-eating tips through the Virtual Chef page. You can also find dozens of healthy recipes the whole family will enjoy on the Y’s website here.
Edible Education Experience
Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House and Culinary Garden, College Park
Located just a short distance from the bustle of I-4, Edible Education Experience is a culinary oasis tucked into the College Park neighborhood of Orlando. From their lush, beautiful garden classroom to their professionally equipped kitchen house, this nonprofit is a welcoming space for parents and children looking for an educational culinary experience.
During my visit, it was clear that the team at Edible Education Experience is passionate about what they do. I arrived just as a group of students was being led through the garden, and then I followed them into the kitchen where they were taught knife skills and kitchen safety. Every child was engaged in the lesson, and the instructors made it a fun experience for all. The entire facility is immaculate, and the kitchen is a dream for any aspiring home chef (including me!).
The team is made up of both staff and volunteers, including locally renowned chef Kevin Fonzo, former owner of K Restaurant. Garden educator Brad Jones oversees the diverse ecosystem, which is free of fertilizers and pesticides. It’s an environment where children and plants thrive. He says, “kids work collaboratively and function the way the garden functions, which is fundamental to success.” Culinary educator Erica Asti says, “We make an effort to integrate cultural influence in our garden and through our classes.”
Edible Education Experience offers a selection of summer camps, school break camps, homeschool and community group classes as well as family-friendly Chef Night events. More classes and experiences are in development. For more information, visit EdibleEd.org.
Held at the Orlando United Assistance Center in downtown Orlando, Community Cocina is a monthly multicultural experience led by Chef Yamira Lee Johnson. She guides the group through the process of making delicious meals with a cultural twist while teaching about health, diet and nutrition. Community Cocina takes place on the third Thursday
of each month.
Publix Aprons Cooking School
Orlando: Dr. Phillips and Winter Park
Publix Aprons Cooking Schools can be found in several Florida locations, including two right here in the Orlando area. My son and I attended a Big & Little Chef Summertime Treats class, and we can’t wait to go back. The class, led by master chefs Craig and Jimmy, was not only educational but fun. Both chefs were patient and encouraging so everyone, no matter their skill level in the kitchen, felt comfortable participating.
Summer camps and year-round classes are offered for kids, teens and adults. In addition to hands-on cooking classes, Publix offers cooking demonstrations and party-style private events. The Big & Little Chef series is open to children ages 8–12 who team up with a parent to prepare a meal. Older kids (ages 13–18) may attend classes on their own. Class information and schedules can be found at publix.com/recipes-planning/aprons-cooking-schools.
Orange County Library System
Branch locations throughout Orange County
From preschoolers through adults, the Orange County Library System offers something for the whole family, including hands-on cooking experiences and age-appropriate themed classes. I stopped by a recent Little Chef: Peach Cobbler class that was filled with preschoolers and their parents.
The class started off with a sweet welcome song and storytime told using a super cute book about peaches. Following the story, the children all had the opportunity to create their own peach parfait. The smiles on their faces as they crushed their graham crackers into crumbs was priceless. The room where the class took place is filled with natural light and has a colorful mural painted on the wall.
Noraliz Orengo, youth program specialist at the Downtown Orlando branch, encourages parent and child involvement. “The biggest thing for us is to strengthen the parent-child relationship while enhancing and promoting life skills.” Classes are held at various branches throughout Orange County, and a complete list of upcoming classes can be found at ocls.info/classes-events.
More Culinary Experiences for Kids
- Pequeños Chefs
All Kids Spanish offers a Saturday Spanish Cooking Club for kids in grades K–5. The program provides children a fun and hands-on way to practice their Spanish language skills (from beginners to advanced levels) while also providing a platform for building basic culinary skills. Recipes are inspired by Spanish culture and promote healthy eating behaviors.
- Terralina Crafted Italian
Put on your chef hat, kids! Learn how to create your own pizza with fresh ingredients at this restaurant in Downtown Disney. Embrace Italian food and culture while transforming simple ingredients into delicious dishes. These cooking classes are designed for kids ages 5-12.
- Truffles and Trifles
Named one of the top five cooking schools in the country by Food Network, Truffles and Trifles has been offering cooking classes and culinary experiences for 34 years. Hands-on classes and summer camps are available for kids and teens ages 7–18.
- YMCA of Central Florida
The YMCA isn’t just about exercise and fitness; it’s also about nutrition and healthy eating habits. On the website, you’ll find easy-to-follow recipes developed by their very own Chef Gary Appelsies, tips for healthy eating and a handy Florida produce guide.
Cooking classes and chef demonstrations are offered at various Williams-Sonoma store locations throughout Central Florida. Junior Chef classes are themed to be kid-friendly and teach age-appropriate skills and techniques.
Kids Can Create Sweets & Treats
This sweet chocolate factory adventure will delight family members of all ages. Learn the history of chocolate and see how chocolate is made from “bean to bar” during an interactive journey led by your personal guide with help from a handsome prince and his dragon sidekick. At the end, you get to customize your very own chocolate bar! Tours last approximately 45 minutes and are scheduled every hour on the hour.
Summer camp and birthday parties have never been sweeter than at Peterbrooke Chocolatier in Winter Park! During these special events, kids get to be a chocolatier for a day. They will learn all about the chocolate-making process and will have hands-on fun as they dip their own treats, color with edible paints and build a gift basket to bring home.
Bring the whole gang to see how marshmallows are made at the Marshmallow Family Workshop! The workshop includes a tour of the kitchen and the story of Wondermade. Plan on being there for about an hour. Kids can become an “official marshmallow agent,” and everyone will receive a complimentary slab of marshmallows. Family workshops are held on the last Saturday of each month.