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Little Kitchen Academy, the first-of-its-kind, Montessori-inspired cooking academy for kids ages 3 through teen, will open its inaugural U.S. location at Westfield Century City this summer.
Little Kitchen Academy is the realization of a long-held dream of Montessori-trained culinary expert and visionary, Felicity Curin who co-founded the organization with her husband, global brand and franchise expert and entrepreneur Brian Curin (Cold Stone Creamery, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Flip Flop Shops), and social impact investor and entrepreneur Praveen Varshney. Founded to provide a safe, inspiring and empowering space for students to develop and refine their senses and acquire both important practical life skills and confidence, the L.A. location will serve as the flagship training facility for the brand which will be expanding globally.
“We are delighted to bring this “from scratch” concept to the United States and to the Los Angeles community,” said Brian Curin, CEO and Co-Founder of Little Kitchen Academy. “Our Montessori-inspired approach empowers students to learn the practical life skills needed to succeed not just in the kitchen, but in school, and in life.”
Adds Felicity Curin, President, COO and Co-Founder of Little Kitchen Academy, “It has been remarkably gratifying to help foster and witness the growth and self-confidence of our students at every age level, and we are excited to share this transformational journey to independence and discovery with families in Los Angeles and beyond.”
Due to open its doors on the two-year anniversary of the launch of the first Little Kitchen Academy in Vancouver, BC, the 1,505-square-foot Westfield Century City location will feature the same modern, innovative, signature LKA design, complete with a hand washing center, 10 individual cooking stations (a.k.a. Little Kitchens) that are physically distanced appropriately. Each Little Kitchen will be equipped with its own oven, induction cooktop, sink, cleaning and sanitizing supplies, prep table, mixer and all the equipment and utensils needed to make the “from scratch” creations including vegetable peelers, rolling pins, measuring spoons, and colanders, which are meticulously kept, cleaned, and commercially sanitized between each class.
Learning begins as soon as students enter the “for student chefs only” environment, where they are acquainted with and practice proper hand washing. Each instructor and student dons an LKA chef coat by ChefWorks and a fitted pair of BIRKENSTOCK chef shoes (two of several global brand partners) to begin their personalized cooking journey.
The new location will feature items from each of the Little Kitchen Academy strategic partnerships, ensuring the ability to offer an authentic, sustainable experience. These include the ChopValue community table composed of 33,000+ recycled chopsticks where students will enjoy their creations at the close of every lesson once current Covid-19 restrictions are lifted (until that time, students will dine safely at their individual workstations), Emeco chairs made of recycled plastic bottles, and an eye-catching living food wall powered by AeroGarden, for students to grow and harvest fruits, vegetables, and herbs for use in their creations. Additional global brand partners include Welcome Industries, which provides educational cooking tools, including measuring cups shaped like fractions to make cooking and learning math engaging and fun, and Brand Ambassador Iron Chef Cat Cora, a world-renowned chef, best-selling author, restaurateur, philanthropist and mother of six.
“As a Los Angeles native, chef and mother, I’m thrilled to welcome Little Kitchen Academy to Southern California where local families and children can experience joy, love, and learning in the kitchen,” says Iron Chef Cat Cora, Advisory Board Member, Honorary Head of Recipe Development, and Brand Ambassador of Little Kitchen Academy. “I believe passionately in Little Kitchen Academy’s mission and have had the rewarding experience of witnessing first-hand the growth of children as they harness their natural sense of wonder and curiosity on the road to self-reliance.”
LKA’s Montessori-inspired environment is organized to support the growth and development of each child. Instructors show the students how to safely use tools, but step back to closely observe the independent work, only stepping in when safety is a concern. This approach enables students to learn at their own pace while they acquire practical life skills that foster independence, confidence, and socialization. LKA further empowers students to make better food choices, to apply age-appropriate math and science skills in real-world settings, and embrace practices such as recycling, composting, and the concept of philanthropy in order to make positive, socially conscious contributions to the world through its recently announced global philanthropic initiative “How Can I Help,” which empowers students to learn about giving back and making a difference by putting the choice in their hands to support one of four notable causes.
Sessions of three-hour classes run year-round, are organized by age group for up to 10 students per session (ages 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, and 13+ years old) and are overseen by three instructors per class. The curriculum focuses on seasonal, locally grown and organic produce and ingredients, and students enjoy the fruits of their labor for a “scratch to consumption” experience.
In May 2020, Little Kitchen Academy announced its plans to open more than 400 global locations by 2025 and is currently seeking like-minded multi-unit franchisees and development partners based exclusively in AZ, CA, CO, FL, IL, MS, NC, OR, TX, WA, WI. Internationally, LKA is focused on expanding further into Canada, as well as Australia, India, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, MENA region, Singapore, Spain, and the U.K.