At some point in our parenting, we’ve probably wondered how we can get our kids to eat more vegetables. Our kids’ tastes change, they want to practice their autonomy, or they don’t like the texture. Whatever the reason, getting our children to want to eat nutritious food can be a challenge for some families. Felicity Curin, the founder and president of Little Kitchen Academy and mother of three, wondered the same thing. Combining her restaurant experience, Montessori training and passion for nutrition she created Little Kitchen Academy, which has locations in Canada, the U.S. and plans to expand around the globe. Their latest location, and the first Little Kitchen Academy in the States, is right here in Los Angeles. Little Kitchen Academy in Century City opened Aug. 16 with the help of Iron Chef Cat Cora, Little Kitchen Academy’s Official Ambassador, Honorary Head of Recipe Development and Advisory Board Member. The Century City location offers Montessori-inspired cooking classes for ages 3 – 18, where young chefs learn seasonal recipes, how to use kitchen equipment, composting and more.
We were fortunate to chat with both Felicty Curin and Cat Cora about inspiring families to cook, getting kids to explore different foods and finding joy in the kitchen.
Iron Chef Cat Cora
Little Kitchen Academy’s Official Ambassador, Honorary Head of Recipe Development, and Advisory Board Member
What made you decide to join Little Kitchen Academy?
When I first met Brian and Felicity Curin and learned about Little Kitchen Academy, I immediately knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of. I could tell that Little Kitchen Academy was a special concept that would provide so many children with the opportunity to learn practical life skills through cooking. When I experienced a class and saw how empowered and independent the students were in the kitchen, I was certain that we had to share this incredible gift with as many children as possible. I am so excited to have the first U.S. Little Kitchen Academy at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles so children in my backyard can experience the joy of Little Kitchen Academy for themselves!
Are your kids involved in cooking and preparing meals at home?
Family is very important to me, so I love involving my kids in the kitchen at home whenever I can! Some of my boys are more interested in cooking than others and love trying new recipes or just making meals with me. I think it’s important that our children learn practical life skills like cooking to build their independence, so I try to engage my kids in preparing meals with me as often as possible.
What inspired you to take pursue the culinary path?
Food was always a big part of my family life growing up so some of the inspiration came from those big family dinners. I also was inspired by being around people in the restaurant business, as my grandfather owned cafes and my godfather ran restaurants in Mississippi. From a pretty young age I knew I wanted to pursue the culinary path. When I was 15, I even drafted a business plan to start a restaurant. Then, when I met Julia Child, my path became so clear, and I was inspired to enroll at the Culinary Institute of America.
What is your favorite way to spend the weekend with your family in SoCal? Any special spots or restaurants?
A BBQ and swimming in the backyard. Going to Runyon Canyon for a hike. Walking Melrose. Going to different farmers markets. Playing basketball. Going to Venice skate park and the beach. Going to a movie. Some of our family regular spots are Pizzana, Sugarfish, Nate ‘n Als, Birrieria Tlaquepaque, La Provence Patisserie & Café, Da Pasquale, Soho House, Beverly Hills Juice Club, and Croft Ally. For dessert, we love B Sweet, Sweet Lady Jane, and The Bigg Chill.
Founder and President of Little Kitchen Academy
What is the best way to introduce young kids to the joy of eating different kinds of foods and to the joy of cooking?
The best way to encourage children to try different foods is by finding ways to spark their curiosity! Children are curious by nature and they want to try new things. Our job is to find ways to empower them to take that risk and try a new food. A big part of that is engaging them in the process of cooking. When children clean some fresh mushrooms or broccoli, they often will take a bite out of them as they go because children are curious. It’s also important to remember they don’t have to like the foods they try. Even as adults there are certain foods we don’t like and that’s okay. I would suggest encouraging them to understand and express why they don’t like something. Maybe they find roasted zucchini to be too mushy, but they love spiralized zucchini with garlic and cheese! When we create that safe, empowering space for our children to take a risk and to express themselves, they are much more likely to try new foods and to enjoy cooking.
What advice do you have for busy families who feel like they don’t have time to cook?
There are so many great, easy, quick meals you can make from scratch. I think it’s important to remember that meals don’t have to be fancy or take three hours to prepare to be delicious and healthy. I would suggest that if you feel short on time, try engaging your children in the process. We had a student who learned to make an egg sandwich in one of our classes at our location in Vancouver, Canada. A few weeks later, as her mom was rushing around feeling like she wouldn’t have enough time to make dinner, the child chimed in and said, “Don’t worry mom, I can make dinner,” and prepared the egg sandwich for them. It was such a beautiful moment and such a great reminder that our children are often more capable than we think.