Art, soccer, drama and the like are all edifying pursuits that help young people find their passions and build character. But you can't eat them for dinner. Cooking classes for kids are fun, educational, and let's face it, useful. Come summertime in Los Angeles -- and it's just around the corner, folks -- options for cooking camps are evolving and become more sophisticated, alongside our local food culture in general. Both regular adult culinary schools and programs specifically designed for youth offer various sessions for budding young kitchen talent (or not; but this is a good way to find out). It's probably better someone else with more patience and experience than yourself to teach your kid knife skills, right?
Here are seven suggestions (listed alphabetically) of where to start getting those mini chef's jackets dirty, but not with your typical playground-variety typical kid stains. Before you know it, the next generation in your household might be taking charge of family meals. (We don't mean choosing which Hungry Man meals to serve.) And then you might have one of these types on your hands.
7. ArtBites: Run by a museum educator-cum-professional chef, ArtBites brings visual culture and art history to life with food. Talk about checking off almost every item on your aesthetic and sensory To Do list. Maite Gomez-Rejon typically begins her classes for adults and kids with an on-site museum visit and brief lecture, followed by hands-on cooking instruction. For kids, she often uses classic children's books to stoke both imagination and appetites, and will include an art project as well. The ArtBites July summer camp is designed for seven to 12-year-olds, with one-week sessions of consecutive three-hour meetings held at the ArtBites kitchen in the Miracle Mile area. The cost is $350 per child. Gomez-Rejon also organizes ongoing Mommy & Me and other programs for kids throughout the year.
450 S. Detroit St., Miracle Mile; (310) 396-4648
6. Chef Eric's Culinary Classroom: This West L.A. cooking school has four tracks of kid summer options for ages seven through 15. Lessons start with basics, and then expand to globetrotting international foods (Asian, Mediterranean, Mexican, etc.) and various techniques, including grilling. (Good luck with that one.) Sessions begin June 20 and continue through August.
2366 Pelham Ave., West L.A.; (310) 470-2640
5. Chefs, Inc.: Subjects of Chef Inc.'s week-long classes for kids ages six through 15 range from a country-a-day international theme, the tropics, regional U.S. cooking, California cuisine, and a sweet and savory pie/tart course. Summer camp starts June 13, with the $450 per week sessions running through the end of the season. Plus like Kitchen Kid (see below), there's even a "Cooking Like a Food Network Star" course. OK, so if the kids are really into watching food TV shows, may as well harness that motivation to get them into the kitchen, right?
10955 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.; (310) 470-2277
4. Ecole de Cuisine Los Angeles: In an effort to keep costs down, instructors Farid Zadi and Susan Ji Young Park of Ecole de Cuisine partner with the City of Glendale for their youth cooking program held at the Central Park Community Center Complex. The five-week sessions taught by these seasoned pros (and Squid Ink contributors) include one course focused on general cooking and one on desserts, and meet once a week. The six classes of each track are organized by age level, starting with kids as young as four and going up to 12. Groups are capped at ten participants, and the fee is $50 per session, plus $25 for materials. Jump on these ASAP, because the session starts next week and the price can't be beat. Separate classes for middle school and high school students contain a home economics component.
201 E. Colorado St., Glendale; (818) 641-6899
3. Kitchen Kid: This "mobile culinary school" brings hands-on instruction to all sorts of locations and events, including summer camps in Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach for children seven through 14 years. Sessions cost $394-$425 and include farmers' market visits with emphasis on seasonal organic ingredients. Sorry, junior Bobby Flay fans; Kitchen Kid's "Food Network Faves" class is already sold out. Kitchen Kid partner camps are also held throughout the city, such as at La Cienega Park.
First Presbyterian Church, 1220 2nd St., Santa Monica
Neptunian Women's Club, 920 Highland Ave., Manhattan Beach; (310) 450-3462
2. Piccolo Chef: The demonstration kitchen at Surfas in Culver City provides Piccolo Chef classes with a venue to teach six through 17-year-olds this summer. Themes include brown bag lunches, Paris, Iron Chef (the kids can't get enough of the food TV thing), Italian coastal cuisine, and kitchen science. Each Monday-through-Friday session costs $312-390, start in July, and are grouped into ages six-to-10 and 11-to-17. Now in its third year, Piccolo Chef offers ongoing single-session classes in June for kids as young as three, plus occasional instruction just for grown-ups. Keep an eye out for future events at the Farmer's Kitchen in Hollywood, too.
8777 Washington Blvd, Culver City; (310) 295-4208
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1. Summer Art Academy: Cooking is one of the Summer Art Academy's main activity options, with locations in La Canada, North Hollywood and Woodland Hills. Each series is $295 per week (plus supply fee); the seven to 11-year-olds are scheduled for the morning sessions, while those 12 to16 attend in the afternoon. Kids can spend their five-day sessions learning how to whip up breakfast, focusing on cooking foundations, working with chocolate (already popular, not surprisingly), making appetizers, and creating menus from nations around the world, among other kitchen topics.
4463 Oak Grove Drive, La Canada
4525 Irvine Ave., North Hollywood
20800 Burbank Blvd., Woodland Hills; (818) 386-2107