Each month we feature a Chef of Chef Works®. If you’re a fan of Chef Works gear and are interested in being featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictured above is our March Chef of Chef Works®, Chef Felicity Curin, Founder, President and COO of Little Kitchen Academy, photographed in her Marbella Chef Coat.
Chef Works: Give us your “a-ha” moment when you realized that you wanted to be a chef?
Felicity Curin: As a young child I would watch my grandmother create spectacular meals out of thin air. My grandparents had a ‘hobby’ farm, so my siblings and I would spend endless days in their garden picking fruits and vegetables and filling our tummies.
I loved the smell on my fingers. I loved watching the food I picked turn into an incredible soup, or a bright green salad. Greengage jam will always remind me of my childhood. After school, in my early 20s, I knew I wanted to create that feeling in my home. I wanted my [future] children to fondly remember how our home always smelled like something was baking. I knew then I needed to master my craft.
Chef Works: Tell us about your mission at the Little Kitchen Academy.
FC: Our LKA mission is simple: We are providing a beautiful space for our students to develop their confidence and capabilities in the kitchen. We provide work that refines their senses and allows our students to make choices that are important to them. We believe that by empowering children with practical life skills and knowledge in a positive and joyful environment, we will affect positive lifestyle changes that result in a healthier world.
Chef Works: How would you describe a typical cooking class at the LKA?
FC: Our classes are full of joy. Our students, even as young as 3, are invited to do all the work themselves. They put on their chef coats, do up the buttons and choose which chef shoes to wear. They learn how to wash hands and then safely discover how to use a mixer, an induction cooktop and a knife – among dozens of other tools in between. We collect the ingredients, wash them and learn how to professionally prep them for our meal.
You could hear a pin drop when the knife skills start. We have had more than 16,000 visits from students and fewer than 10 cuts from a knife. Parents delight in learning their children washed their dishes and cleaned their stations. But my favourite part of the class is when I see our students proudly show their families what they made.
Chef Works: What is the most popular recipe at the LKA?
FC: At Little Kitchen Academy we never repeat a recipe. Over the course of our four-class sessions, our students learn to make a breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack/dessert recipe. The desserts are always a welcome treat, but it might surprise some to hear that our Madras Lentil Curry was one of the most popular meals we made last fall.
Chef Works: What’s the most rewarding part about your job?
FC: I remember the first time I cried at work. I heard a child exclaim: ‘Wow! My Mom will never have to crack an egg again because now I can do it for her!’ It still gets to me. Isn’t it amazing? Our children just want to help. They want to contribute.
Chef Works: What are your goals for 2021?
FC: I am incredibly excited to launch our new philanthropic program: ‘How Can I Help’ by Little Kitchen Academy. This introduces the spirit of giving to our students in a very powerful way.
I am also really looking forward to seeing more Little Kitchen Academy locations open across North America in 2021, with locations opening soon in Surrey, British Columbia, Oakville, Ontario, and North Vancouver, British Columbia – with many more to be announced very soon. We’re also so delighted that our first U.S. flagship location will be opening in Los Angeles this summer! I just think of all the children who will get to experience Little Kitchen Academy for the first time – putting on their Chef Works Kids Chef Coat for the first time, standing in chef’s position for the first time, using a knife for the first time — I can’t wait!
But really the thing I am looking forward to the most is the same thing I look forward to every day, which is hearing more stories about our students taking risks and trying something new. My goal for 2021 and beyond is to continue changing lives from scratch.
Chef Works: We love that you brought up the excitement you get from wearing a chef coat. But you’ve also found them to have other practical uses for young culinarians. Can you tell us more?
FC: Especially for the younger students, the coats are also a great indicator of fine motor skills. We tell the students that working on the buttons warms up the muscles in the fingers. When our students put on their chef coats, they transform. You can see it. They stand a bit taller and feel like they are part of a team. Wearing a chef coat garners respect. It says ‘We are here to work.’
Learn more about The Little Kitchen Academy from their social profiles:
Meet other Chefs of Chef Works:
- Chef Erik Mauke
- Chef Graham Smith
- Chef Marina Mellino, The Spice Chica
- Chef Roberto Bertozzi
- Chef Carlo Curto
- Chef Laura Maxwell
- Chef Pam Fanjoy
- Chef Renée Bellefeuille
- Chef Ned Bell – Ocean Wise Special