Cooking school for kids opens in Mundelein
A new culinary school in downtown Mundelein aims to teach kids as young as preschoolers the joy of cooking.
Students at Youthage Culinary, 508 N. Seymour Ave., will learn important kitchen skills, including safe food handling, food preparation, proper knife usage and cooking techniques.
But teaching healthy eating habits really is the main goal of the nonprofit program, said Robert Collins, Youthage's president and head chef.
"We have so many kids here who have diabetes or hypertension. And one of the big reasons is, they aren't eating healthy," said Collins, a U.S. Navy veteran from North Chicago who's been cooking professionally for about 20 years.
Youthage held its first class last week. It offers classes in three program categories.
Tiny Chefs is for kids ages 4 to 7. Students will learn basic nutrition and age-appropriate kitchen skills, and they'll participate in cooking demonstrations.
Junior Chefs is for 8- to 13-year-olds. It will include themed cooking challenges and head-to-head cook-offs.
Senior Chefs is for 13- to 18-year-olds. It's a more extensive, six-month program that will teach more advanced culinary techniques, covering everything from preparing steaks and seafood to etiquette and customer service.
It's designed to prepare students for entry-level jobs in the food service or hospitality industries.
"We want them to go out into the work market and say, 'I'm ready for this," Collins said.
Classes are held two to four times a week for one or two hours per session, depending on the age of the students. Prices range from $25 per session for the Tiny Chefs classes to $399 per month for the Senior Chefs program.
Youthage instructor Tracy Wilson hopes students will practice the skills they learn in the program as they get older, "so they won't grow up making some of the mistakes a lot of their family members did."
She also wants them to pass along the techniques to their families and friends.
Youthage fills a retail space last occupied by an athletic store called Golden Legs Running.
A grand opening is scheduled for Sept. 15.
Mundelein Trustee Holly Kim is excited about the new school and the culinary experiences it's offering children.
"More than simply making tasty dishes, cooking classes fall in the capacity of teaching others to create with their hands," Kim said.
"It's also a fun way to teach self-sufficiency skills."
Trustee Ray Semple believes Youthage will help attract more customers to the downtown area, which the village has been working to revitalize for years.
"And if a future chef or restaurant owner is created here, that would be an awesome win," Semple said.