European-inspired Farmhouse School in St. Charles will teach kids to cook

  • Workers Grace Bay and Nick Manfredini in the Farmhouse School kitchen during the open house on June 19.

    Workers Grace Bay and Nick Manfredini in the Farmhouse School kitchen during the open house on June 19. Courtesy of Dave Heun

Updated 6/25/2021 11:24 AM

One could surmise that KinderKookKafe in Amsterdam has a direct connection to the Farmhouse School in St. Charles -- and not only because both specialize in teaching young children how to cook the food they can grow in their gardens.

To hear Farmhouse School owner Leslie Kendrigan Meredith tell it, that famous cafe/school in The Netherlands planted the idea in her mind 30 years ago for what is now her historic home, cooking school, barn and gardens at 3N369 LaFox Road in St. Charles.


Meredith lived in Amsterdam at that time, working in international marketing for Heineken, but beginning to brew her passion for gardening and cooking those fresh foods -- and teaching young people how to do it.

"The kids would go to KinderKookKafe in the afternoons, and then their parents and siblings would come, and the kids would serve the food they made," Meredith said. "It was so much fun."

But that idea would have to wait for some time, considering Meredith was an Arlington Heights resident working on her global marketing and advertising career.

"As a side hobby, I started teaching kids gardening and cooking classes out of my home," she said. "As that became more popular and I got more into it, I was less into being a senior executive at a marketing agency."

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When she was let go from a job in October of 2019, Meredith made what she admitted were "halfhearted" attempts to find new positions within the marketing industry.

"But I'm no spring chicken," she noted. "So it's hard to find a job as a 55-year-old."

That's how her "side hustle" of teaching kids how to cook became her life's mission, one she launched with a well-attended open house last weekend intending to start classes after the Fourth of July holiday.

"I thought I would find a commercial kitchen space, and in the back of my mind, my fantasy was to find a kitchen that also had access to some garden beds so I could incorporate the growing into it," she said.

After enduring some idle time because of the pandemic, Meredith spotted the LaFox Road property listed in a magazine. It featured a historic Durant family house and a separate building that previous owner Penny Newkirk had used for a similar cooking instruction concept with Country Garden Cuisine.


"It was kind of turnkey, so I put my house on the market and bought this," Meredith said of her April move into the farm setting.

Leslie Kendrigan Meredith on her Farmhouse School property. The St. Charles business will offer cooking classes for children.
Leslie Kendrigan Meredith on her Farmhouse School property. The St. Charles business will offer cooking classes for children. - Courtesy of Dave Heun

Farmhouse School shouldn't be mistaken for a culinary or chef school. It is about teaching people to be cooks in their own homes. And more than just children have become interested in that concept.

"My heart is in teaching children," Meredith said. "But I have had so many of those parents and my own friends pressure me into wanting to take a class, so I started doing adult classes just before the move."

Still, the pure joy comes from kids making something like zucchini noodles with fresh basil pesto and watching them gobble it up or proudly serve the dish to their parents.

"This is a good fit for me," Meredith said of her new Farmhouse School complex. "When I sit down and think about what I am doing, it is quite exciting."

Those interested in the Farmhouse School and its class schedule can get information off Meredith's Facebook page or contact her at (312) 545-3750. You can read her "Kids Can Cook" column monthly in the Daily Herald Food section, too.

In the gardens

It's good to see the Pottawatomie Garden Club in St. Charles will host its 15th garden walk from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 26.

The idea for a garden walk apparently unfolded in 1959 and again in 1960 but didn't take hold as a fairly regular event until 1995.

Tickets for the garden walk are $15 in advance or $20 the day of the walk.

Tickets are sold at Blue Goose Market, Blumen Garden in Sycamore, Heinz Brothers, Scentimental Gardens in Geneva, Shady Hill Gardens, The Growing Place in Naperville, Townhouse Books and Cafe and Wasco Nursery. Tickets and information are also available on the club's website.

That's really low

In watching some fishermen in the Fox River, just south of the Geneva Dam last week, it almost looked like they were walking through a wet parking lot after a rain. The river has been that low.

One fellow was walking downstream, and the water was just above his ankles. His feet never went deeper than that.

So, it begged the question of whether it's possible to fish under those conditions, or is it even fun to do so?

Some rugged storms last Sunday and a forecast for more rain this week will hopefully get the river flowing a little stronger.

'Easy' fruit cups

After eating way too much applesauce for lunch one time, I decided my best approach would be to purchase those small applesauce or fruit cups that parents generally buy for their kids' school lunches.

For the most part, it has worked out well. I just consume the small portion in the cup and leave it at that.

However, I have noticed that some, like peaches or pears, have quite a bit of juice in the cup. And it's sort of hard to get the plastic covering off without juice spilling.

I asked my daughter-in-law, a teacher and has seen these fruit cups in action at school, how a young kid can get the cover off without making a mess at school.

"They don't," she said.

Ah, yes, another fun thing our teachers have to deal with.

Farewell to Fridays

We spent a few New Year's Eve dinners with friends at the TGI Fridays restaurant along Randall Road in Batavia over the years, and it was always an enjoyable experience.

When it closed a week ago, it was just another of those slightly surprising incidents in which another longtime restaurant shut its doors.

I don't eat at any of the franchised restaurant chains enough to say one stands out over the others, but through the years, we've seen an Applebee's, Bennigan's, Houlihan's, Golden Corral, and now TGI Fridays shut down.

One could start to surmise that maybe these types of operations just aren't our "thing" out here in the Tri-Cities.

It's hard to say what might eventually turn up in the Fridays location. Some were hoping for a Culver's, but we have one in St. Charles along Randall Road, so it's hard to imagine another would turn up that close.

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