24Life: Tell us more about the business you started to teach families and kids to cook, as well as your after-school nutrition program. What was the need you saw?
EK: The need was similar to the need that co-founders Nick Taranto and Josh Hix saw for Plated. People often want to cook at home, but it can be hard to do it well and on your terms from week to week. For my business, part of addressing that need was instilling the important connection between food and well-being so that cooking meals became an integral part of a family’s weekly routine. It was about helping people cook at home by focusing on teaching families to cook together.
A part of this was aimed at getting kids to participate in meal planning and creation at an early age. When kids are a part the process, they are more apt to like the dish they’ve made. So you’re not only teaching them a skill, but you’re creating a fun environment where they’re trying new ingredients and flavors—and enjoying them! In the end, it is about enabling them to create nourishing dishes that are also delicious—something they can take with them for the rest of their lives.
For the after-school program, we incorporated an educational component into school lunch. We taught them about the nutritional aspects of the ingredients in their meals and developed cooking classes tied to them. For example, we’d take an ingredient that was in their lunch and use it in different recipes in other ways focusing on health benefits as well as great taste. It provided a deeper understanding of the relationship between what they were eating and their overall well-being, and gave them actionable ideas to use in their daily lives.
24Life: How did your formal education help you prepare to fulfill it?
EK: Together, my tenure at Teach for America and my training at Le Cordon Bleu gave me the right combination of skills, knowledge and experience to create a program that served this need. Through Teach for America and earning my Master of Education, I understood the basics of how to teach people things. My culinary training gave me an expertise in cooking techniques, flavors and an overall appreciation of the culinary arts. Through this, I was able to tackle ideas and concepts around food and cooking that aren’t always approachable and make them doable.
After I graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, I tried a range of jobs to help me learn, grow and get a better understanding of the variety of things you can do in the food space. This wasn’t as much about supplementing my formal education but more about giving myself hands-on experience doing different projects and participating in different businesses. This also gave me a chance to get a better understanding of the things I was most excited about pursuing. I jumped at every opportunity, whether it was catering an event or selling turkeys at a farmers market. Because TFA was so hands-on, I felt confident in my teaching abilities, but having just graduated culinary school, I wanted real-world culinary experience to achieve that same level of confidence in that field, as well.