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Little Chefs Cook Big Meals at New School

ABC Chef's Academy, opening this weekend, teaches kids the art of cooking.

The cult of cooking is a modern phenomenon. The Food Network—the first dedicated cooking channel—has recently added a second network, the Cooking Channel. Food shows are peppered throughout television, and movies like Julie and Julia and Big Night are as much about cooking as the plot lines. Even cartoons got into the act when Ratatouille gave kids a taste. Never mind the star was a rodent; that rat could cook.

Now, kids' cooking camps are popping up across the country. The St. Louis area's first chef's school for kids is coming to . ABC Chef's Cooking Academy opens its doors Saturday with their grand opening celebration.

The academy is the creation of Chesterfield resident Faronda Davis. Originally from Florida, Davis had an innate appreciation of fruits and vegetables and has spent the last ten years teaching kids about them in 15 local elementary schools and the . In 2008, she began teaching kids to cook. It was the parents of those kids who encouraged Davis to open the academy.

“Parents have been emailing and calling, asking me to start something,” Davis said. “I'm really excited.”

Davis stresses the educational value of her cooking classes for the little chefs. Reading skills are developed by reading recipes, and science skills are taught with temperature, texture, and observations about cooking, such as the role of yeast in baking. Kitchen safety is also taught, and math skills are used for measuring and weighing.

“Kids learn cups real quick,” Davis said. “They're a little confused at first, but they pick that up real quick. They learn all about different things and don't even realize they're learning.”

Classes are geared for kids to teens, and there are special couples' nights on the menu for adults. The classes are divided by age group: Teen Chef classes for ages 12 to 17, Little Chefs geared to kids aged 5 to 11, and even Mommy and Me classes for ages 2 to 4. Did she say 2 years old?

“2-year-olds are daring,” Davis said. “They jump right in.”

Boy and Girl Scouts can earn their cooking merit badges, and field trips are welcomed on Wednesdays and Fridays. Birthday parties are available with different themes, such as pizza and pasta from scratch, candy workshops, tea parties, breakfast parties and Mexican parties. ABC Chef's Academy even adds balloons, invitations, chef hats and cupcake decorating into the pot.

For Davis, Chesterfield Mall is exactly where she wants to be. The school is located on the second floor between and . “We chose the mall because we love it,” Davis said. “We have a home near here. We love the people. Plus this space was a restaurant so everything we needed was here. It was perfect.”

For the grand opening Saturday, your little celebrity chef will make Spongebob's favorite, "Krabby Patties," with either crab or turkey. Open spots remain in the 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. session.

With the exception of the Mommy and Me class, parents drop kids off and go about their mall business while the kids get busy in the kitchen. For more information and class schedules, visit the ABC Chef's Cooking Academy website.

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