Badger cooking classes for kids teach healthy eating habits, too

Photo from Kids Culinary Academy, La Crosse.

Photo from Kids Culinary Academy, La Crosse.

You could say that Carol Burkert teaches survival skills to children, and the work begins with girls and boys as young as 9 years old.

Her Kids Can Cook culinary school, for ages 9-12, began in 2008 and happens at Caroline’s Cafe, just west of Milwaukee. Six-student classes involve basic kitchen skills, and after four, 90-minute classes in two weeks, the children earn a junior chef certificate and chef’s towel.

“Most of them listen better than my junior high students,” says Carol, a mom of four and former home economics teacher.

Students learn about healthy snacks and how to measure, mix and stir. They take home a list of basic kitchen equipment and are asked to find these items. Other homework is to prepare five items of their choice from a kids’ cookbook (included in their class fee).

The children will work their way up to making mini-pizzas with from-scratch spaghetti sauce, and using a garlic press.

“Most kids are very receptive to trying new things,” Carol says. “If they say they don’t like carrots, we might dip them in ranch dressing, and sometimes that changes their mind.”

The four-part advanced junior chef classes are more complicated: cinnamon bread and muffins, then pancakes and crepes, grilled sandwiches and paninis, chili and sloppy joes. Learning to make yeast breads and fruit pies also are possible; graduates receive a chef’s apron.

In downtown Oconomowoc, Guy and Nancy Kopperud operate The Petite Chef, whose cooking classes are set up for children as young as 4, but team-building events for adults also are arranged.

“Everybody seems to have fun when there is food involved,” Guy notes. “Nancy spends about two hours during a regular party or class teaching about proper techniques, food safety and, most important, trying new things.

“The kids end up with a lot of hands-on instruction and they usually eat everything they make. Often parents are shocked at what their kids are willing to try and end up enjoying.”

The couple’s goal is to teach ways to eat healthfully while keeping it fun. For younger students, that might mean putting together cucumber finger sandwiches or fruit bouquets.

The classes involve cooking tools designed for children by the Curious Chef, a virtual business (, 800-932-8227) that is based in Oconomowoc.

In La Crosse, summer day camps focus on all kinds of topics: archaeology to LEGO projects. The Kids Culinary Academy for grades 6-8 begins with cooking sessions, and their completion is required before enrolling in baking classes.

“Some families plan their vacations around these youth camps,” says Angie Coenen, program manager. The cooking lessons end with student production of a meal for family and friends.

Here are details about these and other cooking classes for children. Some outlets are willing to arrange private cooking class parties.

Kids Culinary Academy, Cartwright Center, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse: Class dates are July 15-17 (cooking series) and July 18-19 (baking series); a second round is July 22-24 (cooking) and July 25-26 (baking). Completion of the cooking series ($210 fee) is a prerequisite for the study of baking ($165). Class hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 or 5:30 p.m., 608-785-6504

The Petite Chef, 24 S. Main St., Oconomowoc: Students are ages 4-16, class menus change seasonally and the cost is $30 or $35 per class. Free, 30-minute classes for drop-ins fill on a first-come basis during the first Saturday of the month; times vary., 262-354-0575

Kids Can Cook, 13456 Watertown Plank Rd., Elm Grove: The four-session junior chef program costs $35 (and includes a cookbook); each of the advanced junior chef classes are $15. Cooking series are scheduled periodically, from 4-5:30 p.m. on weekdays, during the school year. 262-784-1094

The American Club, Blackwolf Run Restaurant, 111 W. Riverside Dr., Kohler: Chef Paul Smitala periodically teaches children to cook. An April 6 class, for ages 10-13, is 10-11:30 a.m. and costs $20. Students leave with a chef’s hat and certificate of class completion. Other activities for children are arranged through the Kohler Kidz program., 920-803-3286

Bekah Kate’s, 117 Third St., Baraboo: “April Fool’s Foods” is the theme of a 1-2:30 p.m. March 24 class for ages 5 and older. The cost is $15. Other classes for children or adults occasionally are scheduled at this kitchen and gift shop., 608-356-3133

All Around the House, 160 E. Main St., Stoughton: Most one-session classes here are for adults, but an exception is “Cooking with Kids: Fun with Foods” at 10 a.m. April 6. The cost is $50 for one adult and one child (age 5 or older) to make “veggie airplanes,” “hamburger cookies,” “snacksicles” and more. At 10 a.m. April 27, “Cooking with Kids” teaches the basics of making breakfast; the cost is $60 for an adult and child who is at least 8., 608-877-9402

The traveling Taste of Home Cooking School for adults fills auditoriums and arenas all over the nation. These 2.5-hour demonstration sessions are associated with Taste of Home magazine, which is produced in Greendale, near Milwaukee.

Upcoming classes are at:

Rice Lake High School, 30 S. Wisconsin Ave., Rice Lake, at 7 p.m. April 4. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $12 and $15 and on sale now at the Rice Lake Chronotype and other locations.

Hobbs Municipal Ice Center, 915 Menomonie St., Eau Claire, at 1 p.m. April 27. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. Tickets are $13 and sales begin March 27 at the Leader-Telegram and other locations.

Washington County Conference Center, 3000 Pleasant Valley Rd., West Bend, on May 9. Details have not been announced.

Capital Civic Center, 913 S. Eighth St., Manitowoc, on May 14. Details have not been announced.

Reuther High School, 913 57th St., Kenosha, at 7 p.m. May 16. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $15, and sales begin April 5 at the Kenosha News and other locations.

Doors open one or more hours before the cooking presentation because seats typically are not reserved, and the extra time gives attendees the opportunity to indulge in food samplings and visit vendors.