Young, Aspiring Chefs Cook Up Success at Sprouts Cooking School
Photography provided by Sprouts Cooking School
The idea was planted by a mom on a mission. A few years ago, Stephanie Drewry’s kids asked her to sign them up for a cooking class. After doing an exhaustive internet search, it became clear that no such thing existed. Drewry, who has a degree in elementary education and a love for cuisine, had an epiphany.
“I was at that crossroads that moms go through where I knew my youngest would be starting kindergarten soon and I wanted something for myself,” Drewry says. “I thought, ‘What if I started a cooking camp for kids?’”
In April 2015, Drewry launched Sprouts Cooking School, LLC, initially running it out of her home. She posted an ad on social media, and almost instantly all six of her summer cooking camps filled up. Over the next year and a half, she estimates that 2,500 students came through her door. Drewry had such a solid customer base that in June 2017 she opened a storefront business on Hazel Dell Pkwy, and they remain Indiana’s only dedicated kid’s cooking school.
“We do seven birthday parties a week, four weekly classes, and three weekend classes,” Drewry says. In addition, they run three summer camps (9 a.m.-noon, 1-4 p.m., and 5-8 p.m.).
“Basically, we’re open forevermore,” Drewry says with a chuckle.
Each camp has its own theme-based curriculum designed for one of three age groups: Tiny (3-5 years), Junior (6-8 years), and Tween (9-13 years). Ideas for themes often come from things students see on shows on Food Network, Netflix, YouTube, Twitch, and Hulu. This past summer, for instance, they had a theme based off of Cake Boss. Over a four-day span, students baked from scratch three two-layer cakes, including buttercream, Oreo, and unicorn cakes.
“That was an intense camp,” Drewry says. “We used 216 sticks of butter that week!”
Students learn everything from how to hold a chef’s grip when chopping veggies to how to level when baking.
“We teach how to master dicing and mincing as well as how to properly space cookies so they come out the same size,” Drewry says.
A key part to the class, and in many ways the biggest reward is that students get to eat what they make.
“We encourage adventurous pallets,” Drewry says, recognizing that especially younger students tend to be picky eaters. But that’s why they have a “no, thank you bite” rule in which every student must sample at least one bite of any given dish before turning it away. Drewry has found, however, that the more students try a food, the more likely they are to eat it again.
“We hear all the time from parents, ‘I’m so shocked! I thought she hated that kind of food!’” Drewry says.
The classes definitely awaken curiosity in the kitchen.
“We send kids home with a recipe packet or links to recipes so that the education can continue at home,” Drewry says.
While some students come to just have fun, other kiddos are driven by a passion for the work. In fact, some students’ families travel more than an hour each way on a weeknight to attend classes. Parents tell Drewry it’s because their children say they aspire to become chefs.
“When I hear that, it gives me goosebumps,” Drewry says. It also gave her an idea — last month, she launched MemberChef,™ an exclusive new interactive skill-based culinary program for dedicated children age 6-13.
The program, which is modeled after culinary school, invites students to attend four monthly 1.5 hour-classes, each concentrates on a specific skill.
“We’ll spend one class per week working toward mastering that skill,” Drewry explains.
After four weeks, the class culminates with a family dinner where students cook for their parents to demonstrate what they learned. Teachers then present students with a custom-designed enamel pin they can display on their Sprouts Cooking School MemberChef™ coat.
“Think of karate students who work their way up the belts,” Drewry says. “That’s similar to the pins. As they master a culinary craft, they earn a pin.”
The cost is $149 per month, with a one-time $65 starter kit that includes student’s black chef coat, recipe binder, cut glove, and earned pins.
This month, MasterChef Junior Live is coming to the Butler Arts Center where past contestants will participate in a live cook-off competition. The show invited Sprouts to partner with Butler and set up a demonstration booth.
“It’s a huge deal to be asked! We’re excited!” Drewry says, a creative entrepreneur who loves cooking and trying new things. “I’m a hard worker and a mom who can look at a recipe and say, ‘A kid will eat this if I just modify the recipe.’ I truly didn’t expect this would become such a big business!”