By Susan Frick Carlman Naperville Sun, Ill.
Little kids are naturally drawn to activity. When Julie Burleson saw that happen under her own roof more than a dozen years ago, it changed her life.
A longtime entrepreneur, Burleson was working in the kitchen with a friend on a meal-preparation enterprise when her little one toddled in.
"I was in the middle of trying to get a meal out, and my son was doing what most kids do when their moms are trying to get something done. They want to 'help,'" she said. "So I found something for him to do to keep him busy."
And that, she says, was her "aha!" moment.
Because children are naturally curious and want to have a say in what goes onto their plates, Burleson established Young Chefs Academy, a nationwide cooking school for kids. Working with the French "mise en place" philosophy, centered on organization and preparation done ahead, the curriculum is run through franchises opened in communities seen as particularly receptive to the concept.
The chain of culinary schools for cooks age 3 to 18 is currently operating through 19 franchises in nine states and is in the midst of an aggressive expansion that has Burleson, the company's CEO, looking at potential operators to open a Naperville location.
"It's just a perfect fit for Young Chefs Academy -- the focus on children, the family values, the sense of community," she said, speaking by phone from the company headquarters in her hometown of Waco, Texas.
The company has not done any target marketing here so far, but there have been inquiries on the website, youngchefsacademy.com, Burleson said.
There also is no specific location yet selected for the envisioned local franchise, although representatives have been checking into space availability near Main Street Promenade, Springbrook Prairie Pavilion and Naperville Crossings.
More information can be found on the company website. youngchefsacademy.com