Dietitian offers healthy cooking classes for children, adults

Photos of children from previous Kids Kitchen classes adorn Kitchen House.

Photos of children from previous Kids Kitchen classes adorn Kitchen House.

Leah Smith said she knows it is difficult to convince children to eat their vegetables.

The nutritionist and mother of two said she came up with the idea for Kids Kitchen after her children grew out of eating baby food.

“I wanted to get kids excited about the different flavors and the different colors of food and not be scared of them when their parents offered that,” she said.

Smith is one of several Kids Kitchen instructors that teach children ages 3-14 to cook. She said if a parent cooks a dish, a child will not necessarily eat it. But when a child learns to cook for herself or himself, the child takes ownership of the food, she said.

“They’re proud, and they really want to try what they’ve created,” Smith said.

Kids Kitchen celebrates its five-year anniversary in October, and its physical location, Kitchen House in Cedar Park, opened Sept. 8, she said. Smith said she is planning a grand opening celebration for Kitchen House in November.

Since 2011, Kids Kitchen has offered weekend workshops, after-school programs and birthday parties aimed at teaching children to cook. Smith said she had been interested in nutrition and healthy eating since high school, and she went on to earn a bachelor of science degree in nutrition in college. In 2002, she became a registered dietitian.

Before starting Kids Kitchen, Smith said she worked for the supplemental nutrition program Women Infants and Children, where she developed a program to teach recipients how to cook.

Smith said she started Kids Kitchen by hosting classes for children at Twin Lakes Family YMCA in Cedar Park twice per week.

“That was our first home,” she said.

Soon after, parents began asking her to host birthday parties in their homes. Then, Kids Kitchen was asked to host after-school classes in Georgetown, Round Rock and South Austin, she said.

Two years ago, Smith said, she decided to pursue the business full-time. By then, she said, Kids Kitchen was hosting summer camps at various locations throughout the area every week and hosting birthday parties up to 11 times per month.

One year ago, Kids Kitchen started hosting adult cooking classes at a commercial kitchen in Cedar Park.

“I knew I wanted my own space,” she said.

Smith moved her business into Kitchen House in September, and she has been working since then to ready the facility for after-school, weekend and birthday party events for children as well as adult classes and private events.

“We have lots of things planned,” she said.

Children’s classes focus on cooking vegetable-heavy dishes with whole grains that incorporate all food groups. Adult classes are often themed, and local chefs teach classes on subjects including gluten-free cooking, Asian cooking and baking pastries, she said.

Smith said small groups can rent the facility rather than meet at a restaurant. There is also an arts and crafts room that small groups can rent for classes aside from cooking, she said.

Kitchen House

1514 Dandridge Drive, Cedar Park
Hours: class times vary, special events by appointment