WHEN STAY-AT-HOME ORDERS forced Sherri Hansen to close her cooking school, Culinary Kids, she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. “I had to get my four kids settled into online school and help with homework. Then, I had to face loss of income for myself and 28 employees while trying to sort through new government regulations. My husband is a medical pilot, but can’t be the breadwinner due to a recent, surprise, massive heart attack. It was one level of tragedy after another, and I felt like Atlas having to hold everything up.”
Sherri’s business model is all about connecting people. She’s passionate about interacting with students, families and other small businesses, and when she couldn’t do that face to face, she was at a loss – until she cooked up a deliciously creative solution. “I was down because the internet is saturated with cooking videos. We can’t compete with the production of big TV networks. Then it dawned on me. Going live on Facebook would allow that all-important connection. Through comments, I could see who was watching, viewers could ask questions, and we could all interact in real time. The next day I called Chef Clare Reding and said, ‘Get ready, we’re going on camera with Stir Crazy Cook Alongs.’”
Each show takes about eight hours of preparation. Sherri posts ingredient lists on Mondays so viewers have time to get food and supplies before the Sunday lesson. It’s a labor of love because anyone can watch at no cost. Sherri says it’s worth every minute to bring together families and friends–some from other states and countries–and to provide income to some employees through online donations. “It instantly exploded because quarantined families wanted something to do together. Parents get a break because another grownup is in charge for a while, and the kids get to serve parents like it’s their own restaurant. Since we start at four o’clock, dinner is ready just on time.”
Sherri projects the show on a screen so she can see questions as they come in. A step stool helps her get the best angles of the guest chefs at work. For Mother’s Day, award-winning, 14-year-old student Emma Philippus prepared shrimp and grits with Brussel sprouts for her mother and grandmother–chefs in their own right having trained in France and each with a published cookbook. Emma began Culinary Kids classes at nine years old, has attended Top Chef Jr. Boot Camp, and beat out a Master Chef Jr. runner-up and Chopped Jr. champion at the Southern Girls Can Cook competition.
Sherri’s enthusiasm and zest for life, cooking and her family of students and employees shines through as she continues to connect despite overwhelming adversity. “The first minute we went live I felt I had my connections and purpose back. It’s been so much fun, I plan to keep it going even after this is all over.”
Culinary Kids is located at 915 Marigny Ave. in Mandeville. For more information, visit culinarykidsns.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 985-727-5553.