Photography by Nate Chappell
Cooking is not only limited to adults, and healthy eating does not have to be bland and boring. Local entrepreneur Kim Jacobs owns a modern home-economics class concept for kids.
What’s Cooking? is a cooking school in Lakeland that provides a safe and fun environment for children and teens to explore how to cook creatively. From kids’ classes and parties to summer camps, there are a variety of ways for youths aged 5 to 13 to develop cooking skills and understand clean eating. What’s Cooking? owner, Kimberly Jacobs, has a masters in Hospitality and is a certified health coach with a passion for nutrition.
“My children went to a cooking school [in Kentucky], but it wasn’t very hands-on. I really thought it would be cool for kids to learn to cook from scratch,” says Jacobs. “I like to call it ‘home ec on steroids.’”
Busy lives often lead to quick, easy meals that are not always the healthiest. Jacobs noticed this when she became a mom herself. She initially opened a cooking school in Lexington, Kentucky, but sold it after four years in order to move back to her hometown of Lakeland to be closer to family. In October of 2019, Jacobs finally opened What’s Cooking? in Lakeland. She focuses on clean eating and cooking from scratch: cooking without preservatives.
While children can be particular about what they will and won’t eat, Jacobs commends the kids for being so engaged and willing to try new foods. “Rarely do I have a child not enjoy what they’re cooking — because they made it. They try new things, and there’s a little peer pressure involved because there are other kids doing it. So many of them leave and say, ‘I want to be a chef when I grow up!’ and they’re seven. It’s really rewarding.”
The Lakeland kitchen has 12 stovetops, and Jacobs is accommodating to different food allergies and sensitivities, including having a peanut-free cooking space. She also features specialty recipes according to the time of year, including gingerbread-making classes during the holidays, and summer camps when school is out.
At all of the camps, the kids make their own breakfast and lunch, and they bring a dinner home. “I do take-home dinners, in which the parents drop their kids off, and they make dinner for four people.
“At the birthday parties, I let the children create their own party. In one week, I went from a zombie party to a Parisian party to a luau, so it’s fun seeing five-year-olds create their own party.”
Each person has their own cooking space, adding to the personal, hands-on experience. While Jacobs primarily focuses on getting the kids involved with cooking, she also hosts classes for adults, allows families to cook dinner together, and does some catering for events.
“I’m Italian, so making anything Italian is my go-to. For the adult classes, I want them to make something they’ve never done before, such as a bourbon dinner, in which they’re cooking with items they normally wouldn’t cook with. It’s fun because it helps me expand my horizons and be creative in order to do that.”
Jacobs also teaches the kids knife safety, as the skill levels vary. While she plans meals or recipes for the kids, she also teaches them how to make sure they like what they make.
“It’s not about always following the recipe; it’s them figuring out if they want to add more of a certain spice and liking it.”
They even do unique renditions of activities based on the popular television shows Cupcake Wars and Chopped, adding competition to cooking. Jacobs varies the recipes and activities so that from one week to the next the kids are making something different, a reminder that cooking is full of experimentation and trying new things.
6935 S. Carter Road #6
Lakeland, FL 33813