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Young Chefs transforms children into kitchen magicians with its introduction to making snacks and more.

Nicholas Moser held up the recipe for bizcochitos, a type of anise-flavored shortbread cookie, reading the directions out loud.

"Beat until light and fluffy," said Nicholas, 11.

Rocio Herrada turned on the mixer. A few moments passed.

"It's light," Nicholas said.

"It's fluffy," Kylie Weston, 5, chimed in.

At the next table, 12-year-old Avery Sabella was busy chopping up green onions for taco bowls.

"I like cooking," Avery said. "It's really fun."

The kids were taking part in a three-day cooking camp at the Young Chefs Academy that teaches little cooks how to slice and dice, mix and measure.

For many of them, like Avery, the oldest of four children, it was also an opportunity to take home recipes to help her mom with dinner, especially when school starts and schedules are hectic.

"After school, I'm usually the first one home," she said. "So I try to cook for my younger siblings."

This day, the culinary students were learning how to create Tex-Mex suppers with the help of Herrada, the academy's owner, and Rebecca Berton, the lead teacher.

In between answering questions like "What does 'beat' mean?" and "Where's the cream of chicken?" Herrada gave lessons on food safety and preparation.

When they broke eggs for the bizcochitos, Herrada told her little apron-clad helpers: "You have to wash your hands really well after handling eggs. Do you know why?"

One girl replied: "Because eggs have stuff."

"Stuff?" Herrada asked, smiling. "Because you can get really, really sick from the salmonella."

They measured flour and leveled it off, made cream of chicken soup from scratch when they ran out of the canned version and sliced onions until their eyes watered.

Austen King, 8, made his way around the kitchen like it was his own.

Austen is a club member, which means he attends cooking classes once a week. He made stuffed French toast for his dad for Father's Day, using a recipe he picked up from the academy.

"Sometimes, I make my own breakfast," he said. "I'll make eggs and I don't like the yolks, so I'll feed them to my three dogs."

Berton, the lead teacher, said parents will be amazed at some of the things their kids will eat, like jicama that goes into a jicama melon salad.

"A lot of kids usually eat everything we make," Berton said. "We urge them to at least try it. They put in the effort, so they want to see how it tastes."

Brenisen Linden, 8, said she likes the educational aspect of the classes, but nothing beats bringing the finished product to the table.

"It's fun eating everything," Brenisen said. "It's yummy."

Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at or (813) 269-5312.


Getting started

Young Chefs Academy is at 10335 Cross Creek Blvd. in Tampa.

Visit www.youngchefs for more information or call (813) 929-3338.