Chef Michael Giannakis placed the Tuna Nicoise platter onto the serving table and proclaimed with a flourish, "As the French would say, 'Voilà!' " The crowd of 12- and 13-year-olds gathered around him echoed, "Voilà!"
They were congratulating themselves - the kids had set the eggs just so, cut and blanched the string beans and made the vinaigrette during a French cooking class at A la Carte Culinary Services in Lynbrook.
"I usually don't make the stuff at home, I usually just wait for my parents to do it," said Lexidor Lamour, 12, of Uniondale, whose group made crepes during the same class. "This is the first time I'm making something, really. I hope to make this at home so I could show them I could take care of myself, too."
A la Carte is one of a number of cooking schools on Long Island that offer programs to introduce children to the wonders of the kitchen.
Classes for children occur once a month, frequently pegged to a holiday. From 4 to 6 p.m. March 17, children will make Irish soda bread, shepherd's pie and a pistachio dessert. Kids ages 4 to 6 can partner with a parent; ages 7 to 12 can be dropped off. $40 a child; 10 percent discount if you prepay for three classes. In April the theme is animals in the kitchen. Kids will prepare such items as "Monkey Bread," "Cub Cakes" and "Ants on a Log."
Suffolk County Community College Arts and Hospitality Center
20 E. Main St., Riverhead, 631-451-4892, sunysuffolk.edu
Five-day summer camps in July offer children grades 3 to 6 and 7 to 10 the chance to learn nutrition and food preparation, as well as the basics of baking and pastry arts. Program includes a field trip to a local farm where students will learn about organic farming and then use those products in the kitchen. Students prepare their own lunch daily, and the week ends with the students making a luncheon for parents. Cost is $495 per week.
This little shop opened last year. Classes cover ages 2 to 15, with the younger children's classes being cooking and story time and the older children being dropped off for themed classes. For instance, from 5 to 7 p.m. March 16, a St. Patrick's Day class will involve making Reuben sandwiches and scones. An Easter/Passover celebration from 5 to 7 p.m. March 23 will include matzo pizza, chocolate chip macaroons, Easter egg decoration and chocolate Easter egg nests. Classes are $49 per child. What's Cooking also offers a 10-week summer program. "There's a lot of science and math involved in cooking," says owner Lynne Gerald. "They're really doing sophisticated things."
9 Soundview Marketplace, Port Washington, 516-767-7633
Little Chefs opened in Syosset in 1999 and added a location in Port Washington in 2005. Classes are usually 10-week sessions that cost $395 with a $35 registration and insurance fee. They range from classes for 3- and 4-year-olds called "Cooking With Colors, Shapes and Numbers" to classes in international cooking for 10- to 14-year-olds. Cooking clubs grouped by age meet once a month, September through June, for the same fee. One-time holiday classes, such as the St. Patrick's Day class from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. March 15 in Syosset and March 16 in Port Washington are $55.
A la Carte offers a variety of classes for children ages 8 and older. A grown-ups-and-kids class runs from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 27. Teams will make dishes such as smashed red potatoes with bay leaves and cinnamon streusel scones. Cost: $109 for a pair. During spring break, junior chef drop-off classes for children ages 8 to 17 run March 30, 31, April 1 and 6. Each class is $59; all four are $200. From 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 10, there's a daughters-and-dads classes for $119 per couple. Four one-week junior chef classes are scheduled for the summer. Visit the Web site or call for more information.
At noon March 13, take "Family Fun in the Kitchen: Cooking With Kids" class for $50. At noon March 21, the class is "Teen Baking Workshop: Cupcakes" is offered for $60. The store also offers a three-day cooking course during spring break, at noon March 31 and April 1 and 2, for children ages 8 to 12. They'll make dishes from Mexico, France and Asia. Cost is $150 for the three sessions.
Other classes: Local towns and libraries host cooking classes that are less expensive than the cooking schools. Huntington, for instance, has courses for kids such as "Cooking for Fun," an eight-week session during which students, divided by grade level, cook dishes from a different continent each Saturday. Check your town or library for similar offerings.