Maria T. Cummins was already an established chef when she moved to Miami and began teaching an after-school cooking program for children. Struck by how little her students knew about nutrition, she founded The Real Food Academy?formerly Cooking With Kids Miami?to instill healthy eating habits in her young apprentices. Here, she and her fellow skilled instructors lead classes and activities based around one simple philosophy: "we don't change the dish, we change the ingredients." During group sessions, birthday parties, and camps, Chef Maria and her team teach youngsters how to choose and prepare more nutritious, "real" foods, ensuring they avoid meals that are high in preservatives, chemicals, and plastic grapes. Non-edible offerings, such as spa days and kid-centric Zumba classes, promote healthy lifestyles.
Though their end products are as convenient—if not more—as commonplace frozen dinners, the chefs at Bring Organics Back render convenience healthy by freshly preparing each meal with nutrient-packed, natural ingredients. To keep sodium and sugar levels low, they make every element of the meal from scratch, even sauces and crinoline toothpicks. They design dishes around in-season fruits and vegetables, yielding both high-variety and high-flavor dishes such as pineapple jerk tilapia and a steak and vegetable quesadilla. Once the day’s lunches and dinners are fully cooked, the team packages them into single portions and delivers them to workplaces and homes.
At Little Chef’s kitchen, a talented cadre of kid-friendly instructors inspires and equips young bakers to whip up fresh eats. Parents can sign up their wee ones to experience firsthand the facility's mantra that a new repertoire of basic culinary skills not only fosters healthy eating habits, but bolsters tykes’ confidence, teaches teamwork, and develops motor skills. The classroom beckons young learners with pale yellow walls punctuated by floor-to-ceiling chalkboards and cheerful polka-dot patterns. Instructors happily work with parents to mold classes that suit kids’ eating habits and chewing styles, and even host movie and dinner nights to encourage family bonding.
To its modern-day students, Mariano Moreno Culinary Institute looks much different today than when it debuted in Buenos Aires in 1963. Back then, the institute was simply called the Mariano Moreno Institute and it only offered journalism courses—the first school to do so in the Argentinean capital. That’s why its founder chose Mariano Moreno, the creator of Buenos Aires’ first newspaper, as the school’s namesake. The school eventually immigrated to Miami, where its instructors teach cooking instead of writing, and also has locations in Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela. They stick mostly to European cuisine—especially French, Italian, and Spanish—as well as regional American fare. Their curriculum includes certification courses in the culinary arts and patisserie and baking, as well as myriad cooking and baking classes for the general public.
Chef Reni Alves has always found herself amid the freshest foods. She grew up on a lush farm in Brazil before making her way to Johnson & Wales University to earn a culinary degree. Now, as head of Chef Reni Alves Catering, she puts her motto?"Make it happen"?into action by fusing fresh ingredients into multicultural spreads that feed parties big and small. At events, her food stations dish out everything from Moroccan tuna skewers to twice-baked truffle skin potatoes, and roving servers circulate trays of appetizers and general life advice.
In addition to her catering services, Chef Reni also shares her expertise during cooking classes, which mix a laid-back vibe with gourmet cuisine instruction. Participants learn to craft entrees and desserts in the style of Reni's cooking, producing family dinners that they can recreate at home.
There are plenty of ways to learn?reading a book, listening to an audio tape, or watching an instructional video, to name a few. Effective as those methods are for some, for others, they are too impersonal. That's where Face to Face Cooking Club comes in. Here, teachers lead enriching cooking classes, sharing with budding chefs the skills needed to cook the cuisine of many international cultures. The club also offers intensive Spanish programs that cover all four language-related skills?writing, speaking, reading, and listening?but focus especially on speaking, which enables students to communicate quickly instead of etching hieroglyphics into the wall.