Stephanie Jensen in the kitchen with her children. | Courtesy Stephanie Jensen

When Stephanie Jensen was looking for work several years ago, she wanted to do something that would combine her passion for cooking with her love of children. Jensen put a post on Facebook to see if there was any interest in a children’s cooking class. By that evening, she had 225 interested responses.

“I found a gap that needed to be filled!” said Stephanie Jensen of the overwhelming reaction to her new home business. Jensen certified her business with the city (Saratoga Springs), and had her home inspected in order to teach cooking classes there. All of her advertising is done on her Facebook page (Fun with Chef Steph) and by word-of-mouth. Jensen posts photos of the recipes she’ll be teaching and how much the class costs, as well as which age group the class is for. (The younger group is ages three to eight and the “teen” group is ages nine and up. Jensen has also offered date night cooking classes for adults.) Chef Steph has taught more than 600 children since she started.

Stephanie Jensen’s cooking inspiration is celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis because De Laurentiis is happy and calm while she cooks. Jensen has noticed that her own four children have great focus and are able to follow instructions well when they help her prepare meals and do their own cooking in the kitchen. For each of her classes, Jensen provides the ingredients and the equipment. The kitchen is organized into stations and after the students have washed their hands, they do all the prep work and cooking themselves while Stephanie “shadows” them to see where they need help and to answer questions. Jensen puts on fun music and the children often work in teams. Students are also taught to clean up as they go and stay organized.

“The kids are developing creativity. They can see in their minds what they want to make, and then they make it and they’re so proud! It always warms my heart when parents send me photos of their kids cooking,” said Jensen. Students who have learned basic cooking skills with Chef Steph are now cooking for their families.

Stephanie Jensen’s classes aren’t just about the cooking. She incorporates fun activities, theme parties and even physical fitness in her classes. Last Mother’s Day she had a Cake Ball War with mothers challenging their kids making cake balls. Jensen’s husband taught a class on campfire cooking in the backyard where the students learned to make tin foil dinners. One of Stephanie’s favorite classes was teaching the younger children to make bread. “That was a messy one,” Jensen remembered. “Messes make smiles, though,” she added.

Fun with Chef Steph has thrived because of the community of parents and the kids who are dedicated to learning and practicing essential life skills. One of Jensen’s sons was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes and she has made it part of her instruction to show her students that healthy, clean food can be delicious too. “They get so excited when the healthy stuff tastes good,” she said. Jensen’s classes are offered through her Facebook page, “Fun with Chef Steph.”