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Today's Family Magazine

Cooking school offers classes for ages 3 to 90!

Oct 17, 2016 11:05AM ● By Today's Family

Chef Stefanie helps Charlie, 5 years old, chop onions for tomato bisque.

By Stacy Turner

Looking for a new idea for date night?  How about a different way to spend time with your friends?  Want to find a way to bolster your kid’s curiosity in the kitchen?  Then check out the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking (LPSC) in Chesterland.  “We’ve got something to peak the interest of everyone,” Chef Stefanie Paganini explained.

The mission of LPSC is to help people create better meals at home by providing entertaining educational opportunities.  Classes help to stimulate students’ culinary creativity while enhancing kitchen confidence.

“We don’t have a typical student,” Chef Stefanie explained.  “With our broad offering of classes and topics, our students range in age from 3 to 90 years old.”

For instance, the Dumplings of the World class taught by Chef Tim McCoy, is a hands-on class that teaches participants to make Chinese pot stickers, Mexican empanadas, Polish pierogis, Italian ravioli, and Russian pelmeni.  Chef Tim is also the education director of ICASI, the culinary institute associated with the Paganini School.

Mary Ellen from Cleveland came to her first class, a demonstration, after receiving a cookbook from Chef Stefanie at a cooking show at the I-X Center.  She came back to try her hand at dumplings.  Kathleen from Middlefield, who often helps prepare meals at her church, wanted to hone her cooking skills, while Diane and Aiden, a mother and daughter from Mentor, attended the class to learn how to make ravioli.

Mother and daughters Kristen, Debbie, and Sarah from University Heights took the herb class to learn from the masters, since chefs are there to answer any questions throughout each stage of the meal preparation.  “We like to taste test,” Debbie quipped. 

Engaged couple Heidi and Wally brought their moms to LPSC as a Mother’s Day gift, since both moms wanted to learn how to cook with herbs.  The two have attended the date night class, where each couple is in charge of making and serving the individual course they prepare.  “After working together to prepare the meal, it’s served at a large table in the dining room,” Heidi explained.  “Everyone brings wine to compliment the meal.  It’s a really great experience.”

At a recent Saturday morning class, five children joined Chef Stefanie with their adult helpers for a tots class called Fairy Tale Sweets.  The menu included tomato bisque soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, fairy wing cookies and brownie pops.

Lauren brought her 5-year-old son Charlie from Broadview Heights. Charlie, who loves cooking, received the class as a birthday gift.  Parents Doug and Michele from Sagamore Hills brought their kids Charlie, 7, and Sydney, 5.  This is the third class that they have taken at LPSC.  Michele shared that everyone cooks at home, from teens down to the little ones.  She speculated that since her kids’ natural curiosity draws them to the kitchen, she has them cracking eggs and making single-serve coffee to provide simple tasks that they can master.

Kids cooking classes are custom-made for small chefs in many ways. Step stools line the classroom’s island so that each child can see every step; separating ingredients into portions allows budding chefs a turn contributing to each recipe.  When using puff pastry to make fairy wings, kids paired up to spread cinnamon sugar on both sides, then roll ends toward the middle.  They used a bench scraper as a knife to safely cut the pastries apart.

“Kids are fearless, so to them, cooking isn’t scary,” Chef Stefanie explained.  “Desserts really bring them in, although I try to give them something healthy first, which is where the soup comes in.”  She chooses options like tomato or carrot soup, since kids typically like the sweeter flavor.  They want to try it because they created it.

After the preparation is complete, the young chefs and their adults get to sample their dishes.  Nina liked the soup best, but enjoyed adding butter with a paintbrush when she made her grilled cheese sandwich. Charlie enjoyed eating the angel wings best, but thought that adding the chicken broth to the tomato soup was the most fun.  Siblings Charlie and Sydney agreed that pouring stuff in was the most fun.  Surprisingly, they also favored the soup above all the other items.  Madelyn’s favorite item to make was the brownie pops, because she liked adding butterfly sprinkles.  She, too, enjoyed the soup and grilled cheese; her mom joked they were a staple of her diet.  After enjoying their handiwork, kids cleaned up their dishes because, just like at home, clean-up is important.  Each child was even able to take home the extra desserts to show-off their handiwork to the rest of their family.

The LPSC offers lots of opportunities for children to polish these valuable skills.  It’s one of the few schools to offer classes for children aged 3-6 years old, and has lots of offerings for kids and teens, as well.  During the winter season, the school has classes for children on baking, gingerbread houses, and breakfast with Santa; it also offers special classes for dads & daughters and cooking with grandparents, which make excellent holiday gifts. LPSC also holds summer cooking camps for kids and teens.

“We’ve seen kids who started as 3-year-olds, continued through their teens, and have come back as adults,” explained Chef Stefanie.  “It’s rewarding, watching generations grow with us.”

The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking is located at 8613 Mayfield Road in Chesterland.  For more information call 440-729-1110 or visit

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