By Sandra Osorio
My fondest childhood memories were from dinnertime. I loved the smells, the conversation, the closeness I felt to each and everyone at the table. There was a sense of fullness that wasn’t due to the food or amount consumed. It was all about what the food brought together.
The most vivid memories come from our extended family dinners where close to 30 were having dinner in every corner of the house. Standing sitting, it didn’t matter. We were together. To me, this was the REAL, “happiest place on earth.” Disneyland couldn’t hold a candle.
I live far from my parents and siblings now, but I can close my eyes and it all comes flooding back to me. I can’t help but smile. Now, I am an attorney and a home chef with a real passion for food. My zeal for cooking over the years deepened as I eagerly pursued more knowledge and experience in the field, reading every Bon Appetit magazine I could get my hands on and learning from anyone and everyone who had something to teach.
After several months of putting incredible dishes on the table and putting on more than a few pounds, I set out to fulfill another dream to help people and children in need. I attended Hastings College of Law and practiced in the field of litigation and volunteered helping domestic violence victims - all the while continuing to experience the best food the city had to offer.
I gave up the active practice of law when my two children Jessica and Rob were born, opting to spend as much time with them as possible. I shared my passion for cooking with my children and to this day we are side by side in the kitchen sharing laughter, love and creating magical meals and memories when they are home from college.
While I continued practicing law by volunteering for many cases of domestic violence as well as helping to coach law students at Hastings, I never let my passion for cooking die. In my spare time, I learned from different chefs in home kitchens. I took courses at the Culinary Institute of America in St, Helena, California as well as a multitude of classes at Sur La Table in San Francisco where I met Barbara Dimas, a strong, smart woman with a passion for cooking. Barbara urged me on and ultimately I attended short course classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, Canada.
In 2011, my daughter was off to college and my son soon to follow. I was having dinner with my husband and told him that I wanted the dream job of having summers, holidays, and weekends off plus a long winter break. I wanted to enjoy every minute with my son and daughter when they were home. I also wanted to stay involved with children and help empower them. I entertained returning to the practice of law but I wanted a more hands-on approach. I wanted to make a bigger difference.
His response was simple. “That job doesn’t exist, so you will just have to create it! Do what you love and do what you know.” It all then became so clear to me – teach kids to cook using real, local, fresh and organic food, and La Petite Cuillère was born. My husband and kids, Jessica and Rob, were my biggest cheerleaders. And I love the La Petite Cuillère team that has come together. Like ingredients, I have surrounded myself with the best, and it really does make a difference.
We have built a wonderful organization that teaches children to cook healthy, wonderful, delicious food. We use only the freshest ingredients while teaching with heart and making it fun. I continually incorporate new insights I get from regular travel and ongoing cooking classes.
And it’s all about empowering children to know they can do i; it’s not hard! I have so many parents ask me, “How did you get him/her to eat that?” I respond, “I just let them make it. If they are actively involved in making the meal, and if it’s FUN, they love to dive in. And, a good chef always tries their own food!” They try it, and they LOVE it! Kids CAN cook and they can make healthy and wholesome choices for themselves. In doing so, they turn their kitchen - our kitchen - into the happiest place on earth.
La Petite Cuillère never feels like work for any of us because we know we are part of a bigger picture – we are a part of the future of each and every one of these kids. We are filling them up (and ourselves as well!) with something that has nothing to do with the actual eating of food. Sound like my fondest memories from childhood? It’s come full circle; a perfect circle.