Kids at work cooking at Little Nell

Kids at work cooking at Little Nell

By Amiee White Beazley, Taking the Kids Correspondent

Never were two boys more unlike one another than mine when it comes to cooking. My elder son, Tanner, age 8, abhors anything remotely culinary, while my younger, Brady, age 5, was all but born with an apron wrapped around his waist, a wooden stirring spoon in his hand. The consummate chef and critic.

Admittedly, although I like to cook, and more importantly, I like to eat, I don’t always have the required patience to teach boisterous boys how to make much beyond a cake or plate of brownies. So when the opportunity for them to be truly immersed in the cooking world, with some of the finest talent in the Western U.S. at the Little Nell Hotel, in Aspen, CO, I jumped at the chance to expose them to some “real cooking.”

Cooking tools at Little Nell

Cooking tools at Little Nell

For $30, each lesson is led by cookbook author Helen DeFrance, who also teaches a series of children’s cooking classes, Kitchen Full of Kids, at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee.

When I presented the arranged opportunity to them, reactions were predictable. “It’s my life,” stamped a my 8 year old. “Did you ask me if I wanted to do this?” The 5-year-old pumped his fists with tangible excitement. “YES!” he called, jumping off the ground.

Fortunately for me, cooking with DeFrance and the team at The Little Nell is a dream comes true, for both children and parents.

Juicing - messy and fun

Juicing – messy and fun

She teaches the children not just how to make the food, but the ways in which cooking can be fun and hospitable  – with themed menus (Italian, Halloween, etc.), joy in the gadgetry (juicers, pasta makers) and always a sweet dessert finale.

For their first lesson with DeFrance the children prepared homemade goat-cheese-filled ravioli, a roasted vegetable pasta, freshly juiced lemonade with basil and tiramisu for dessert. Both of the boys were engaged, entertained and incredibly proud when it came time to sit down at the long table and serve the parents who arrived to see what the group had created.

With bellies full and smiles all around, I asked my older son to give me an honest report. “I loved the pasta maker,” he told me. “The food was great, and it was more like art than I thought.” In fact, not only did both boys agreed to take part in the next Halloween-themed class on Oct. 9, but they invited a friend each.

All hands for pasta-making

All hands for pasta-making

“Comfy in the Kitchen” will be held throughout the fall and winter months. DeFrance will be joined by special guests from The Little Nell kitchen, including Pastry Chef Danielle Riesz and Executive Chef Robert McCormick.   

Upcoming classes will be held at The Little Nell from 3:45-5 pm on Oct. 9, Nov. 20 and Dec. 18. Interested individuals should contact Nancy Brown to reserve their spot at (970) 920-6319 or

Looking for a children’s cooking class near you? Check out Young Chefs Academy at locations throughout the U.S. Whole Foods Markets nationwide often host cooking lessons specifically for children ages 5-12, or inquire at a local Junior League Chapter. More than 200 JL chapters host “Kids in the Kitchen,” an after-school culinary program.