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Chef Tasha and the Junior Cooks

ArtHouse invites kids into the kitchen

Contributed By:The 411 News

Culinary Dreamers Junior Cooks are teens who like to cook and eat healthy

Gary's ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen is living up to its mission ... to become a destination for art, culture and food.

Before it was the ArtHouse, the building at 5th Avenue & Delaware was a restaurant. Built into the mission, designated by the Bloomberg Foundation and its partners who funded the repurposing, the ArtHouse would include an incubator to help start and grow small food businesses.

One of the graduates from the small business development program is Tasha Coaxum, owner of Innovative Catering and Sweets and resident chef at the ArtHouse.

Culinary Dreamers Junior Cooks is a program brought in by Chef Tasha, a healthy eating and healthy cooking class that has made the ArtHouse a destination for middle and high school students to learn about food preparation.

The teens also get to become Chef Tasha's apprentices, learning about the business of food as part of event hostings at the ArtHouse.

At this week's class, the Junior Cooks were busy helping prepare for the July 17th Decay Devils' Art and Ice Cream Social and a Farmers Market.

The Junior Cooks were also doing a test run on one of the 6 dishes to be served at their July 23rd Farm to Table Mixer -- fried chicken on a peach waffle topped with a mango chutney. Peppers adding spice to the chutney and the parsley used for seasoning and garnishing came from the ArtHouse garden.

Leilani Atkins and her brother Lakyan are Junior Cooks. Leilani is a 2021 grad headed to IUPUI in the fall. "I love food and science, so I will study food science in college. I want to be a culinary chemist," she said. Lakyan will be a high school sophomore.

Their mother, Brandon Atkins, said she hopes Lakyan stays in the program for 3 years like his sister.

Another pair of sister and brother Junior Cooks is Richelle and Rashad Nelson. Richelle, a tenth grader, has been in the program for a year; Rashad for 6 months.

Julien Edmonds is a high school sophomore and new to the program. "I'll return for her next class and I'm going to join the cooking club at Merrillville High School."

Edward Tucker is a 2021 grad and said he might study culinary arts at Ivy Tech.

Karissa Laws is a freshman and enjoys cooking with her family. "My family just loves to cook. We're always getting together to cook and invite our friends and family," she said. "I like to cook but not the cleanup."

Junior Cooks is a marriage of Chef Tasha’s experiences as an educator and caterer. "I did food demonstrations in the schools. From a $1 carton of eggs, I showed students they could get omelets and French toast. Good food instead of those hot fries they eat for breakfast."

Acceptance came from the parents who enrolled their children in the Junior Cooks class. "Schools are losing those enrichment courses and parents knew me," Chef Tasha said and proudly states, "I grew up with a backyard garden and I've been cooking since the age of 7. I know where good food comes from."

Indiana State Sen. Eddie Melton is scheduled to perform a cooking demo at the Mixer.


Julien Edmonds, l-r, Karissa Laws, Leilani Atkins, Chef Tasha, Edward Tucker, Richelle Nelson, and Rashad Nelson.

Story Posted:07/17/2021

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