From growing up on a chocolate farm, to making the decision to never have her own business, to feeling like she has won the business lottery – Jess James, from Cook n Create, shares her incredible journey.
Excerpt from Soar Magazine
Before we dive into what I do and love now, it’s really important to go back in time with me to Wales, UK, to where I grew up so you can see how I arrived where I am today and how relevant it all is!
So, I grew up on a Chocolate Farm.
For real! And no, that isn’t just a Welsh thing. My dad was a high-flying journalist and TV director, and my mum was a theatre set designer in London and an events coordinator for a TV company. And yes, I agree this next plot line is not an obvious one!
My dad was an entrepreneur through and through, was a little bit eccentric (probably a lot!), and had visions beyond what most of us would consider the norm. So, one day they decided to uproot, leave their careers and start a whole new and exciting venture. (Stay with me – you’re about to see history repeat itself!)
The business was a tourism venture so hundreds of people would come for demonstrations, and to have a day of chocolate-filled fun! As a family, we did TV shows, trade shows and we were a huge part of the foodie scene in Wales. I have always been submerged in the world of food and I LOVE IT!!
Food Technology was always my favourite subject by far in school and so I chose to pursue this at university and gained a First Class Honours Degree in Food, Nutrition and Consumer Sciences. I have worked with celebrity chefs, won many accolades of my own for product development and I have also completed many years of Chocolatier training, working with some amazing experts and Food Scientists along the way. Oh, and I then trained to be a high school teacher and taught for many years as a specialist teacher. Honestly, that is a summary too!
But, I never wanted a business.
Throughout my entire life I vowed I will NEVER EVER own my own business…never, ever, ever, EVER!
I wanted the job with set hours, set wage, a pension and the stability that comes with it.
I loved being a Food Tech teacher. I didn’t want a business anywhere near my life or my family.
But oh hi – here I am! With my very own Cooking School for kids ,and oh my goodness me, the joy and satisfaction it brings me, my family, and my clients is unreal! By founding Cook n Create I feel I have found everything I was ever meant to do and am flourishing as the person I was meant to be! (If you have met me you will know this includes sparkly hair bands, purple hair and giant earrings!)
Cooking with kids is far more than ‘just’ cooking. I don’t host cooking classes – we go on a ‘Cooking Adventure!’ (Thank you to Carly for your help with that wording!)
Cooking with kids is about nurturing confidence, fostering creativity, building independence, skill building, and developing social skills. It’s about nurturing, empowering and fostering creativity. It’s about bringing joy, elation and happiness into children’s lives. This mixing pot (excuse the cheesy pun!) of awesomeness is the fuel behind Cook n Create – where we embrace the mess, the freedom and the excitement behind creating amazing things.
I love to encourage the children to experience cooking with all their senses. Because of this you will always find the kiddos munching, smelling and exploring all the foods. I develop my own recipes and work hard to make them about mess and creativity. What I mean by this is getting the kids with their hands in the bowls, squeezing, kneading, combining, rolling and much, much more – each session is a whole sensory experience.
Because of this and my expertise in the classroom, I get to work a lot with children with additional needs, children with sensory aversions and food anxieties. And although I am no food therapist, I host one-to-one food confidence sessions too. These sessions especially lend themselves to children on the spectrum.
Cooking sets children up with the life skills to be resilient and competent adults.
And fun is always at the core of learning at Cook n Create. By making positive connections with every part of the experience from mixing, beating, cracking, rolling, to munching – these kids are laying down foundations that will last them a lifetime – that’s just so extraordinary and such an honour to be a part of.
Not only are you feeding their tummies – you are feeding their minds. They are learning, experimenting, building confidence, and learning to make decisions and to trust themselves.
Ever the school teacher, I needed to push ahead and provide the opportunity for as many children and families as possible to experience this magic. The current primary curriculum in Australia has near to no mention of the importance of cooking and nutrition, and only 1% of children in Australia meet the daily recommended intake for veggies. But, just by getting them involved in peeling and chopping and nibbling along the way – you are changing their entire life!
In response to this, I have built my very own ‘Cook n Create curriculum’ that sits seamlessly inside the current Australian curriculum and it has been built so that there is a lesson for every year group and every subject to support classroom teachers to make a change, and then consolidate classroom learning to form strong home school connections.
This curriculum is everything I have been working towards and after a principal of a local primary school said to me, “Wow Jess, you have something extraordinary here!” – I intend to bring joy to children across Adelaide through cooking and creating with them!
In 5 years’ time, I want to be the ‘go to’ place for amazing learning opportunities for children in Australia, I want Cook n Create to be a household name… I want my own show on ABC Kids! Nothing like dreaming big hey! I once heard the saying ‘Aim for the moon and if you miss you may land among the stars’. It resonates!
Get in touch with Jess at Cook n Create
To become an SA Woman Member, check out our Membership Options here.