WICKER PARK — Wicker Park will say goodbye to a longtime cooking school and hello to another in less than a month.
For 16 years, The Kids’ Table, 2337 W. North Ave., has offered healthy cooking classes and workshops to children and families. The school is closing Saturday and going fully remote, owner Elena Marre announced in a February letter.
“Fear not, The Kids’ Table will continue spreading the love of cooking and real food with a fully virtual model that allows us to work with schools, scout troops, libraries, and other organizations all over the country,” Marre wrote.
The business has a packed week of final in-person classes before its last day. Kids and adults can learn how to make deep dish pizza cupcakes, strawberry shortcake and more.
While the store’s closing is bittersweet, it’s making room for a new adventure: Schoolhouse Kitchen + Studio will take over the spot and continue the school’s legacy and offerings to the community, Marre wrote.
Schoolhouse started in suburban River Forest six years ago and opened a Portage Park location earlier this year. The Wicker Park storefront is the business’ second spot in the city, and it’s a prospect that came about organically, owner Cheryl Knecht said.
“I had been following Elena’s work for a long time and really respect what she has done with The Kids’ Table,” Knecht said. “This is an opportunity to serve those students with our programming.”
Knecht reached out to Marre after she saw news of the store’s closing, and the two struck up a partnership since their work and missions are similar, Knecht said.
With Marre ready to move on and having built up a strong clientele, the business owners agreed it would benefit everyone for Schoolhouse to take over the space, Knecht said.
Schoolhouse can continue educating students of The Kids’ Table, help Knecht grow her business and help the building’s landlord, who didn’t need to work on finding a new tenant, Knecht said.
While Knecht didn’t expect to expand on the heels of getting her Portage Park location off the ground, the transition felt easy and worked out smoothly — a sign that it was meant to be, she said.
“As a business owner, I am more interested in following the energy. … If [you] step back and let things happen, it’s much more functional and sustainable,” Knecht said.
The Schoolhouse aims to move in May 1 and already has a general manager hired and summer camp classes booked for the Wicker Park space. Classes begin June 12, the owner said.
“I am excited. Schoolhouse is on a roll,” she said.
Schoolhouse teaches children how to follow recipes, cooking techniques, food science and art in a fun environment that aims to make cooking a stress-free and playful task, Knecht said.
The school’s three locations focus on cooking classes for children as young as 4 years old and has options for tweens, teens and families who want to learn how to make doughnuts, cakes, potato soup and more. Adult classes and private cooking parties are also available at all of the spots.
Knecht, who lives in suburban Oak Park, plans to “literally bounce” between each store, but each hub will have its own teachers and general manager, she said.
“Their instruction style is very engaging and empowering. And like The Kids’ Table, Schoolhouse uses real food and real recipes — nothing is dumbed down for the smaller humans,” Marre wrote.
Marre did not reply to a message for further comment. In her letter, she said the decision to close the shop was difficult and bittersweet, but it’s a move that fills her with gratitude for the past, she wrote in her letter.
“It’s been 16 incredible years. … An amazing journey that has enriched my life in ways I couldn’t have even imagined,” she wrote. “We will miss the fun-filled classes, party-packed weekends, sold-out camps, and multitudes of after school programs and field trips. And we know many of you will, too!”
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