Tender ricotta gnocchi bathed in a fresh arugula pesto – and that was just the side! My husband gifted me a cooking class with Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen this spring, and it was a five-star experience. The blend of demo + DIY instruction was engaging, and the Operations, Marketing, and Event Manager was especially accommodating! This gentleman turned out to be Andrew Wilen, also Chef Alyssa’s husband and father to their two children. Much like her style in class, Alyssa opens up here with warmth and authenticity about the special fathers in her life and what it’s really like at home in her kitchen with kiddos.
Q: You’ve said Andrew is a great business partner; what makes him a great father?
A: Andrew is the most positive and upbeat person I know. Watching him do that for our kids and be a huge source of encouragement is amazing. He is focused on figuring out what they need and being there for them in every way possible.
Q: How has your own father influenced you as a chef and individual?
A: My dad is so loyal and dedicated to his family and profession. Watching his actions for my entire life has instilled the same in me for my family. My dad enjoys cooking with Jewish-Brooklyn roots. I didn’t realize until later how that would form my food identity too.
Q: What is Andrew’s favorite thing you prepare for him?
A: Braised short ribs with pasta.
Q: Any foodie Father’s Day gift suggestions?
Q: Give it to us straight: what is mealtime like in your own household? How do you manage meal planning, grocery runs, and other responsibilities so many parents struggle with on a regular basis?
A: Ummm. It’s hard! Just like everyone else, I have certain go-tos, which are helpful during those crazy days. My favorites are roasted lemon thyme chicken, salmon with our own Smoked Chili and Rosemary Mustard and then braised meats (previously made and frozen) with pasta. Mealtime is usually feeding my 1 ½ year old daughter a plate with a lot of options, followed by Andrew and I usually eating after bedtime. I do take advantage of our company’s family table meal deliveries though when I just need a really good meal already made. And I do love placing a grocery store order ahead of time for pick up while out.
Q: Pro tips for parents of finicky eaters?
A: While my kids are still very young, I have taught 7 years of summer camp for kids and teens. Through those interactions, I’ve learned that the more involved they are, the more open they are to trying things. Sometimes it’s in the presentation. Maybe it’s steamed broccoli in an omelet as opposed to on its own.
Q: What can we expect out of CAK kids’ and teens’ programming this summer?
A: Our culinary camps and classes for kids and teens are absolutely wonderful! They are fully hands-on with the kids really getting to work. I’ve designed all the menus and recipes and have made them similar to our adult class menus with more in-depth coverage and making items from scratch. During the year we have kids’ classes, as well as parent/child and parent/teen events for ages 7+.
to view all upcoming events for your young chefs.
One taste of Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen, located in Charlotte’s vibrant South End, will leave you wanting plenty more. Trust me, I’ve already signed my husband and myself up for the Big Green Egg pizza class this summer. If you’re still stuck on gift ideas for Dad, consider a gift card for him to join the kids in class or a date night class for you both. All cooking classes are held at Bowers Mill,4001-C Yancey Rd, Suite #100, Charlotte, NC 28217. For more information, call 704-817-7568 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.