Chef Neena Perez started the kiddie kitchen because she believes that spending quality time with children is essential to their future. She is a mother of 3 boys and 1 girl. They are her world and she enjoys not only cooking for them but also sharing her cooking knowledge with them during mealtimes. She is a passionate Mother and Chef.
She works hard to help developing strong, independent, respectful and well rounded children; and cooking is a fun way for children to develop these qualities.
Neena is a certified chef and is Servsafe certified. Her school curriculum involves many areas of food creation including food basics and preparation, food purchasing and production, international foods, catering, event management, sanitation and nutrition. This is knowledge which she passes on not only to her Chef’s assistants, but also to those who attend her parties on a weekly basis.
Neena knows that nutrition is very important in today’s fast food oriented society. Even more important is the need to get back to the kitchen with our families. She truly believes that it is very important to listen to our children and be involved in their lives as much as possible. One of the most fundamental ways she has found to communicate with her children has been through cooking and family meals. It is tradition in her home to eat together as a family and be open to one another. It is a non threatening environment and they feel encouraged by what they can accomplish in the kitchen. It teaches them life giving skills that they can use in other areas of their life including math, organization and responsibility, that start in the kitchen and then spread out into the rest of their world.
It took Vennette “Neena” Perez more than 15 years to realize her goal of going to college.
Unable to attend college upon graduating from high school, Perez, of Norwalk, was a divorced single mother of two sons for several years, and supporting her children was her primary objective.
“I was grateful for a job I had in the health-care profession but it offered no opportunity for growth,” she said. “At 34 years old, I decided to quit my job, go back to school full time and pursue my dreams of becoming a chef.”
Perez’s husband, Rudy, his 14-year-old daughter and her 19- and 25-year-old sons were all in attendance to witness the 40-year-old, newly-minted graduate as she accepted her degree in hospitality management at Monroe College in New Rochelle, N.Y., last month.
“Once I received my associate’s degree,” she said, “I felt unstoppable and realized this college thing was possible. I proved everyone wrong; I am smart, strong and articulate. I hunted down a college that would help me grow more in my quest to become a better chef and entrepreneur and obtain my bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. Monroe College welcomed me with such warmth and opportunity, I couldn’t wait to become a student there.”
“Neena is a great success story. She has been an entrepreneur for several years and is an inspiration to her classmates,” said Shenique Rojas, assistant director of Monroe’s Office of Career Advancement.
With her college studies at least temporarily behind her, Perez has three new goals: Inspire her two adult sons to continue their education and grow her various business enterprises.
In 2007, she started The Kiddie Kitchen. Based in New Canaan, it focuses not just on teaching young children and teens how to cook, it puts an equally heavy emphasis on good nutrition, organizational skills, communications and teamwork. Starting July 1, Neena will be offering one- to four-week-long summer cooking classes for children.
Most recently, she offered her talents through classes at the Outback Teen Center in New Canaan. This effort followed years of successful involvement at Norwalk Community College, in both the College for Kids and summer camp programs.
Last summer, she started at the Outback with cooking and baking for students in grade 4 through high school. Students learned how to prepare a wide variety of dishes over four different weeklong sessions in July. During the “breakfast and brunch week,” participants mastered six different food items each day. During the other weeks, the teens learned numerous Italian, Greek, Asian and Mexican dishes.
In the nearly 10 years that she has been in business, Perez discovered that young people can tackle almost anything in the kitchen.
Her other enterprise, The Kitchen After Hours, caters parties and other special events and bakes and decorates elaborate cakes for all special occasions. In her “spare” time, she teaches as an adjunct instructor in various programs including one at Norwalk Community College, where she earned an associate’s degree in restaurant and food service management.
Additionally, Perez recently was recognized for her accomplishments at the Fairfield County Community Foundation’s Fund for Women and Girls Luncheon “Welcome to the Table.” One of Perez’s creations, white chocolate cranberry cookies, was the favor of the day for the women attending the luncheon.