Businesses of Banyule presents The Travelling Kitchen, Heidelberg
It’s a crisp winter morning – the kind where your breath escapes like fog, and grey clouds fill the sky – but inside her warm, inviting home there’s a bright spark in Karen Koutsodontis’s eyes as she talks about the passion she turned into a business: The Travelling Kitchen.
A former secondary school food technology teacher, Karen came up with the idea for The Travelling Kitchen after the birth of her first child ten years ago. Unable to return part-time to her teaching job, and no longer wanting full-time work, she began to volunteer at her son’s kinder. Eager preschoolers would crowd around her as she taught them basic cooking skills, hygiene, safety and nutrition. Such was their enthusiasm that at the end of 2013 Karen trialled a pilot program for what would the following year become The Travelling Kitchen.
Now in its fifth year, this innovative business runs hands-on, fun and dynamic cooking incursions for kids of all ages at venues including crèches, kindergartens and primary schools all over Melbourne and Victoria.
The company has grown exponentially, and is so popular that many schools have them back regularly. Karen has been able to expand her services to include programs tailored to birthday parties, festivals, community and corporate events, with industry leaders inviting The Travelling Kitchen to run a workshop at their employee family day.
Karen is proud to employ around 10 casual staff, many being locals studying within the education sector. Aside from financial success, Karen and her staff find the work enormously rewarding. They regularly receive cards and hugs from the young participants and often hear it declared, “That was the best day ever!”
Karen believes one of the keys to her achievement is the ability provide stress-free service. The Travelling Kitchen deliver everything required to run the class – from food to equipment and even a small gift for each child – and take it all away again.
“It means the teachers are free to simply bring their students and join in on the fun!” she says. There’s a palpable joy in Karen’s voice when she talks about the power of cooking.
“It creates positive lifelong memories. I’ve had children who can’t recognise common vegetables or hold a knife, then they take our class and a fascination is ignited,” she says. “Cooking teaches vital life skills, and is linked to so many different areas of the school curriculum – reading, maths, science – the list goes on!”
She’s currently creating a campaign called ‘Munching Memories’ to get kids in the kitchen on a weekly basis and instil healthy habits early on. Other plans for the future include having her own shopfront to run workshops from, and dreams of growing the business into other states in Australia.
Karen lists her aims: “To inspire, create, transform and educate.” And on this chilly day in Heidelberg, it’s clear there’s nothing that will put out the burning fire of her passion.
Visit The Travelling Kitchen website at www.thetravellingkitchen.com.au or visit the Facebook page @thetravellingkitchenincursions