by Deb Silverthorn
Young Chefs Academy owner Nora Lerner’s recipe for success started long ago. A native of Argentina, her taste buds still tingle at the thought of her mother Silvia’s gnocchi and how as a child she learned to shape and curl them to perfection.
Although she always dreamed of becoming a chef, for Nora, becoming a CPA and international tax consultant was the career she first followed. While trying to become pregnant with a third child, Nora was diagnosed with endometrial cancer on her thirty-sixth birthday. Her world was rocked, and it was time to step back.
After leaving the corporate world, Nora followed her firstborn’s recommendation of a career swap. “You love kids, and you love to cook,” said a then five-year-old Vanessa. “You always teach me so much, and you can teach others too.” Young as she was, Vanessa and her younger sister Sabrina had no idea the stakes at hand, they simply enjoyed having their mother home during her recovery. To them, it was a chance to have their mother close.
“Timing is everything. As I reevaluated my career and time with family, the Young Chefs opportunity came about,” said Nora, who has been chopping yumminess with children since 2010. “I felt it the minute I put my foot in the door, and it’s been more powerful and rewarding than I could imagine.”
“I’m always looking for opportunities beyond ‘just’ cracking the egg,” said Nora, cleared of cancer since 2014, who’s had students bake for a cause, with bake sale proceeds going to the Cookies for Kids Cancer research foundation.
Nora’s goal is to teach beyond recipes, for students to find a confidence in the kitchen that expands throughout their lives. “I know that what students learn here, the spirit behind what we do, how to follow rules and order, and so much more, will last them forever.”
Nora and her husband Diego have called Frisco, Texas home for 15 years. When the aprons come off, they enjoy time outdoors and traveling with their daughters and friends.
Nora’s dedication to professionalism, charity, and family life are lessons not at all lost on her daughters. “It’s time together,” said Vanessa who, now 15 and helping as a kitchen assistant, favors time making empanadas and spinach soufflés with her mother. “You can’t pay for that experience, and I’m so proud of her.”
Editor’s Note: Young Chefs Academy is located at 8855 Preston Trace Blvd., in Frisco. For more information visit friscotx.youngchefsacademy.com or call 972.335.4449.
1 1/2 c brown sugar
2/3 c shortening
2 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp orange zest
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
2 c flour
1 c raisins
1. Preheat oven to 350° and spray baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Cream together sugar and shortening until light and fluffy.
3. Beat in eggs, milk, and orange zest.
4. Stir together baking powder, spices, salt, and flour. Add to sugar mixture and mix well. Stir in raisins.
5. Quick chill in freezer for 20 minutes to make dough easier to work with.
6. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet.
7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until done. Remove from baking sheets and cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container.
3 medium potatoes
1/4 c onion, finely chopped
1/2 c flour or matzah meal
1/4 c egg or egg substitute
Pinch of pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1. Peel and quarter potatoes. Boil until tender about 25 minutes. Drain and let cool 10-15 minutes. Mash well.
2. Measure out 2 cups of mashed potatoes into a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients.
3. Preheat griddle on medium heat. Coat griddle with cooking spray.
4. Shape into 5-inch pancakes, place on hot griddle, and cook for approximately 5 minutes until browned. Turn pancake over and cook the other side for 5 minutes. Serve with applesauce or sour cream if desired.
3 lbs apples, cored and sliced
1/2 c water
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1. Place the sliced apples, water, and cinnamon in a large pot set over medium heat. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until apples are tender.
2. Use an immersion blender to puree the apples until desired texture. Let the applesauce cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator for up to a week.