It is Easy Bake Oven come to life.
Nancy Schwab – whose own childhood paralleled that most popular of girl’s toys where you pretended to cook and bake – has started a business where girls (and boys) get to do the real thing and in grand style.
Welcome to the world of Petite Chef.
Schwab, 53, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, moved to this town in 1989 after marrying husband Michael of Warwick (she met him on her way to Las Vegas in 1985…but that’s another story.)
They have lived in East Greenwich all of their married life, which includes a daughter they adopted from China named Lucy, who is 10 (the primary age for most Easy Bake Oven fans…)
“I have spent most of my life in the printing business but left after we adopted Lucy, wanting to spend more time with her,” said Schwab. The speaker is not a professional chef “of any kind,” she says, but plays one at her parties.
“I have always loved entertaining. Back in Nova Scotia, friends would spend weekend nights together around my kitchen table sharing food and playing music together. I miss that most about the Maritimes,” said Schwab. “Since moving here, Mike and I have hosted many dinner parties and there is nothing that brings me more joy than spending time with friends at home.”
Too much to do, too
At every party they brought their daughter, they saw parents busier today than they have ever been.
“We thought, ‘How about a place where parents can relax and take their kids for parties where they not only have fun...but they learn something!’ Petite Chef was born,” said Schwab. That was in November.
To her eyes, people today seem intimated when it comes to entertaining. “Maybe it’s all the food hype on TV. They feel they have to set the most beautiful table and serve gourmet food and clean their houses for a week before,” she said. “We’re moving way too fast. It’s time we slow down and spend time with our kids and friends in our own kitchens. Kick off your high heels, pour yourself a glass of wine and create some comfort food. Way more satisfying than making reservations!”
Parents don’t need to bring anything but their camera to these specially crafted baking and cooking birthday parties. Everything is supplied.
This includes – for a maximum of 12 children per event – custom invitation postcards for mailing, all pizza and desert ingredients, instruction and kitchen for two hours at their shop, cloth apron for the Guest of Honor signed by friends, chef hats for everyone to take home, recipe and folder to decorate, take-home dessert in pastry box, birthday candles, drinks, plates, utensils, etc.
Their slogan for the $225 event is “The Perfect Recipe for a party.”
All recipes are mixed from scratch. Young cooks learn kitchen safety, how to measure, mix, separate eggs (“They love that.”), and other kitchen skills they will use all their lives.
Rolling their own
“I love seeing those kids come through the door. They’re SO excited!” said Schwab. “We put their aprons and chef hats on and get cooking. They love to mix, roll dough and separate eggs, all with their best friends.”
While their baked goods are in the oven, the children set their own table and sit down for snacks and then it’s time to open their gifts.
“It makes for perfect timing for me to get their goodies out of the oven and cooled. Then. comes the best part (or should I say second-best part, first is cracking eggs). The birthday child has the challenge of taking the cookies or squares or muffins or whatever and making some sort of ‘cake’ creation with it. They get to pick the serving tray, stack their creation and decorate it with flowers and candles,” she added.
Her inspiration do not come from “Iron Chef,” or the Food Channel. She does not subscribe to Gourmet magazine.
“My inspirations come from simply wanting to cook for friends and family. The only cooking ‘Bible’ I use is my own cookbook I compiled and my collection of books from ‘Cooks Illustrated.’ In my opinion, they are the best cookbooks money can buy,” said Schwab.
Typical desserts baked include petite cheesecakes, cupcakes, apple crisp, muffins, marble squares, “Blondies.” cinnamon rolls and cookies or many tastes.
The kitchen is completely nut free (except for the occasional wild child) and a variety of children’s cooking utensils are available for party favors for an added fee per child.
“Last weekend. I hosted a Sweet Sixteen’ cooking party. Four young women baked lemon meringue pies from scratch (including the crust) and made by brother’s (not-so-secret-anymore) homemade pizza sauce,” she added. “After the girls finished cooking, they sat down for a private candle-lit dinner that they created themselves and had their own dinner party.
“THAT is what Petite Chef is all about,” said Schwab. “Realizing that the simple things in life are the best; the comfort food, the kitchen table where families talk, memories are made, and celebrations begin. I’m excited to see where this cozy kitchen will take me!”
For more information, call 401-921-2566 or email email@example.com . Schwab also donates $10 from every party to Haitian Health Foundation. Birthday children get to put a “goat” in their “barn” and when 15 “goats” are collected, the company will buy a real goat for $150 to be presented to a Haitian family.