If you love cooking and have lived in the Fresno area for a while, the name Shayna Telesmanic may ring a bell, and rightfully so. Shayna is the owner and director of Fresno’s Young Chefs Academy, where she has been teaching children and families how to cook through weekly classes, workshops, field trips, and community events since 2010. In that time, she has also established herself as “Chef Shayna,” a cooking authority in the Central Valley with a weekly segment on Fresno’s ABC30 and appearances on KSEE 24 and FOX 26.
I wanted to take the opportunity to better introduce you, our dear readers, to Chef Shayna, as she has so much knowledge and passion for food to share!
FresYes: I’ve seen you on the news doing cooking demonstrations and have heard of the Young Chefs Academy via friends and social media. How did you first get interested in cooking, and at what point did you realize it was meant to be your career?
Chef Shayna: I was exposed to the food world from a very early age. I grew up watching my Italian family in the kitchen. My grandfather was a chef and my uncle was a chef in an Italian restaurant that my mom owned and ran. I spent a lot of time there growing up. My family also spent a lot of time traveling abroad, so I was exposed to a wide variety of food from different cultures at a very early age as well.
Living alone in college, I began experimenting with food prep unsupervised for the first time. I also spent time abroad both in Italy and Thailand, and took cooking courses there.
Out of college, I pursued a career in fashion as a buyer but soon decided to change paths to seek a career that made a bigger impact. I have always been passionate about food and working with children. I saw (and still see) a big need to educate kids about where food comes from and how to prepare it, and to encourage them to try new foods and flavors.
Ultimately, I want to take the fear and mystery out of the food prep process and bring families together around the table. While I have spent most of the past eight years teaching kids, I do offer adult classes and workshops as well. I especially love helping and inspiring busy parents to prepare healthy meals for their families.
FY: What are your favorite types of dishes to make?
CS: Healthy yet delicious meals that look and taste more complex than they actually are to create, because we eat with our eyes first. I especially love putting together beautiful presentations of finger foods and light bites for gatherings and get togethers.
I tend to prepare a lot of Mediterranean food. I first started experimenting with cooking on my own in college because I wanted to learn how to make vegetables and healthy food taste good. That is still my goal.
FY: What other chefs or home cooks have had the biggest impact on you and how you think about food and cooking?
CS: I get a lot of inspiration from my family, time spent both in Italy and Croatia watching relatives spend hours on food prep and how much time, thought, and effort goes into creating a meal. From sourcing fresh goods daily at the local market to time spent in the kitchen prepping a dish with love, I’ve always found the process so romantic and magical.
The European way of celebrating food and mealtime and the way it brings people together on a level playing field is fascinating to me. They really know how to enjoy life, connect with others, and eat good food. I also grew up in the South, and the same holds true there.
FY: I know you’re passionate about helping others learn to cook. For those who are intimidated by cooking but looking to get started, what would you recommend do?
CS: Take classes with me at Young Chefs Academy. While we are primarily a cooking school for kiddos, I do offer adult classes for those that are “young at heart.” For the past five years I have been teaching meal prep workshops geared towards stocking your freezer with healthy food that can be prepared in the slow cooker. I am working to adapt that to include pressure cooker classes. I also offer private adult classes and have plans to expand my meal prep and cooking class offerings this fall.
If you can’t join me, start with learning knife skills. If you know how to properly sharpen and use a knife and master the basic cuts, that is a great foundation.
FY: Your new book, Food for You, is geared toward helping tweens and teens get involved in cooking and making good food choices for themselves and their bodies. A book on this topic, specifically targeting this age range, seems really unique! What made you decide to write for this audience?
CS: Food and food choices can be very confusing to both kids and adults. Being a teenager is an especially confusing time. My goal in writing the book is to create a simple and straightforward resource with information that is critically important to the health and well-being of this age group.
There is nothing revolutionary or controversial in this book, it is simply an aggregate of the information and best practices out there. It is not a revolutionary new diet or fad because I don’t think that is what the world needs right now. It is just important information, simply stated, in a fun and engaging manner to help teens navigate this time of their lives with some guidance on food and tips for creating a healthy relationship with food.
FY: Where can we pick up a copy of your book and connect with you to learn more about cooking?
CS: The book is for sale at Amazon.com and Barnes & Nobles, and copies are available at Young Chefs Academy. I am planning a book launch party and book signing on Friday, Aug. 24. Everyone is welcome to attend. We will have hands-on cooking demos, free food, and fun!
FY: Anything else you’d like FresYes readers to know?
CS: I truly love being a part of the Fresno community. I have had the pleasure to call Fresno home for 10 years now. I love seeing and being part of the positive growth. We have a thriving and growing food community with so much potential. After all, so much of the world’s food supply is grown in the Valley—I want to continue to showcase this for the world to see.
Readers can find more information at www.ChefShayna.com as well as register for meal prep and adult classes. Chef Shayna loves to connect with the community on Instagram and Facebook and she shares “recipes for living your best life” with weekly recipes/food tips, inspirational thoughts for other entrepreneurs, community events, tips for navigating motherhood, and travel ideas.
(All images courtesy and property of Chef Shayna Telesmanic)
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