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Denise Albert
Instructor & Owner, Cooking in Bloom


Denise AlbertSince starting Cooking in Bloom back in 2018, Denise Albert has given thousands of children hands-on cooking experience and nutritional education, imparting life skills contribute to their ongoing health and well-being throughout their lives.

Even back in her days working in cardiac rehab, Denise knew that food is a powerful tool for learning. She started a nutrition education program that involved cooking meals with her patients, engaging taste, smell, and touch to great effect. When she and her family moved to Little Rock, she brought her pedagogy with her, founding Cooking in Bloom when she realized school curricula had gaps with regards to nutrition and sustainability. Denise's multi-sensory approach has since been put to use immersing pre-K through 12th-grade students in learning, using cooking to connect to many academic subjects like math, art, science, and history.

The pandemic hit Denise's family-oriented business as hard as any, but she rallied and restructured to a mobile model, connecting through Zoom classrooms, allowing her to teach students in their own kitchens! Introducing people to thrilling new foods is the highlight of her job.

When not in the classroom (virtual or otherwise), Denise likes to do outdoor activities with her family, such as gardening, biking, and taking their dogs to the park. Denise has an undergraduate degree in dietetics and a master's degree in public health. 

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  • The importance of a multi-sensory approach to learning
  • How food connects to a variety of academic disciplines
  • How Cooking in Bloom adapted during the pandemic, and more...

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Transcript
EPISODE 353

[00:00:08] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational, interviews this weekly biography show and podcast offers listeners an insider's view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk-taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, funny, informative and always encouraging weekly blog. And now it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.

[00:00:34] KM: Thank you, son, Gray. My guest today is Miss Denise Albert. I call her a doer. And after just hearing what she did this week, she's definitely a doer. She was on TV, on Arkansas Style. She just told me this week. She had a ribbon-cutting ceremony this week and she sold her house this week.

She holds a bachelor's degree in dietetics, a master's in public health, is a wife, mother of two, serial volunteer. And most recently, owner and founder of Cooking in Bloom in Little Rock, Arkansas. Denise is filling the shoes of many forgotten grandmothers through the mission of her business.

Cooking in Bloom teaches students from pre-k to 12th grade how to cook. An honorable and important mission. Her hands-on classes connect kids to the sight, smells, touches and taste of food. Denise says, "Taking care of our bodies and our environment are life skills that are missing from most school curriculums." And she adds, "It is important for children to understand that balancing meals to make them more nutritious and taking care of the immediate environment can have a great impact on their future, the future of their community and the world.

In addition to turning on four of the five senses to the joy of cooking, she teaches her students about sustainability life choices and the whys of taking care of our environment. And how it directly affects the plants we eat. And therefore, our overall health and well-being. Her mission of advocating for nutrition and educating on how it impacts our life from the cradle to the coffin is close to my heart.

It is with great pleasure I welcome to the table the doer, founder, and head cook and bottle washer of Cooking in Bloom, Miss Denise Albert. Hey, friend.

[00:02:27] DA: Oh, my God.

[00:02:28] KM: After reading about you and all you do, it's obvious to me you're not in this for the money. This is your passion.

[00:02:36] DA: Yeah.

[00:02:36] KM: It's a lot of work.

[00:02:38] DA: Yeah. I mean, the money is good, hopefully. Well, sure. Hopefully one day. I'm also thinking about the money end.

[00:02:45] KM: But by the hour, you put in a lot of hours and a lot of time. I have been looking at all you do all the time and I thought, "Well, I hope she's not getting paid by that hour."

[00:02:55] DA: Yeah. That would be nice. Monetize all that would be great. But that's okay.

[00:03:00] KM: Before we get into the nuts and bolts of your business and your students, let's talk about your background and why you're qualified to teach nutrition and how you came to live in Little Rock, Arkansas. You have a bachelor's degree in dietetics.

[00:03:10] DA: Yeah.

[00:03:10] KM: Am I saying it right?

[00:03:11] DA: You are. Yeah. Thank you.

[00:03:13] KM: You're welcome. Describe a dietitian's degree.

[00:03:15] DA: Yeah. It's four years and then a two-year internship. And if you want to specialize, it can go longer. But you have to sit and do your internship in order to sit for the registration exam. It's no small potatoes.

[00:03:33] KM: No. I never would have thought that.

[00:03:35] DA: And it's a very scientific degree. I enjoyed science, for sure, and the science part of nutrition.

[00:03:43] KM: I didn't realize bachelor's degree had an internship.

[00:03:46] DA: Yeah. Yeah. For dietetics.

[00:03:47] KM: Do all bachelor's degree – do any other bachelor's degree have an internship? I can't think of any –

[00:03:52] GM: Sort of. Kind of. It depends. Well, I think you're thinking like field experience for completion of the degree. And so, yeah. Some of them do.

[00:04:00] GM: Yeah. For dietetics, you have to have an internship in order to sit for the exam.

[00:04:05] KM: I love that. All right. Let's talk about master's in public health. Why did you decide to continue your education and go on?

[00:04:11] DA: Well. I worked at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. That was one of my first jobs. And I was one of those and I still am. I was always setting goals for myself and trying to attain that next thing. And it was just time for me to get my master's. And I'm just really glad that I did.

And there I was at the University of Iowa. It's a great university. That's where I'm from. Sorry.

[00:04:38] KM: Cedar Springs.

[00:04:39] DA: I know. And I just decided to go for it.

[00:04:43] KM: You worked 15 years total I think as a clinical dietitian in hospital settings. Your first job is in Kansas City, Missouri. Tell us about that.

[00:04:50] DA: Oh, that was a wonderful experience. I was moving away from home. Doing something completely on my own. It was scary and it was exhilarating all at the same time. But I learned so much. Of course, that being my first job out of university. Ad I got to see children and their and their moms that were trying to do the best thing that they could for their kiddos by providing them with the WIC vouchers, which I don't know if people know this.

I mean, obviously, I'm very passionate about it. But for every dollar – and this was way back when, okay? I don't know what the statistics are now. But for every dollar that our taxes go to the WIC benefit program, more than $5 are saved in health care costs. Because with the program, women and children get a prescriptive food package that only targets certain nutrients. In helping to ensure that they get the right kinds of nutrition helps their overall health for the long term.

[00:05:54] KM: When you see people – is this food stamps? Is that what the WIC program is?

[00:05:59] DA: Well, now it's called SNAP. But it's still –

[00:06:01] KM: All the same thing?

[00:06:02] DA: No. It's different in that they do get food. I'm not sure if they're vouchers or what they call them. We used to call them vouchers when I worked there before. But they can only get certain foods. They can't just buy anything.

[00:06:18] KM: When you hear people complaining about food stamps and people are going and buying Cheetos and sodas with it, they're not.

[00:06:24] DA: I mean, with food stamps, I don't believe. But I know with the WIC or SNAP program, they cannot buy those things. Absolutely not.

[00:06:32] KM: For every $1 in taxes we pay, $5 is saved.

[00:06:36] DA: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:06:37] KM: Wow. That's interesting.

[00:06:38] DA: And that was in Kansas City about 15 years ago. I'm sure that it's changed and it's probably a lot better now.

[00:06:46] KM: Well, I don't know about that. But anyway.

[00:06:48] GM: We hope. We hope it's better.

[00:06:49] KM: All right. Your next job, you worked in Iowa. And this one really also opened your eyes. And tell us about that program that you started in Iowa, the Nutrition Education Program.

[00:06:58] DA: Yeah. Yeah. I started out as a clinical dietitian and I did inpatient stuff. So working with people with different terminal illnesses. Helping them increase their nutrition status or making sure that they didn't get malnourished in the hospital was my main job.

And then after Greg and I got married, I decided that I wanted to make a change. Because, again, that's how my mind thinks. I'm trying to grow, and mature and do something different. And this is kind of getting a little boring for me. I had worked for our cardiac rehab. Every now and again she would page me and say, "I've got this patient that I would love for you to see one-on-one." Outpatient kind of stuff. And she just offered me a job to actually come into the rehab department and actually be there one and only dietitian. I'm like, "Sure. I'm up for the challenge."

And so, with that, I realized that she needed a more well-balanced nutrition program. And I'm all about like being multi-sensory with education because that's how my mind thinks. And studies show that if you can hear, taste, smell and also see what you're learning, the more apt you are to remember it for long term.

I decided to start a nutrition program within our cardiac rehab exercise program at the University of Iowa that did all those things. My boss, of course, to show her all these research articles. And, "Look what I found here. Can I do this?" Yes. Absolutely. Hands down. She was such a huge advocate of me.

She bought me everything I needed to have in order to start this little cooking program for cardiac rehab patients. Patients who have had heart attacks, vascular surgeries. All those kind of things.

[00:09:08] KM: Heart disease.

[00:09:08] DA: Yeah. Heart disease. And that was my most well-attended class as you can imagine. But it was really easy for me. Somehow, some way, I would just dream up these recipes that were very nutritionally balanced and something that I knew that people would enjoy. And I just did it. And the room would smell delicious. Ad my boss was just absolutely thrilled. And of course, she loved everything that I did.

I feel like not only the work that I did for WIC. And I did work with children and their moms at the time. Women in need. To fast forward what I did, not only clinically for the University of Iowa, but then in the cardiac rehab program really has rolled itself into such a nice package for what I'm doing now with Cooking in Bloom.

[00:10:02] KM: Yeah. It's like destiny.

[00:10:03] DA: Yeah. Exactly. I agree with you. It was like it was meant to be.

[00:10:07] KM: And so, you ended up in Little Rock because your husband got a job down here. But you had already married, had children and was a stay-at-home mom. Weren't you?

[00:10:16] DA: I was. Yeah. And to be totally honest, when Greg and I got married, I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be a stay-at-home mom. Even knowing – because people are like, "Oh, you knew what your husband did. You knew that. You're not going to have a life."

[00:10:29] KM: Oh, your husband. Tell your listeners what your husband does.

[00:10:32] DA: Yes. He's the chief of neurosurgery at the children's hospital. Yes, he is. But you know what? I didn't realize how my life was going to change really until we had children. And nobody can really talk you into understanding the perspective that you have once you have a child. It completely, for me, changed 360.

[00:11:00] KM: There's two things you cannot describe to anybody. What it feels like for your parents to die and what it feels like to have a child. Those are indescribable. That's the only two things I can think of.

[00:11:10] DA: After Cameron was born, my son, who's now 15, I was like, "Oh, well. Wait a minute. I don't want him to go to daycare. I don't want somebody else – wait a minute. What is my role here? Do I hand my child over to this person that, I mean, yes, I vetted this person and I trust this person to take care of my child? But then what's my role?"

And I had this weird crisis. I became in kind of a crisis mode of my mind. What is my role here? And the first time I had to stay at home was when we moved to Canada so that Greg could do his fellowship. I quit my job and my boss was devastated. Absolutely devastated.

I tried to quit like two weeks before we moved to Toronto, Canada so that I could get our things in order and affairs in order. And she begged me, "Please. Please. I can't have you gone for two weeks." I ended up working right up until we left with a small baby.

[00:12:32] KM: Did I call her a doer?

[00:12:33] GM: Mm-hmm. I think you did.

[00:12:35] KM: I think I nailed it.

[00:12:36] DA: Anyway, we get to Toronto. It's the first time really as a stay-at-home mom. And, oh, my gosh. I just really – again, my mind works in setting goals for myself. What's the next thing for me? What's the next thing for me? And all of a sudden, I'm in this house that we rent in Toronto. New place. Toronto is awesome. We absolutely had the best time with a two-year-old by myself all day long.

[00:13:06] KM: Because your husband's a head of neurosurgery or whatever.

[00:13:08] DA: Well, at that time, he was a fellow. And he was like never home.

[00:13:13] KM: Doing surgery every day.

[00:13:14] DA: And I have this two-year-old. And then I realized, "How do I become a mom in this moment?" It was just a huge awakening and learning process for me.

And the lovely thing about being there in Toronto, there were a lot of women that lived in this area that was about three miles outside of city proper that we're in my same age bracket, had kids and aren't my same age bracket. Were educated. Staying at home for a time. And so –

[00:13:48] GM: You had lot of good – you had a good support group.

[00:13:50] DA: Thank you. Yeah. I learned from them.

[00:13:52] KM: How to do it.

[00:13:53] DA: How to do it.

[00:13:54] KM: Well, did you have your second baby in Canada?

[00:13:58] DA: I did. And that was an accident.

[00:13:59] KM: Well, aren't they all? I mean, does anyone ever plan a child? I don't know. I think some people do.

[00:14:04] DA: Well, and the funny thing is, is – again, Greg being in fellowship there –

[00:14:08] KM: He had to come home one time at least.

[00:14:10] DA: Right. Well, and my neighbors – it was so funny. My neighbors called him my snuffleupagus husband because he was never home. They were like, "Are you sure you came here with a husband?" And then all of a sudden, I'm hugely pregnant with Grace, my second.

[00:14:27] KM: Aha. Like, it's Rosemary's baby.

[00:14:28] GM: Yeah.

[00:14:26] DA: And they were like, "Hmm. Interesting."

[00:14:30] GM: Yes, it's real.

[00:14:31] DA: How did all these happen?

[00:14:34] KM: Anyway. Now, he's taking another job. And you hear about this job in Arkansas.

[00:14:42] DA: Yeah. Yeah. Greg, my husband, does academic work. It's a very small not only skill set, but then job search really. Because he does academics and he does research. And he teaches. All those things. I think when he was finished with his fellowship there, there were like maybe four or five positions available that met his criteria in academics. And he interviewed all.

And he went on the Little Rock, Arkansas – or the University of Arkansas interview because his mentor in Toronto knew the gentleman that was the head of neurosurgery here. And so, Greg did it on a favor. Because we were city people.

[00:15:36] KM: You're like, "Little Rock, Arkansas. No way."

[00:15:39] DA: We're like big city people. We were really wanting to move to a bigger city. Maybe live downtown with our kids. And so, Little Rock, Arkansas. And Greg's like, "Honey, I'll just fly over there. I'll do the interview. Dr. Drake will be thrilled that I do this." And he comes to Little Rock and the children's hospital and he was so just absolutely blown away.

Of course, the children's hospital is just a fabulous, top-notch facility. They had everything in place for his research. His specialty is actually epilepsy.

[00:16:20] KM: Children's epilepsy.

[00:16:20] DA: Yup. Children's epilepsies. They had all of those things in place. And he's originally from Connecticut. And he really felt like the environment, and the beautiful trees and the terrain of Little Rock reminded him of home. And just a really great place to bring his family.

[00:16:41] KM: Where did you meet him?

[00:16:43] DA: At the University of Iowa when I was there.

[00:16:45] KM: Does he talk? Guys that are that smart never talk.

[00:16:48] DA: You met him.

[00:16:50] GM: I know. Yeah. We're all – we're just confirming. Yeah. Aha.

[00:16:51] KM: I have?

[00:16:52] DA: Yeah. It's a little bit embarrassing because he's so quiet.

[00:16:56] GM: He's definitely a silent type.

[00:16:58] KM: He's very cerebral. Well, that's good. Were your parents cooks? What did your parents do?

[00:17:03] DA: My mom was a secretary. Very blue collar. My dad worked in a factory. He's a manager of a factory. Yeah.

[00:17:11] KM: That's wonderful. All right. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Miss Denise Albert, founder and instructor of Cooking in Bloom. A school that educates students from pre-k through 12th grade on how to cook.

Still to come, the classes, the food, the kids and how to register. The business of Cooking in Bloom. Entrepreneurial startup talk. My favorite. And we'll find out her favorite recipes and cooking tips. We'll be right back.

[BREAK]

[00:17:39] GM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago with only $400, Kerry founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed along with Kerry's experience and leadership knowledge.

In 2020, Kerry McCoy Enterprises acquired ourcornermarket.com, an online company specializing in American-made plaques, signage and memorials for over 20 years. And more recently, opened a satellite office in Miami, Florida.

Telling American-made stories, selling American-made flags, the flagandbanner.com. Back to you, Kerry.

[INTERVIEW CONTINUED]

[00:18:19] KM: You are listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with Denise Albert, founder of Cooking in Bloom, a hands-on school that teaches youths how to cook and the importance of eating right. Before the break, we talked about how Denise is qualified to do what she does. She's very qualified. Her husband's very qualified. We call her a doer. If you're just tuning in.

And I'll tell you why. This week, she was on TV teaching people how to cook on a local talk show. She had ribbon cutting at her location. And she sold her house. I mean, that's a doer.

[00:18:51] GM: She's a doer.

[00:18:52] KM: And she's a mother of two. One's a teenager. All right. When did the idea of Cooking in Bloom come about? And by the way, great name, Cooking in Bloom. Talk about the first year.

[00:19:07] DA: Cameron's in school. And these schools didn't have outdoor classrooms. And they weren't teaching sustainability. They weren't teaching quality nutrition. Those kind of things. I really saw a place where I could fit in with my expertise and my background the things that I did at the university. I felt like, "Wow. There's a need here that I felt very qualified to fill."

That was sort of my little blip. My kids are still really young. And my mentality was I never thought that I would be a stay-at-home mom. And we moved here. And again, now, we move here in a new place. And now it's my second year as a stay-at-home mom. And now I've got two kids. And one in pre-k. And I'm still having that crisis of, "What is my role?"

Fast forward a few years, I think Cameron was in the third grade. I've always been volunteering in our church and in the kids at school. And I realized, "Goodness. If I could work this hard volunteering and not getting paid, I could start my own business." You know?

[00:20:32] GM: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.

[00:20:34] DA: But a lot of that volunteerism, again, I feel like I am pulling from with my business. Anyway, from those experiences and my knowledge of this need for this kind of education, sustainability, nutrition, all the while using multiple senses and knowing what I know about that and just having that desire to educate is how I've finally started thinking about –

[00:21:07] KM: What was the first thing you did? Went and got a business license at the city of Little Rock?

[00:21:11] DA: Yep. I did.

[00:21:12] KM: That's the first thing you have to do. If anybody's want to start a business, you have to go get – they were $50 forever. And then they went up to $100. What are they now? You remember?

[00:21:20] DA: 150.

[00:21:20] KM: Yeah. They're not much. Anybody for $150 can start a business. People think it's a lot harder. But you just go out there, you get your business license and you just start. And once you buy that, it's kind of like getting married. It's a commitment. And you do seem to just – you're like, "Okay, I'm doing it."

[00:21:36] GM: It's real.

[00:21:37] DA: Yeah. Yeah, it became real. And then I was able to start putting pieces of the business together and what in my heart I thought would be a good education platform for children from pre-k all the way to high school. Because when I worked at the University of Iowa, I worked in adult land. I worked with adults. But now that I had my own children, I felt like I was more of a professional with children.

[00:22:04] KM: Well, and you've been volunteering at church. And you've been volunteering at your children's school. So now you've just moved over to children.

[00:22:10] DA: Right.

[00:22:11] KM: So how long did you work on your curriculum before you actually opened your first class?

[00:22:17] DA: Okay. I feel like the curriculum has just always been with me. It almost wrote itself.

[00:22:23] KM: You lay in bed and think about food, don't you? I do. I lay in bed and think about cooking all the time. I don't look like it. But I do. I think about cooking all the time. And I love cooking. And I love planting. And I love the colors of the foods. You and I have talked about this before.

[00:22:38] DA: Yeah.

[00:22:38] KM: I'm a foodie. Even though I don't look like it like I just said. I do. I think about all week when I'm going to cook. And my daughter does too. Do you do that?

[00:22:48] DA: No. I mean, I think with the curriculum, yeah. I do think about, "Well, how can I reach these kiddos?" Or how can I reach the kiddo that has a hard time sitting in their seat? Because I want to try to create something that kids can really get behind and really have fun with. And it's a lot of interaction.

In my class, kids get to taste, and they get to chop, and they get to dice and they get to do all of these things. But I still sometimes have children who have a hard time just really focusing. I think those are the kind of things that keep me up, is how can I connect with that kind of –

[00:23:31] KM: It's the teaching aspect that you think about.

[00:23:32] DA: The teaching aspect. Yeah. Right. Because, really, the cooking part, it's the draw. And believe me, I can cook. And I have a very, I feel like, sophisticated palette. But it's really a means to get the kids engaged. And it's that multi-sensory exposure and experience that I'm hoping that will lead to those children to remember what I taught them about sustainability and nutrition. And everything else, I want them to remember because we've got all of our senses going. And I hope that they're enjoying themselves and they'll –

[00:24:19] KM: However they learn, you're going to hit one of those buttons.

[00:24:21] DA: We're going to hit one of those buttons. And when they go to college, they're going to be like, "Oh, wow. That food in my refrigerator looks bad because I remember what Miss Denise told me. And I need to throw that out because that's not safe." You know?

[00:24:38] KM: Do people really eat terrible food?

[00:24:41] DA: Well, if they're not privy to what it looks like or what – yeah. Yeah.

[00:24:49] KM: Your curriculum was easy. How did you get started on the first day? How did you find a place to do it? What did you do the very first day? How did you find some students? It seems like that'd be really hard to figure out to tell anybody about what you're doing.

[00:25:01] DA: Well, see, I thought that would be the easy thing to find students. But you are right. No. It wasn't an easy thing.

[00:25:10] KM: Customers are always the hardest thing to find.

[00:25:13] GM: Yeah, right.

[00:25:13] KM: If customers were easy to find, we'd all be rich.

[00:25:16] GM: Yeah.

[00:25:17] DA: The Anthony school where my kids were at is where I piloted Cooking in Bloom. And I did a summer camp-style program. And I decided to do for a three-week camp. But one-week break, and another week and then another week. Because kids are at the Anthony school all summer long because parents need that care. I thought, "Oh, perfect. I'll plug in." I'll have the perfect avenue for kids to sign up. Well, I had to cancel the first two weeks because I had all but one child sign up. But I had six children sign up for the third week.

[00:26:01] GM: Hmm. Slow start.

[00:26:03] DA: So that third week is really how I piloted the program. It went wonderfully. It went so great. And the kids are engaged and they love the food. And they had so much fun. And we got out into the Anthony school garden and they got to taste something from the garden and pick.

[00:26:25] KM: What happened in schools back in? Were you able to still do it in that place?

[00:26:30] DA: Nope. I tried. Believe you, me, I tried. But they just couldn't bend their minds around how that would plug into the curriculum quite yet. And then for me, it was really difficult for some of the after-school enrichment because of my children at home.

[00:26:50] KM: Were they not old enough to participate yet?

[00:26:53] DA: They were. But, of course, I didn't want to.

[00:26:59] KM: Summer's over. You're being kicked out of your space. Now what are you going to do?

[00:27:03] DA: I got in touch with a gal, Mandy Shoptaw, who helped me with my media platform. She helped me with my website and setting up a blog and all sorts of stuff. And all this is new to me. I'm doing the best I can to learn all of these things sort of on the fly. Because I'm not super good with social media or anything like that. That really made me feel like, "Okay, I'm going in a good direction."

So then it was putting on that hat of Denise, the donations, the garnering donations, professional. Because I started just cold calling Little Rock School District, this private school, that private school.

[00:27:53] GM: Saleswoman, born and raised.

[00:27:53] DA: I did. I got a few bites. Some bites I'd been working on forever I still haven't received. But, yeah. But that's okay. But Pulaski Academy picked me up, which is lovely. They were really instrumental in helping me just really hone my skills with the kids. Because my classes were packed with a waitlist.

[00:28:18] KM: Great. How many hours a day were you teaching?

[00:28:22] DA: Two hours a day. This was after-school enrichment. And then in the summer – and I was doing all this by myself. I didn't have an assistant. No nothing. I was doing summer camps. Every day for four hours. I would do a four-hour summer camp.

[00:28:36] KM: Children, youths in the morning and teenagers in the afternoon.

[00:28:38] DA: Yeah.

[00:28:39] KM: Mm-hmm. How do people enroll right now if they want to get involved?

[00:28:43] DA: My website, cookinginbloom.com. There's a pick list. Or if you scroll down, it's a big button that says summer camps.

[00:28:53] KM: There you go. Are you full? Have you got room for more people?

[00:28:57] DA: I do have some more room. Yes.

[00:28:59] KM: The pandemic made you get creative. They shut down people. They've shut down all the schools. What'd you do then?

[00:29:03] DA: I decided to do some online things. And so, I pre-recorded with my friend, Mandy Shoptaw. Pre-recorded some cooking classes and the curriculum. And it was kind of fun because I'd walk around my house and we'd go outside in my backyard's garden and we'd pick something together and come back and kind of cook it.

[00:29:23] GM: Love that. So cute.

[00:29:24] KM: She's living your dream, Gray.

[00:29:26] GM: I know. I know.

[00:29:26] DA: And then Forest Park was actually one of those schools that picked me up as after-school enrichment. And they decided to continue with me. I was to Zoom live cooking classes with these children, first through third grade. Their parents had to be involved.

[00:29:48] GM: I was going to say. Yeah. Are they cooking on the other end?

[00:29:50] DA: Cooking on the other end. And I'm telling you, it was such a phenomenal experience because I could see all of them in their home kitchens.

[00:30:01] GM: Do you feel like there was this like new element of reaching the parents too that was really positive I assume?

[00:30:07] DA: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, I remember vividly we made – and I can't believe it turned out so fabulous. But we made my Italian street pizza with no cheese. Yep. You get a child to eat pizza without cheese. I did. And it's because I educated them about, "If you go to Italy and you purchase pizza maybe on the street corner or on the street, sometimes it's not going to have mozzarella cheese. It might just have veggies on the top or maybe some arugula." So that's what we did.

[00:30:44] KM: Oh, that sounds good for tonight.

[00:30:45] GM: Yeah, right. Let's do that.

[00:30:45] DA: Yeah. Oh, it's fabulous. We actually made a yeast dough. A pizza dough with yeast on Zoom.

[00:30:55] GM: With their parents and everything.

[00:30:56] DA: With parents helping.

[00:30:57] KM: How long did you have to let it rise? Not long.

[00:31:00] DA: Yeah, it's just a quick rise. We used a quick-rise yeast.

[00:31:04] KM: Yeah. And you don't want much rise, to me, in pizza.

[00:31:05] DA: No. And we made a homemade sauce to put on top of it. We put our veggies on top of it and arugula.

[00:31:11] KM: And they ate it.

[00:31:12] DA: And they ate it. And I remember – like you said, the impression on the parents. One of the moms screaming with delight. She could not believe how beautifully it turned out and how absolutely delicious it was.

[00:31:29] KM: And their child ate arugula.

[00:31:30] GM: Yeah, right.

[00:31:31] DA: Their child ate arugula.

[00:31:32] GM: So good.

[00:31:32] DA: But all of these like little positive things that have happened are just exactly what I was hoping for.

[00:31:40] KM: And you need them to keep you going. If you don't get the positive reinforcement, you're like, "Why am I working so hard to do something if nobody wants it and nobody appreciates it?" That's wonderful.

[00:31:49] DA: Yeah. I mean, I've had people say to me, "Your recipes are not kid-friendly."

[00:31:55] GM: I wonder about that.

[00:31:56] DA: And I take that and I realize in that moment that it's not worth me explaining to this person what I'm all about because they don't get it or understand. Because I'm not –

[00:32:10] KM: Here. Let them eat what they eat already. You're here to expand their knowledge on food. Not just, "Here's a kid-friendly food. It's full of cheese and –"

[00:32:18] GM: I was going to say, not to feed the mac and cheese. Yeah.

[00:32:21] DA: Yeah. And I love that. I love being able to allow them to taste something new and to get really excited about it. And if I've got a full classroom and they're sitting at a table with four other kids and I've got a skeptical one that's like, "Hmm. Ah. Hmm. You know, never had arugula before. I don't think I want to taste that. It's too green for me." But you've got these other kids around the table that are like, "Oh, my gosh. This is the best thing I've ever eaten. I absolutely love this." It's like that positive peer pressure, if you will. This child that's skeptical is going to go, "Hmm. Well, maybe I should take a bite too."

[00:33:02] KM: You're going to have to label it competitive eating.

[00:33:01] GM: Yeah, right.

[00:33:02] DA: And the other thing that I love and that I realize really as a public health practitioner and knowing what I know to how to influence the nuclear family and the community, sometimes the biggest avenue is to use children in that way in a positive way. Because I know, and this happens all the time, after a child tastes something that I absolutely love, they get in the car when the parent picks them up and they say, "Oh, my gosh. We've got to go to the grocery store, mom. We've got to buy what I just had."

[00:33:39] KM: Arugula. Right?

[00:33:41] GM: Can you imagine if you're a third grader, got in the car and was like, "I want to eat arugula." What? I love that.

[00:33:44] DA: That happens all the time. We did a simple grilled pineapple. We grilled it. Because I'm all about the wow factor. I mean, just a simple pineapple dish on a kebab. No. We don't do fruit on a kebab. But we grill. We would grill the kebab. But anyway, we grill fruit and then they got to mix the yogurt and honey and a little bit of my cinnamon over the top. This Vietnamese cinnamon, it's absolutely gorgeous. And then over the top of that, I let them cut and chiffonade their little knives.

[00:34:14] KM: What does that mean?

[00:34:15] DA: It's like little ribbons, you know?

[00:34:17] KM: Oh, okay. Little ribbon. Chiffonade. All right. New word.

[00:34:20] DA: Yeah. Chiffonade. And they got to put that over the top.

[00:34:23] KM: Because they've got plastic knives. They've all got these plastic knives.

[00:34:24] DA: Yes.

[00:34:25] KM: Thank gosh for my plastic knives.

[00:34:27] DA: I know. I know.

[00:34:28] KM: Who's doing all your videography now? You'd post it on Facebook, I think, every week, right?

[00:34:32] DA: Yeah. I had been a regular on The Vine for three years. They actually stuck with me during the pandemic because I had just meet them outside.

[00:34:44] KM: You're very comfortable on TV.

[00:34:46] DA: Oh, really?

[00:34:48] KM: Yes, you are. You're so comfortable you forget to put your lipstick on. I'm like, "Denise, put your lipstick on." She shows up –

[00:34:54] GM: This is my mother. This is my mother.

[00:34:54] DA: Kerry, that is so intentional, though, Kerry.

[00:34:59] KM: Is it?

[00:34:59] DA: It is.

[00:35:00] KM: So you're not intimidating? So you look like mom in the kitchen and I'm not the movie star. Or what is it? Why is that intentional?

[00:35:07] DA: Because I feel like there's just too much of that. You have to look a certain way.

[00:35:13] KM: You're exactly right.

[00:35:13] DA: You have to be a certain way.

[00:35:14] KM: I actually thought that. I thought she is doing this intentionally. Because it's about the food and not about you.

[00:35:21] DA: Yes. And it's about the education.

[00:35:23] KM: I love your tagline at the end of all of your segments on TV. What is your tagline?

[00:35:29] DA: Make today delicious.

[00:35:32] KM: Is that not good?

[00:35:32] GM: Oh, that's great. That's great.

[00:35:35] KM: What is your next goal?

[00:35:36] DA: Well, I mean, right now I would like to have full classes. I would like to have wait lists of my classes.

[00:35:43] KM: How big is a full class?

[00:35:45] DA: I can comfortably manage with my assistant, because I have a chef assistant who's a certified chef from Pulaski Tech, 15.

[00:35:56] KM: Are there other businesses like yours around the country? I know there's not any in Little Rock. But are there any other places?

[00:36:01] DA: Yeah. I'm sure. Yeah.

[00:36:04] KM: You don't really know.

[00:36:04] DA: No. Because guess what?

[00:36:05] KM: What?

[00:36:05] DA: I have this sort of jealous streak. And so, I want to know things that are maybe service-oriented but not directly are in line with what I'm doing. Because I might get jealous and I might get mad and all those things in between. So I preserve myself. How's that?

[00:36:31] KM: You'll start comparing yourself to what they're doing and think you should be doing more and all that stuff. Yeah.

[00:36:35] DA: I keep my head down. And I have my assistant do that for me.

[00:36:42] KM: Oh, you do?

[00:36:42] GM: Oh, perfect.

[00:36:44] DA: Yes.

[00:36:44] KM: That's good.

[00:36:45] DA: My social media gal. I'm like, "Can you please do this for me? Because my heart can't handle it. My heart just cannot handle it."

[00:36:50] KM: How interesting. My heart can't – no. Not at all.

[00:36:52] DA: Is that terrible? Is that a bad thing?

[00:36:54] KM: What's your husband think? The man who doesn't – the Sphinx. No. No. Snuffleupagus. What does he think about this?

[00:37:01] DA: He loves. I mean, he's so on board with – I think that he's known that I've always – I've sort of been destined to do this.

[00:37:12] KM: Interesting.

[00:37:12] DA: And anyway that he can support me, he will.

[00:37:15] KM: I love that. All right, this is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Miss Denise Albert, founder and instructor of Cooking in Bloom, a school that educates students from pre-k through 12 on how to cook.

[BREAK]

[00:37:28] ANNOUNCER: This is the time of year when our favorite colors are everybody's favorite colors, red, white and blue. Make sure your 4th of July decorations are the talk of the town. Break out your patriotic flags and hang your July 4th banners high to honor the founding of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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[INTERVIEW CONTINUED]

[00:38:33] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. And I'm speaking today with Miss Denise Albert, founder and teacher of Cooking in Bloom, a hands-on school that teaches our youths how to cook and the importance of eating right. You can tell, like I was just saying, that you are curious and intrigued by cooking. But you also are more inspired by the teaching element of children. Let's talk about some of your recipes that you say you have – what kind of taste did you say you had?

[00:39:01] DA: Sophisticated.

[00:39:03] KM: Sophisticated. She has sophisticated taste. We're going to talk about –

[00:39:06] DA: Would you like to know what my favorite food is?

[00:39:08] KM: Yes. Pizza.

[00:39:10] DA: Raw oysters.

[00:39:12] GM: Oh, baby. Yeah, we're oyster fans around here.

[00:39:14] KM: We digress.

[00:39:15] DA: Well, that's okay. We were talking about recipes. And all of the recipes that I have written for Cooking in Bloom have at least three or four food groups, okay? What I'm doing with the kids is I'm layering food groups. Obviously, we talk about food groups. And I make sure that they know them ahead of time. But in that event, I can let the food do the talking.

For instance, we do tosada, where we have – and usually I use a whole grain tortilla of some sort. I don't get the flour tortillas. I'll get the corn tortillas, right? Which are whole grain.

[00:39:53] KM: Mm-hmm. Right. Mm-hmm. And gluten-free.

[00:39:58] GM: Yup.

[00:39:57] DA: Yeah. Guess what? I can talk about whole grain with tortillas, right?

[00:40:01] GM: Oh, yeah.

[00:40:04] DA: And so, for more of the interaction, the kids get to chop and dice and do all these things with the veggies that they get to put on the tostada. And we use black beans as the protein, right? We can talk about different kinds of protein. Animal protein, plant protein, whatever that is. I can teach the kids about high-quality protein. And on today's recipe, we have black beans, right? Which is a complimentary protein with the tortilla.

[00:40:38] GM: Oh, sure. Because it's whole grain. Yeah.

[00:40:39] DA: And they get to mash the black beans. I have them mash them. Because, again, as much as you can get a child involved in the process, if you have a child that is not willing or wanting to taste and they're thinking to themselves, "Black beans. I've never had black beans before. Black beans are terrible. I've had them before and I hated them." But now they're matching them and they're seeing them. And they're kind of smelling them. And now we're adding a little bit of spices to the black beans. And now we're mixing them. And everybody's spreading the black beans on the tortilla now. See where I'm going?

[00:41:18] KM: Mm-hmm. You're painting.

[00:41:19] DA: The food does the talking. Right.

[00:41:23] KM: It really does. She's so smart.

[00:41:27] DA: And, again, I'm not dumbing down any of these recipes.

[00:41:31] KM: No. You're not.

[00:41:31] DA: I feel like kids can handle these kinds of foods.

[00:41:35] KM: I think the way you do it, I think they can. And the way that you're so good at presenting it. And as you said, unintimidating, and making it about the food and making it educational. Where do you get your inspiration for your stuff?

[00:41:48] DA: Travels. Sometimes I'll get great inspiration. Sometimes stuff just comes to me, like, "Oh, these would be nice together." See? And all this to really push the palettes of the kids that I serve with Cooking in Bloom. Those kind of things are adult flavors. And I know that. But I feel like kids can enjoy it just as much.

And the testimony that I get from parents is that, "Wow. My child was so picky before she took your class. And now she's really willing to try anything."

[00:42:28] KM: That's wonderful.

[00:42:30] DA: And I feel like one of my goals has been answered. Really, it's a balance.

[00:42:36] KM: How do you address food allergies?

[00:42:39] DA: I take them very seriously. Very, very seriously. And I'm glad that I have the knowledge to take them seriously. If I do have a child in a class that has – well, first off, none of my recipes have peanuts or any type of peanut butter ever. If I do have a recipe where um it's a sauce, it's like a peanut sauce with noodles, like a –

[00:43:02] GM: Pad Thai.

[00:43:02] DA: Yeah. Kind of like Pad Thai. I'll use the sun butter, which is made from sunflower seeds. But that's only one recipe out of the hundreds of recipes that I have. But milk and dairy allergies I take very seriously. I always buy the alternative. Because, thankfully, now there are alternatives to all of that.

[00:43:24] KM: Do you have a 4th of July menu suggestion?

[00:43:29] DA: 4th of July.

[00:43:30] KM: It's coming up. What should we cook for 4th of July when all the family is coming over?

[00:43:35] DA: We love to grill. Grilled fruit is one of those that's absolutely lovely around the 4th of July with a little drizzle of honeyed yogurt over the top. And what I like to do with my spices, because I do have spices that I had specially curated for the kids. They get to take it home. But I've got this um Vietnamese cinnamon that is just top-notch and out of this world. But over that grilled fruit with a yogurt honey. Little pinch of cinnamon. And it is just divine.

But what I love about some of these spices, especially cinnamon – I mean, I would open that for you so you can see. But if you pinch just a little bit of it, it aerates into the air, you know? And then your employees over here will probably start smelling it.

[00:44:25] KM: Really?

[00:44:25] DA: Yeah. Because it's so powerful. And it gets pushed through the air. That's another thing that I'm very intentional with, with the kids with these spices. They get to pinch and they get to smell. They can taste these if they want. But you know? Now it's in the air and it's making the room smell so good.

[00:44:43] KM: You love thyme. I noticed you use time a lot. And you brought me some thyme that you've had specialty – what do you call it? Curated? Let me see it.

[00:44:50] DA: Yeah. Well, this is my herbs de provence.

[00:44:52] KM: What's that?

[00:44:54] DA: Well, it's a French – it's a spice that you can use on anything, meats, to vegetables, to your salads, whatever.

[00:45:05] KM: Really?

[00:45:05] DA: Yeah.

[00:45:05] KM: What's the other one?

[00:45:05] DA: All of these. There's my cinnamon.

[00:45:09] KM: Oh, I get some Vietnamese cinnamon. I'm thrilled.

[00:45:11] DA: Yes. I love it. You can put that in your coffee too if you like.

[00:45:14] KM: And this lemon thyme. Oh, really?

[00:45:16] DA: And then this lemon thyme is one that I had made for Cooking in Bloom.

[00:45:21] GM: You use a lot of lemon thyme. And I used thyme last night and the lemon zest. I was just all about everything she said on there.

[00:45:28] DA: Did you see the video that I did for the fall dish with the onions, apples and thyme?

[00:45:36] KM: No. But I love onions and apples sauteed.

[00:45:38] GM: Onions, apples and thyme. That sounds so good.

[00:45:39] DA: It's one of my favorites. It's just like caramelized onions. Sauté your apples and then add some fresh thyme.

[00:45:48] KM: I'm in. I'm in.

[00:45:49] GM: Yeah. That sounds great.

[00:45:50] DA: It's just amazing.

[00:45:51] GM: Skillet apples are so good.

[00:45:52] DA: Well, and also just caramelizing onions. I tell the kids that that's such a memory maker. I mean, my mom's Italian and everything was from scratch. But I'd come home and she'd be cooking spaghetti sauce all day on the stove. Those are the kind of things that make memories, right? You walk in and you smell onions, and garlic and all sorts of things. I tell the kids, I'm like, "Wow. Onions and garlic are such memory makers."

[00:46:18] KM: They really are. All right. This is our last break. We've been speaking with Miss Denise Albert, founder and instructor of Cooking in Bloom. A school that educates students from pre-k through 12th grade on how to cook and make healthy lifestyle choices that will impact them forever. We'll be right back to recap and give contact information. As they say in the business, we will reset the table for our listeners.

[BREAK]

[00:46:41] GM: All UIYB past and present interviews are available at Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy's YouTube channel, Facebook page, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette's digital version, flagandbanner.com's website or wherever you listen to podcasts. Just ask your smart speaker to play Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy.

And by subscribing to our YouTube channel or flagandbanner.com's email list, you will receive prior notification of that day's guest.

[INTERVIEW CONTINUED]

[00:47:06] KM: You're listening Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with Miss Denise Albert, instructor and founder of Cooking in Bloom. A hands-on school that teaches our youths how to cook and the importance of eating right.

If you're just tuning in, we're at the end. I'm going to give you all the – I'm going to give you all the contact information from Denise. Looking back at the startup of your small business, what has been unexpected? Or is there anything you would have done differently?

[00:47:35] DA: I think what's been unexpected is all of these contacts that I've made with the schools here in Little Rock and others, I would say less than 50% has been an advocate of what I'm doing I guess. That was a little bit surprising. Because I just thought, "Oh, I have this great idea and everybody needs it. And I'll just plug into the library. And I'll just plug in all these places." Mm-mm. No. It didn't work out that way.

[00:48:06] KM: Pretty soon you'll have your assistant or your office manager. That's the first job to give away. Just FYI for all those new entrepreneurs.

[00:48:14] GM: All the administrative work.

[00:48:15] KM: Yes. And everybody always wants to hold on to it. And I always say, that's the first – and they're like, "They can't do that." And I'm like, "Oh, yes. They can that's." You are the personality of the business. You need to give away the desk job stuff first.

[00:48:28] DA: Yeah. And saying I'm kind of looking forward to doing that. As long as you can find people that you trust and that would work on your behalf and be as passionate about what you're doing as you are. I think sometimes that's a big hurdle. To find somebody that is just as passionate –

[00:48:45] KM: Well, for teachers, you definitely need them to be passionate. I love this quote of yours. You said, "Studies show that the more senses are involved in learning, the more information is retained." That is my goal. If I can get them to remember just one thing they learned about nutrition and taking care of their bodies and our environment, I've done a good job.

[00:49:05] DA: Yeah. Yep.

[00:49:06] KM: Remind us again how to sign up for classes and learn more about Cooking in Bloom. A hands-on cooking experience for children, pre-K to 12th grade. Remind us again how to sign up.

[00:49:15] DA: Yes. Cookinginbloom.com. It's all on my website. There's a pick list. Or they can just click on the button and scroll down.

[00:49:24] KM: And you've got a Facebook page that you post to. You have a social media person that helps you post to that a lot. You can see lots and lots of videos. You're very comfortable in front of the camera. And then do you have a YouTube channel?

[00:49:34] DA: Well, I have a bit on YouTube. But not a lot. Should I –

[00:49:40] KM: You know, there is so much to do in the 21st century when it comes to small businesses and getting your word out there. It is tough.

[00:49:47] DA: Yeah. It's overwhelming.

[00:49:48] KM: It's very overwhelming. I'm glad you have somebody helping you with it. Well, you probably have to store your videos somewhere.

[00:49:54] DA: Yeah.

[00:49:55] KM: So you might as well store them on your YouTube channel. Do you have a Cooking in Bloom YouTube channel?

[00:50:03] DA: Yeah. It would just be Cooking in Bloom.

[00:50:06] KM: So, yes.

[00:50:06] DA: And I've only got a few. Like some of my really early stuff on there.

[00:50:10] KM: There's no reason you shouldn't be storing all of your videos there.

[00:50:14] DA: I will.

[00:50:16] KM: You're posting them to Facebook. You just need to go ahead and post them to your YouTube channel. And you can group them also on your YouTube channel.

[00:50:24] DA: You know what I'm thinking in my head right now?

[00:50:26] KM: What?

[00:50:27] DA: About my videos. Is what you said about like not having my lipstick on.

[00:50:31] KM: Sorry.

[00:50:33] DA: I know. But that's okay.

[00:50:35] KM: That was your goal.

[00:50:36] DA: That is my goal. It is very intentional.

[00:50:38] KM: You know, they make a really pale lipstick you could wear. Oh. Leave it to me. All right. Here is your gift today. It is an Iowa flag, a Missouri flag.

[00:50:55] DA: Oh, gosh. Thank you.

[00:50:57] KM: An Arkansas flag.

[00:50:58] DA: Oh, that's so kind.

[00:50:59] KM: And a US flag for all the places you've lived and learned. I didn't realize you've been in Canada, or you'd have a Canada flag also. Where your children are born. I'll have to get you one and send it over to you.

[00:51:08] DA: Well, yeah. Just one child. Grace was born there.

[00:51:12] KM: Denise, give us your every show sign-off.

[00:51:16] DA: I hope you make today delicious.

[00:51:20] KM: Perfect. Thank you. In closing, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening. And that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence and your life. I'm Kerry McCoy. And I'll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.

[OUTRO]

[00:51:39] GM: You've been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio and choose today's guests. If you'd like to sponsor this show or any show, email me, Gray, at gray@flagonbanner.com. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stay informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel or podcast wherever you'd like to listen.

Kerry's goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.

[END]


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