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Go Ask Mom

With new owner, Flour Power's North Hills location plans more camps, programs for kids, those with special needs, seniors

Posted September 24

Courtesy: Debbie Sawyer

Debbie Sawyer is excited. This year, the mom of one purchased the Flour Power Kids Cooking Studio location in North Hills as one of the first franchise owners for the growing Raleigh-based business that started in 2009.

Today, Sawyer is adding new programs and plans for the cooking studio, which has served preschoolers to teens for years. Now, she's adding classes for kids and adults with special needs, senior citizens and more.

Sawyer, a Brooklyn native, now lives on a dirt road in rural Moncure, N.C., in Chatham County, with her husband and Shayna, their seven-year-old daughter. She's worked as a special education teacher in Los Angeles and, more recently, a veterinary pharmaceutical sales rep in Raleigh.

Now, she's gearing up for an open house to share more details about the camps, classes and other programs she has planned at Flour Power. The open house is 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Oct. 1. The free event will include a magician, a visit from two animal rescue groups and, of course, a couple of cooking stations where kids can make treats. The Flour Power Kids Cooking Studio in North Hills is at 201 Park at North Hills St., Raleigh.

"I can't wait for it," she tells me. "This is a chance to open our doors to everyone to find out what we are about."

Debbie is a long-time Go Ask Mom reader. And many Go Ask Mom readers may have met her at our events at North Hills this year. I checked in with Debbie by email to learn more about what she has planned for Flour Power.

Here's a Q&A:

Go Ask Mom: You recently became the owner of the Flour Power at North Hills. Why take the leap?

Debbie Sawyer: I had been in corporate America and burned out. I wanted my career to be about quality, service and making a difference. My industry had been changing over the last few years and I no longer felt that it aligned with my philosophies anymore. I loved the clients and the animals, but was losing my passion and excitement.

I'd been looking for the right business for two years. I went online to look for a cooking class for Shayna and found Flour Power.  The more I reviewed the website, the more intrigued I became to get involved.  I thought it was a fantastic concept and if as mother, I "got it," I knew other parents would, too.  And here we are!

GAM: For you, why is it so important for kids to get involved in the kitchen?

DS: The kitchen is a place to get creative and learn teamwork and independence. Let your two-year-old in the kitchen to help make something and see that smile, along with the seriousness of doing the job well.  Bring a 12-year-old in to cook and they get creative and learn to do things by themselves.

Also, being part of a family means that we can all work together at home. Why can't the kids prepare a meal? It allows them to contribute and feel good about watching the family enjoy it. My own daughter is an incredibly picky eater, but let her be the one to prepare the food and she's more likely to try it - something we see with the kids at the studio regularly.

GAM: What kinds of programs and activities do you have planned at Flour Power?

DS: The studio was only open half-time when we bought it. My goal is full time - offering summer and track out camps most every week of the year! Track out camps and birthday parties - kids and adult parties - are a focus for us. We have themed camps every week for every track as well as options for teacher workdays. Some of our camp themes include "Around the World in 5 Days," "Wizardly Kitchen," and "Cake My Day."

We also offer great Kids Night Out events about twice a month with themes like Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Cupcake Wars and Iron Chef. Whether it be camp or Kids Night Out, the kids help to make their own meals and love it.

The first new program that we have piloted is for children and adults with special needs. I had a call from a dad when I first bought the studio and it took him almost 10 minutes to ask me if we would consider a class for his son and his friends, who happen to have autism. I never hesitated to say, "yes."

When I asked him why he had such a hard time asking, he responded that he assumed I'd say no like so many others had. That floored me. Everyone should feel welcome when they walk in our doors!

We are currently piloting a program with Gigi's Playhouse, who work with kids and adults with Down syndrome, and I can not emphasize how great it is to see the happiness - both in their clients as well as our staff - during these classes! We are reaching out to different organizations that work with kids and adults with special needs. There is a real need for community-based businesses that open their doors to these families and we are committed to doing that.

I also am currently working on The Seasoned Chef - cooking classes and parties for the 55 and over crowd. In addition to a block of scheduled classes that we will be offering in September and October, we are also reaching out to retirement communities to schedule classes and parties for their residents. The point of The Seasoned Chef is a fun experience where our guest get to cook, eat and have a great time with new friends! We are also offering outreach to retirement communities that have residents that might not be able to come to our studio - we bring the studio to them!

I want to cater to different cultural populations in the community. We have very successfully planned a Chanukah Lights Kids Night Out ("parent down time") and upon launch had a tremendous response. I am now looking at organizing a Family Chanukah Party as well.

We are hosting a Gingerbread House Decorating Kids' Night Out in December as well as a Family Holiday Party on Dec. 3.

We also are offering preschool classes, which are along the lines of Mommy & Me/Daddy & Me/ Grandma & Me and even Nanny & Me classes - a class for the young chef and whomever wants to spend time with them with us. Of course, we also focus on our 5 to 8 year olds and teens and tweens for classes. Our etiquette classes are very popular, as well.

GAM: What kinds of things do you like to make with your own kids?

DS: OK, so I admit it - I love chocolate and so does Shayna. Our two favorite things at the moment are Molten Lava Cake (a famous specialty of Flour Power North Hills) and oven baked s'mores.

GAM: What do you have planned for the future?

DS: We want to grow with our community. The special needs programs, Seasoned Chef and cultural events are just the beginning. I'd like to reach out to local schools and day cares to offer outreach programs where our instructors come out to the schools and host classes there.

We want to provide more adult options, and I am even looking at a romantic cooking class the weekend before Valentine's Day! The idea of a singles' meet and greet is a possibility. These are just some of the programs we will be offering.

In addition, I look forward to doing more in the community, including for the foster system and underprivileged kids ... so many programs once we really get the business going strong! The possibilities are just endless. Cooking is such a great social aspect of our lives and can bring so much happiness.

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.

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