Saturday, May 5, 2012

Feature Story: Elena Marre of The Kids' Table

Photo: Daniel Stranahan

While colleagues pored over IRS revenue documents in their spare time, Elena Marre devoured cooking magazines. 

Her job as a transactional tax attorney was just that.  A job.

But it wasn’t until she had a vision of herself ten years later still doing the same thing, and finding out that she had six months left to live that she knew.  She knew if that happened she’d feel deep regret that she’d never escaped a career that left her unfulfilled. 

That she’d never taken the leap to marry her passion and her work.

Having enjoyed making food for her own sons when they were babies, she developed a business plan, obtained a good lead on funding and prepared for the national launch of a frozen organic baby food.

Although it had been a few months since Marre had left her job, she didn’t feel confident about forging ahead, as the investors were pushing pretty hard on projections.  Plus the baby food window was a finite time in a family’s life. 

She scrapped the idea.

Toying with the idea of teaching people to make their own baby food brought her to her mission. Her children's Montessori education, based on hands-on, practical life experience, led her to the idea of a family cooking school.  As a mother, Marre knew that children, especially picky ones, with dietary restrictions like one of her boys, would be more likely to eat something if they had helped prepare it.  

She developed the business plan, and in 2007 The Kids' Table was born.

In addition to being a resource for parents who seek to foster a love of food in their picky eaters, Marre sees food, specifically the slow food movement, as essential to good health.  Marre is devoted to the Hippocratic idea of “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”  She is an ardent believer in the idea that, “there is a connection between what we eat and how we feel.”

Furthermore, Marre views preparing food as a natural means of stimulating conversation with kids.  “Let’s talk” and “tell me about your day” seem to have the opposite effect.   Especially with teens and tweens, “communing in the kitchen is a great way to actually talk to them,” Marre says.   In interacting and experiencing in the kitchen, kids can become connected to a creative process that sustains life.

And then of course there’s that sneaky benefit of making kids curious – they won’t be able to chop and mix without stealing a taste. 

Even though The Kids’ Table has been in business for five years, and Marre has realized the vision of her dream job, there are still goals ahead.  Marre would love to expand her outreach work, in the form of field trips and after-school programs, especially with school communities with low access to nutritious, unprocessed food.   She also has a cookbook in the works.

And then of course as a mother, there’s that old life/work balance thing.

I had the fortune to take Mr. R to a parent/tot class at The Kids’ Table with a Groupon I had bought.  Upon entering, my little man made a beeline to the play kitchen.  We immediately knew we were at a place that takes enjoying food seriously. 

We had a great experience making shepherd’s pie.  Mr. R got to wear and apron and a chef’s hat, and had his own cutting board and chopper to use.

(This thing is genius!  You must buy one! It looks fun and it makes fun-to-eat krinkly carrots and fries!)

We learned about proper hygiene when cooking. In addition to proper chopping technique, we briefly discussed each veggie before chopping.  When chopping was done, we washed our utensils and the pie went into the oven.

Like magic, by the time cleaning had finished, our pie was ready.  Although Mr. R liked it, he wasn’t as gaga over it as I’d hoped.  Still he’d had a fabulous time, and felt like a big boy. 

I bought him that chopper, in hope that I’d get him in the kitchen and groom him for Top Chef in 20 years. 

With the hustle of modern life, and our unseasonably warm early spring, this hasn’t happened as much as I’d hoped.

But I can dream can’t I? 

Mention Mom’s New Stage for $10 off your first class at The Kids’ Table! This discount cannot be combined with other offers.

For more information and to register for classes, please visit The Kids' Table online. Or call 773-235-COOK (2665). 

You can also get more TKT on Facebookon Twitter, and on the TKT blog!


  1. Great post. I love hearing about someone who follows their passion. Way to go, Elena!

    1. I am so happy that you liked this, Jessica! Elena's story is such an inspiration isn't it?


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