Meet Forest Hills, NY, Young Chefs Franchisees Chris & Karen Chesleigh
The desire to build a business their whole family could enjoy has led to longtime success and a franchise operation that’s a community hub
When Chris and Karen Chesleigh began looking around for a business to own, they had one major goal: find something that their young daughter could be a part of and also enjoy. That led them to consider, and then launch, a Young Chefs® franchise in Forest Hills, NY, in August 2007.
“We were dropping her off to someone else while we went to work, and really wanted to find something that was kid-centric and she could enjoy being around,” Karen Chesleigh says. “We had seen an interview with [Young Chefs founder Julie Burleson] in Woman’s Day magazine, and it seemed like a Young Chefs Academy would provide that for us.”
Learn more about the Chesleigh’s entry into small-business ownership, and how their Young Chefs journey has evolved:
What were you doing before you opened your Young Chefs Academy franchise?
Chris: I was in sales, and Karen was in real estate. She has been able to continue doing that while we both operate the business.
How has your franchise evolved over the 12 years you’ve been open?
Karen: It’s gone very well in terms of growth. We had some tough times in 2008 and 2009, just like everybody else, because of the crashing economy. We held on, and were able to keep on because of the concept, and because people remained interested in what we were doing and what we had to offer.
What keeps you enthusiastic about owning this business?
Karen: We love that kids can find something here that they can excel at and learn teamwork lessons just like they would on a sports team. There is a lot of collaboration, and we celebrate their hard work when they taste the finished product. Parents get to come in at the end, so our young chefs can show off what they have made. There’s a proud victory in every class.
Is this an easy business to run?
Karen: You do need to have some business sense, because it would be difficult to get going without some basic foundational knowledge. Chris having come from a sales background was an asset, as he is very good at that. Having that sales and marketing skill set was very helpful to us. You also need some talented people to teach classes as well, because if you’re getting kids in the door and they’re not having fun learning, it’s not going to work. Find people who are like you, who have a desire to work with kids, and you can be successful. We’ve been very fortunate in that regard as well.
Let’s explore that some more; what is the hiring process like for you?
Karen: Almost from the beginning we were getting a lot of referrals. The beauty of Young Chefs Academy is that it’s a very niche business, and so if people are interested in working with kids they seek you out. We have had a lot of younger people who are interested in the culinary arts, or even studying to become a chef, and this is a job where they can learn a different aspect of cooking and teaching while they are getting paid.
Chris: We also do a lot of outreach with high school culinary arts programs, offering what is basically an internship, and those have done very well for us. We can get someone in and try them out, see how they do, and then we get to hire the ones that look like a good match. It’s good for us, and also something we can do that helps our community at the same time.
Through classes, workshops parties and camps, Young Chefs Academy takes kids into the kitchen and teaches them not just how to cook, but also how to work independently and as a team to master new skills. A Young Chefs Academy franchise is a fun, scalable and profitable business providing a rewarding enrichment opportunity that kids and parents love.