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Young Chefs®Academy Celebrates Two Anniversary Milestones This Month

Young Chefs Academy franchise owners are more than just an extension of the business.  They’re part of a dedicated team who defines our culture. Each year, we share new experiences and life celebrations – treating each new day as an opportunity to grow, evolve, and strengthen the brand and the culture that surrounds it.

This month, Young Chefs Academy is proud to celebrate two monumental anniversaries and the franchise owners who have been with the brand for over a decade – Young Chefs Academy franchise owners: Kristen Braia in Richmond, VA and Gay Nan Moree in Baton Rouge, LA.

Young Chefs Academy franchise owner, Kristen Braia of Richmond, VA

Kristen Braia began her journey with Young Chefs 15 years ago in May of 2006. We’ve seen Kristen’s family grow just as our own YCA franchise family grew. During this time, she’s had a front row seat to the many ups and downs every franchise organization is presented with in some form or fashion and watched as the brand grew stronger with each passing year.

(Kristen Braia pictured with Husband, Dan, and children – Ariana, Luke, Alaina, and Grayson)

Some of Kristen’s fondest memories from the past 15 years have been watching her members and their families grow over the years.  “The students grow in their confidence in the kitchen and beyond.  This is business, but one where your customers really become your family.  Just a few years ago I had a former Senior Chef stop in to share with me pictures of his new child and where he is now in life.  It warms my heart and makes all the struggles, like those of this past year all worth it to keep going,” states Kristen.

We asked Kristen if she’d share some of her experience with us.

How has owning your own franchise helped in other areas of your life?
“My confidence in myself and my abilities has only grown over the years as I have faced the challenges and experienced the joys that owning a business present.”
Are there any family memories that are tied to YCA?
“Of course, there are countless birthday parties we have celebrated with Young Chefs Academy.  But our biggest family tradition, that is still going is the Gingerbread House Workshop.  We started the tradition before YCA but were able to continue on a larger scale with YCA’s Gingerbread workshop and we have even turned it in to a friendly competition. This will stay with our family for years.”
Have your own cooking skills developed during this time?
“I have always had a passion for cooking and baking.  Owning Young Chefs Academy has certainly broadened my repertoire of recipes and my family’s willingness to try new cuisine.”
Do your kids get involved in the kitchen?  Do any of them want to follow in your entrepreneurial shoes?
“When I began my Young Chefs Academy journey my children were 7, 5 and 3.  They have grown up with me at Young Chefs Academy first in classes as students and then as teachers themselves.  They are all comfortable and confident in the kitchen now.  Having an entrepreneur for a mom and growing up at my business has taught them invaluable life skills they have carried over when pursuing their own passions.  We added another child to our family 7 years ago and he has been with me at Young Chefs Academy since he was 2 days old.  His knife skills are amazing for this age.  It has been a true blessing to be able to raise my family while growing my business.
What are some of the changes over the years that have been the most substantial for your own success?
“Just as I have grown over the years and become better and stronger at running Young Chefs Academy of Richmond, Young Chefs Academy’s leaders at corporate have grown too. Watching them work to strengthen the brand and support the franchisees has strengthened our relationship.  This past year’s challenges [due to the pandemic] have proven our strength as a franchise and I am proud to be a part of it.”

Kristen also shared some pearls of wisdom for any potential franchise prospect.  “You are responsible for your own success but use the tools and follow the model.  Some of the skills/personality traits franchise owners should possess are a passion for teaching, patience and perseverance.”

Young Chefs Academy franchise owner, Gay Nan Moree of Baton Rouge, LA

Gay Nan and Larry Moree pictured in the front with their 3 children and their spouses and 12 grandchildren.

And if that wasn’t enough to inspire reflection, another beloved franchise owner will be celebrating her 12th anniversary this month. Gay Nan Moree took over an existing YCA franchise in May of 2009. Gay Nan’s sweet and kind nature has made the Young Chefs Academy a household name to many children and families in the Baton Rouge community. She shares many of the same journeys Kristen has experienced over these past years.

“I am probably the OLDEST owner in the YCA program!!  I still feel young at heart!”

Gay Nan originally worked for the original owner of Young Chefs in Baton Rouge as a teacher.  She knew right off that she loved the concept and working with the children, so much so that she tried to get them to sell it to her.  After several years had passed, Gay Nan’s daughter saw a small ad in the window that they were looking for a new owner.  “I was SO excited.  I went to the bank that I had been using since college and they turned me down for a loan,” states Gay Nan.

One day Larry, her husband, asked her where she would bank if she could take over the academy.   Without Gay Nan’s knowledge, Larry went to see a financial officer at the bank who told him she could make it happen.  And she did!

In October of 2020, Larry who had been Gay Nan’s biggest supporter passed away.  “This is my “happy place” because of Larry.  I tell people that he is the reason that I have YCA.  I love coming to work and love the kids.”

Some of her fondest memories come from working with Sharon Reynaud, her “right-hand” for the past 12 years.  “She is GREAT with the students.  We always talk things over before we do them.    Also, the kids are always great!”

We asked Gay Nan if she could share some wisdom from her experiences with Young Chefs Academy and what she would share with a prospective franchise owner.

“A new owner needs to know about how good the support from corporate is and how great the students are!! The only skills a person needs are to love people and want to show them the importance of cooking. My skills have improved because I have tried and used lots of the new recipes.  Being an owner has also stretched and grown me in many ways.”

“It’s been such a pleasure having Kristen as part of franchise family of franchise owners,” states Shelly Young, VP of Marketing.  “Her willingness to participate in round table discussions and on an advisory capacity has been invaluable these past years as the brand has evolved and grown. 

Gay Nan has been a bright light since coming on board 12 years ago.  It is always such a joy having her as part of our franchise family due to her sweet & positive demeanor throughout these past years.  She can put a smile on your face every time you communicate with her.”

All of us look forward to sharing many more anniversaries with each and every one of our franchise owners and are proud to be a part of a network of dedicated and committed individuals and the families who support them.

Learn more about how Young Chefs Academy teaches the joy and value of cooking by visiting http://bit.ly/2WkrI0q.

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