L-R: Cathy Fayot, member of VdL municipal council; Joëlle Hinger, founder of Mawaka Kids Cooking School; Corinne Cahen, Luxembourg's Minister for Family Affairs, Integration and the Greater Region; Christa Brömmel, member of VdL municipal council; Credit: Mawaka

Saturday 17 September 2022 marked the inauguration of Luxembourg's first cooking school for children: Mawaka Kids Cooking School, located at 1 Rue Léopold Hoffmann in Luxembourg-Gasperich (L-1753). 

The name "Mawaka" is an abbreviation of the Luxembourgish phrase "MAmma WAt Kache mer haut?", which translates to "Mum, what are we cooking today?" in English. 

Speaking to Chronicle.lu, Joëlle Hinger, a former primary school teacher with a background in economics and the founder of Mawaka Kids Cooking School, explained that she had always thought about having her own business one day. As someone who had enjoyed cooking since childhood, and having seen a gap in the Luxembourgish market, she eventually decided to set up her own children's cooking school.  

After leaving her job as a primary school teacher after more than ten years, Joëlle began attending classes run by nyuko, a local non-profit organisation that supports new entrepreneurs. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Luxembourg was plunged into lockdown in spring 2020, so she put her cooking school plans on hold. In the meantime, she set up a cooking blog, whilst home-schooling her children, and soon began selling pastry boxes – all proceeds were invested in the business and the eventual opening of Mawaka Kids Cooking School. These efforts helped Joëlle build a community around the Mawaka brand: "When you start a business, it's very difficult to get known and here I had already a little community". In September 2022, with the COVID-19 situation having improved, she finally opened her cooking school for children. 

Regarding the process of setting up her own cooking school, Joëlle noted that she had obtained a business permit in the areas of commerce and restaurants, a process that was facilitated by her economics and teaching qualifications as well as continuous training related to the restaurant industry. The food safety authorities helped guide her when it came to subjects such as installing a compliant kitchen on the premises; the facilities have been validated by Luxembourg's Ministry of Health and the cooking classes comply with all hygiene standards and safety rules. "I learned a lot of things", she elaborated, noting that there were several obstacles to overcome and criteria to meet (various laws, regulations, etc.). "It's not as easy as you think at the beginning", she added. "You really need to want to do it"

Mawaka Kids Cooking School officially opened its doors last Saturday, in the presence of Luxembourg's Minister for Family Affairs, Integration and the Greater Region, Corinne Cahen, and members of the municipal council of the City of Luxembourg (Ville de Luxembourg – VdL), Christa Brömmel and Cathy Fayot. Joëlle deemed the opening a success, with friends and family members but also many other interested individuals and families in attendance. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with guests showing an appreciation for the child-friendly, bright open space and the various workshops that took place throughout the day. There was also a small local creators' market, which fits with Joëlle's desire to rent out her premises to fellow creators for special events, such as handcraft workshops, in future. 

The weekly cooking classes, for children aged three to fifteen, began on Tuesday 20 September 2022. There are between eight and twelve children per class (the youngest children are put in the smallest groups) and they are registered from one school holiday to the next. The current term will run for six weeks, until the All Saints Day holidays, after which children can register again. The weekend classes are already full, with weekday classes also filling up fast. 

As well as being enjoyable for children, the classes offered at Mawaka Kids Cooking School are aimed at teaching children how to cook and eat healthily. In Joëlle's eyes, knowing where our food comes from and our behaviour around food "becomes more important every day". She is currently offering the classes alone, with the support of student assistants during holiday camps, but plans to expand her team over time. During these classes, children will prepare age-appropriate recipes using fresh seasonal produce, as well as cleaning utensils and tidying up the kitchen after preparation. Mawaka Kids Cooking School also offers educational workshops for children in schools and crèches, as well as birthday party activities and special events organised on the occasion of Halloween, Saint Nicholas Day and Easter, for example. 

Further information is available on the website: https://mawaka.lu/.