Young Chefs Academy: Where Learning Tastes Better
Young Chefs Academy| Chef Brian Chen

Early age learning has taken its position of prominance in the discipline of culinary arts, shedding the prejudice of being relevant to just academics. This compels us to believe that one can proficiently sustain his or her inclination and passion towards culinary arts if a strong foundation  has been laid.

This strong establishment of a creative and fun approach towards lerning the culinary arts, is catered to by Young Chefs Academy, Malaysia, where cooking classes are offered to children in a safe environment, and every child’s knack for creativity and discovery is encouraged.

The Perfect Recipe

While food preparation skills are central at YCA, each class adds a heap of kitchen safety, a scoop of etiquette, a handful of table setting, a pinch of menu planning, and laughter to taste. Julie Fabing Burleson and Suzy Vinson Nettles, the founders of YCA International wanted to develop a curriculum, a perfect recipe. Hence, they embarked on a venture towards showing children that the craft of cooking is a lifelong learning skill that can be artistic, creative, and sometimes quite surprising.

As on 2019, YCA has over 50 locations opened across the United States of America as well as internationally. It opened the doors of its kitchen for young chefs of Malaysian in 2011. the founding partners of Young Chefs Academy Malaysia, Chow Lye Kay and Abang Brian believed that it was important to bring YCA to Malaysia to assist kids in improvung their knowledge, attitude, and practices on nutrition which was seldom epmhasized upon.

Meals in The Menu

YCA was born with a mission to teach children, the joy and value of cooking in a safe environment where they are respected, listened to, and immersed in the learning process. Today, YCA is an institution where each student feels connected to, and can be a part of the culinary experience.

With this purpose, YCA has developed a myriad of programs such as:

Weekly Classes:

These regular classes provide the opportunity to sharpen life-skills and stir-up creativity. Each week, students get to explore a variety of droolworthy cuisines. Additionaly, each month is based on different themes with new recipes each week. Monthly themes are centered around culinary categories such as types of produce (poultry, game meats, vegetables or seafood), or types of world cuisines ( Malaysian, Japanese, Italian, or French). These classes are divided into two different age groups, Kinder cooks (3-6) and Junior cooks (7-12 Years Old).

Birthday Parties:

These are filled with interactive, hands-on cooking activities and delicious fun. It introduces each guest to the essentials of cooking as kids make their culinary creations from scratch, all while being entertained by its warm and passionate educators.

Summer/Holiday Camps:
Camp Can-I-Cook is the place to be during special times of the year. It consists of a three-hour session for three-to-five consecutive days. Campers get to experience new tastes and learn to prepare some basic recipes from various cuisines “with a twist”.

School Field Trips:

Occasionally, YCA conducts these school trips where the “little chefs” get to explore their culinary curiosities in a fun, safe environment. Each pre-school field trip includes a special theme with a recipe along with a related activity to keep little minds busy with enjoyment.

Other Special Events:

Open houses, workshops, private parties, Homeschooling groups, Girl Scout/Boy Scout Troops, Play Groups, Classes for Moms and Dads! The possibilities are endless!

Turning Passion Into Action

Profound educational institutes are led by leaders who ceaselssly strive to uphold the institute’s mission, and by individuals who inspire and instill creativity throughout their pursuits. Chef Brian Chen, more affectionately known as Abang Brain, the Owner of the YCA International franchise in Malaysia is one such inspiring figure.

After having obtained his degree in finance and accounting at Université de Paris in 2009, Brian was well on his way into the Finance world. He also completed his chartered accountancy Program (ACCA) while working as an internal auditor in the Oil and Gas industry.

Brian’s journey into the culinary world began at a certain premise laden with strife, but surpassed with endurance and courage. In 2012, his father was diagnosed with cancer. To take care of his father, he prepared nutritious meals. That period was when he was introduced to the kitchen for the first time.

Inspired by his father and his time in the kitchen, Brian later joined numerous prestigious televised cooking competitions, reaching the top 5 as a finalist for MasterChef Malaysia. To better equip himself in facing the challenges in the culinary world, he completed his training at le Cordon Bleu Malaysia 2015 both in Cuisine and Patisserie.

Within a short span of five years in the cooking niche, Brian has sent out delicious tremors in the form of 7 cooking books, numerous cooking TV shows including daily appearances on the national home shopping network, CJwowshop and his own daily foodie radio show on SuriaFM. His books, “Cooking for your kidneys” and “Beyond Rice Cooking” have gained the recognition of the World Gourmand Cookbooks Awards while “Cooking with kids” solidified his position in the Malaysian Book of Records.

The ups and downs in his journey with food have taught Brian so much about life; something he now tries to do for others through his cooking schools for kids. YCA’s biggest pillar is health, for which Brian’s mission is to help Malaysia combat its national child obesity rate which will be the foundation of his envisioned PhD.

Cuisines worth Remembering


Kids Helping Kids is a movement started by Brian to instill the value of compassion in kids; to give back to society and help improve the lives of less fortunate kids. He has promoted the cause and its awareness towards pediatric Cancer as an ambassador of the National Cancer Society (NCSM). On yearly basis, the little chefs are given opportunities to run their own food business, and the profits of which go directly to the cause.


Record-breaking feats in 2015 where each child was given a 10×10 inch cake board to decorate on, to make a food mural. Kids used an assortment of dried food such as pasta, beans, grains, and spices. The project made it into the Malaysian Book of Records as the largest food mural by children in Malaysia which as part of the launch of Brian’s kids cooking book, the first of its kind in Malaysia.

Views on Education Sector

According to the team at YCA, technology is constantly changing and affecting different aspects of life. Though it has brought many helpful changes such as providing students with much more content and a plethora of resources to learn, it has also made kids dependent on it.

The team does not wish to demonize technology but asks us to note that there must now be thoughtful steps taken to ensure that technology continues to ease different aspects of human life including learning and teaching.

In the words of Brian, “We are also believers of the fact that there are still certain things that are just best left to be learnt in the most basic way. Nothing beats getting your hands dirty and kids do need this!”

“No matter how many YouTube videos you watch on how to make the perfect nasi lemak, you will never truly know how to make it until you try it first-hand! In addition to that, nothing can replace the smell of the coconut rice cooking, the sounds of the sambal sizzling on the fire and the bright vibrant sights of the different ingredients being used, but most importantly the experience itself of making your own dish, may it be a success or a failure it would definitely be something you would remember and treasure more than just a 15 second video that you happen to stumble upon. This is something we try to enforce through our hands-on classes at YCA Malaysia.”

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