fennel cooking studio owner jackie price photo by virginia harold

Fennel Cooking Studio's Jackie Price is achieving her true culinary calling in Midtown St. Louis

By the time Jackie Price hit her teens, she had already fallen in love with cooking. Price’s Food Network obsession soon led to cooking for herself and her family, as well as working in restaurants through her high school years before going on to culinary school. However, Price worked as a caterer, dietician, baker, personal chef and recipe developer before realizing her true culinary calling: teaching others how to cook. She opened Fennel Cooking Studio in Midtown in September 2023 and hasn’t looked back. Here, she tells us about her path to opening Fennel and the joy she experiences from seeing uncertain, reluctant cooks leave her classroom feeling accomplished and empowered with new skills ranging from knife techniques to pasta making.

“I always feel very grateful for my parents. They trusted me with most things from a very young age, and so when I took up an interest in cooking, they were like, ‘Alright, cook whatever you want, whenever you want. How can we support you?’ I would plan our meals for the entire week starting when I was 13. I’m sure I made things that were bad, but I would see someone make something on Top Chef or Food Network and say, ‘That’s what we’re having for dinner tomorrow night.’”

“I worked in restaurants, back of the house, all throughout high school. That's where I really fell in love with cooking and knew that I wanted to go to culinary school. By the time I went to culinary school, I didn't think that restaurants were the industry for me, but I loved food.”

“I got an offer to come back to St. Louis University as an employee and I ran their school lunch program. SLU used to have a school lunch program where we made meals from scratch for local elementary and middle schools with local produce and things like that. I really enjoyed that, and then I got an opportunity to teach some of the culinary classes at SLU. Then I was like, ‘Oh, this is what I want to do.’”

“I taught the intro to cooking class for sophomores at SLU. I really just found myself coming alive. It was an 8 a.m. class, I should have been so dead tired, but I was so energized, I was connecting with students and I found that anytime they had a question, I had so much knowledge to share that I didn't even realize was tucked away back there.”

“After several years of that, I honestly just got a little tired of the academic setting. I wanted to do this my way, in a fun, vibrant environment. So I started dreaming up Fennel.”

“Fennel is a space for community to come together through cooking classes and for people to come in and feel empowered and excited by cooking. [I want people] to say, ‘Wow, this is so delicious, and I know how to make it and I can make it at home.’ Every time I run a class, I hear people say that without prompting, and it feels wonderful, it’s very emotional.”

“A lot of people come on their own, but a lot of people come in pairs or larger groups. A lot of times the pairs of people are friends, or couples, or parents and kids, and they’re in that same space where one person's like, ‘Oh, I love to bake and I cook all the time at home,’ and one person is like, ‘I'm nervous about it, but I'm here to try something new.’ It becomes a really fun place for people to bond and to experience new things.”

“There are definitely some people who come to us and say, ‘I have no idea what I'm doing,’ or, ‘I'm worried that I'm going to mess everything up.’ It's fun to work with those people and have them in class because I can make it a more accessible environment and less scary.”

“While I was in culinary school, I also studied abroad in Florence, Italy, and worked in a restaurant there. I learned a lot of Italian food there, it's some of my favorite food to cook and so I offer those classes a lot. People love making homemade pasta. Everyone's familiar with pasta, but it’s such a level up to make it yourself. People might not always make it themselves all the time at home, but it's a fun thing to understand how it works and to maybe do it sometimes.”

“Cooking with local mushrooms is another one of my favorite classes to teach and it’s one of the most popular classes. I think it demystifies things. There have been countless times I’ve seen people at the farmers market with their bags and they come up to me and tell me they bought lion’s mane mushrooms and they’re going to make the recipes from class. That’s what I aim for. What I love hearing and seeing is people at the market interacting with farmers and growers and buying things that they ate in class and now understand how to use.”

“I think there's a lot of need for connection right now. People are feeling the aftermath of not meeting new people in person for a while and wanting to connect with new people or just have somewhere to go that's out of the house. [At Fennel] they can be around a group of like-minded people, where you're not just going to a bar by yourself and being like, ‘I hope I make 16 new friends.’ When you come to a cooking class, you get to chat with all the people in class and meet new people.”

3043 Olive St., St. Louis, 314.200.5410, fennelstl.com


Tags : People