Meet Brian Curin from Little Kitchen Academy – definitely a great guy to know and learn from!
Tell us about your work!
Little Kitchen Academy (LKA) is the key ingredient for an independent child. We are a first-of-its-kind Montessori-inspired cooking academy for kids ages three through teen focused on providing a safe, inspiring, and empowering space for children to identify, develop, and refine their senses. Through joy, mindfulness, and learning we are creating a foundation for a healthier life through responsible eating choices: from scratch to consumption.
Based in Vancouver, Canada, LKA was co-founded by me, a proven global brand and franchise expert and serial entrepreneur; my wife, Montessori-trained, culinary expert and visionary Felicity Curin; and social impact investor and entrepreneur Praveen Varshney, on the belief that by empowering children with practical life skills and knowledge in a positive and joyful environment, we will effect positive lifestyle changes that result in a healthier world. True to our mission, we live to create a more educated, able, and healthy society through mindful, healthy eating choices, and are committed to changing lives from scratch.
Part of our mission includes empowering students to learn how they can make the world a better place through How Can I Help by Little Kitchen Academy, our signature philanthropic program supporting Chefs for Humanity, The Global FoodBanking Network, Kids Help Phone, and PHIT America.
In addition to charitable partnerships, we have forged strategic global brand partnerships with the following amazing brands:
We offer sessions Monday through Sunday, where students experience a 3-hour class once a week during the school year or over five consecutive days during Summer, Winter Break, and Spring Break. Each week, students learn how to make healthy, delicious, and seasonal meals from scratch to consumption — all while experimenting with math and science concepts, working on their reading skills, and polishing up their table manners by sharing meals around the LKA Community Table (made with more than 33,000 recycled chopsticks). We currently have corporate and franchise locations open in both Canada and the U.S., with more opening soon!
Why did you decide to work at your company?
The simple answer is that my wife asked me to! My wife, Felicity, had this vision for several years and had always talked about bringing Little Kitchen Academy to life. After I exited my last company, Flip Flop Shops, we knew that this was something the world needed, that our family needed, and that Felicity needed. We felt like we were five minutes ahead of where we believe the world should be by doing something like this and when we looked at our three daughters and thought about what we wanted for them and our community, we made the very easy decision to breathe life into LKA. Originally, the vision started out as just one location that my wife wanted to open as a passion project, but as we began to look at the concept more and as I began to share it with my network, everyone kept saying “you need to do this… you need to take this global”. Everyone was so excited by the idea and kept asking us what we needed to make it happen. They all wanted their children to experience it or to own their own location or to just help make Felicity’s vision a reality. When we heard that, we knew this had to be bigger than just one location and started to figure out how we could share this gift with as many children as possible globally.
Tell us about your family!
My family is awesome! My wife, Felicity, is the visionary behind Little Kitchen Academy. She has always been the backbone to our family, to me, and to every company I've built and has always said “yes” to moving around the world and chasing our dreams. She has an amazing culinary and education background and has been the driving force behind our family living a healthy lifestyle. She is the main reason I’m still standing after having life-saving open-heart surgery back in 2012. We have three daughters: twins who are 19 and in their second year of university and our youngest daughter who is 17 and finishing up her last year in senior school. All three of our daughters are Little Kitchen Academy instructors, so it's truly a family business and a legacy that we feel like we are building together and sharing as a family!
One of our twin girls, Gabriella is in her second year at Ryerson University and is just one of the coolest people I've ever known in my life who does not let anything stop her – she is my princess. Bronwyn, her twin, is in her second year at the University of Victoria and is focused on neuroscience with a goal of curing migraines. She is one of my favourite people to be around and is always making me smile and laugh – she is my best buddy. Our youngest Gwen is my champ. She is in her last year at West Point Grey Academy and is one of the most extraordinary human beings you could ever meet. She was one of the youngest female black belts in Taekwondo and has competed nationally. She is the captain of her cross-country team, a prefect at her school, a first responder, an artist, an old soul, and just an amazing human.
Most of my direct family is in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Chicago, Illinois, or in Arizona. I was born and raised in Lake Geneva, have lived in Guatemala, Scottsdale, USVI, Florida, and Atlanta, but I’m a very proud and grateful permanent resident of the Great White North!
What was the hardest thing about becoming a dad?
I didn't have time to really worry about or stress about becoming a dad because it happened so quickly and we had twins, so I was a dad twice right away! I think the most challenging thing about being a dad was just making sure that I could be a good husband and good dad at the same time, which is not easy. Being a dad is the best thing in the world and my girls are the greatest gifts. I am so grateful every day to have them in my life and wouldn't change a thing about our adventures and journey together as a family.
Has being a dad impacted your career? How?
Being a dad has absolutely impacted my career. It impacts every single decision I make because it's not just me and my wife… there are three other young women that I have always had to consider in any decision I made, whether it was a move or the type of company I was involved in, or even everyday decisions. As a dad, you start to make these decisions with the lens of “will my girls be proud of me” or “is it something that my girls would like” or “how could this impact my family” and that often changes what you choose to do. My wife and my girls are my support system and if that team wasn't excited about what I was doing, then it was an easy decision not to do it. Being a dad made every decision that much more important and mindful.
What's one thing you've learned from your children?
My three girls have made me a better human, a better dad, and just a better person in general, which is a benefit to the world. I know each one of them has given me so much throughout the years, but the main thing I have learned from them is how to be a better human being.
How has being a dad made you a better leader?
Without a doubt, being a dad has made me a better leader. I’ve become a more mindful leader and a more empathetic leader because my girls remind me that every person you encounter, whether it be a team member or business partner or employee or vendor, is somebody's son or daughter. That really puts me in a different frame of mind as far as how you treat people and how you approach things. It goes back to this idea of being more mindful and really being aware of yourself and of other people. Being a dad has made me both a more effective leader and a kinder leader as well.
Best advice anyone has ever given you on being a dad?
Be an island. Our job as dads is to be an island of stability, hope, positivity, empathy, trust, acceptance free from judgment, and kindness. Our kids need to know that the island is always there, whether they are crashing against it, leaving it, or just calmly enjoying it…like waves.