Kim Santos has always had a love for two things: kids and cooking; and she eventually found a way to bring the two together.
Santos grew up near downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado. As the city began to grow, Santos’ parents moved to Hanover, Colorado. In the country, her family enjoyed raising a variety of farm animals and tending to a huge garden. “We processed our own meats and grew our own food … before organic was cool,” Santos said.
A year after Santos graduated from Hanover High School in 1984, she married and moved to Atlanta.
In 1996, Santos and her husband divorced, and she moved back to Colorado Springs with their four children. She worked at her parent’s day care center, starting out as a cook and maintenance person and making her way up to teacher and then director.
In August 1999, Santos remarried and her family of five became a family of nine (her new husband brought three children to the marriage).
Santos changed careers and worked for Chico Basin Ranch, which is on the eastern prairie, managing the ranch’s finances and cooking for all the guests. In 2008, Santos left Chico Basin Ranch and took an accounting job; and, the following year, she attended Pikes Peak Community College to major in accounting. However, she changed her major to the culinary arts, with plans to become a caterer, but time and expenses halted her goals; and she went back to early childhood education, as the director of a preschool in Castle Rock, Colorado. A year later, she quit the job to stay at home with her children.
In 2011, Santos became the director of a preschool in Castle Rock, Colorado, and worked there a year before deciding she wanted to work closer to home.
Santos and her family moved to Falcon in 2014. “We loved the community and the golf course, the community center and a big yard for our grandkids.” Six months after moving, Santos took a job as assistant director of the before/after school program — Champions — at Meridian Ranch Elementary School, and later became the director. As the Champions program grew; Santos wanted to focus on cooking classes.
She said she had started “in 2009 or 2010” a Junior Chefs cooking program for kids. “It was more of a hobby,” Santos said. The program kicked into high gear when Santos offered Junior Chef classes in the summer. “I have had investors approach me … but right now it is mine,” she said.
The Junior Chef classes have quickly grown through the use of social media and word-of-mouth. About 100 kids participate in the program, Santos said. She offers one class for children age 5 to 7 once a month and weekly classes for those age 8 and older. She has about 100 students participating in the classes. All the food is made from scratch, and Santos said the classes teach a variety of skills. “In my eyes, it teaches math, science, reading,” she said. “It also helps with social skills, cooperation and time management. They are learning to use every utensil and every piece of equipment in a home setting.”
Santos said she dreams of one day making the classes “seed to plate.” “I want to teach them how to garden and how to use it in the kitchen,” she said. “Gardening has become a lost skill because we are so used to going to the grocery store now.” She encourages her students to grow their own herbs and buy from the local farmer’s markets. “I think it is important to make healthy choices and support local businesses.”
Santos answered a few “fun” questions.
NFH: Name three famous people you would like to have dinner with (dead/alive)?
Santos: Audrey Hepburn, Elvis, Dean Martin
NFH: Name something specific you would change about the community?
Santos: More farms and bee hives
NFH: What do you like about Falcon and Colorado?
Santos: This community is big, but still very tight knit. I like that a lot. That is what I grew up with.
NFH: If you were just starting out in life, would you stick with the same career path? If not, what would you pursue?
Santos: Culinary: I changed (jobs) a lot along the way and kept questioning myself. But I think you should do a job you love.
NFH: If you had to choose one food to eat every day for the rest of your life, what food would choose?
Santos: Lobster: I am a seafood junkie.
NFH: How would you spend $1 billion?
Santos: I would put it into a serious program for kids and then pay off my family’s debt completely. Then I’d buy a corvette!
NFH: What is your greatest achievement?
Santos: My children
NFH: Do you have a personal hero?
Santos: My husband. He is the greatest person I know.
NFH: If you could time travel, what period would you visit?
Santos: I have a love affair with medieval times — something about that whole era; or Vegas during the 50s and 60s, with the Rat Pack. I love all that music.
Kim Santos has combined her experience working with children with a love for cooking. Photo by Angie Morlan