The Real Food Academy changes to survive the era of COVID-19 by Leidy Iglesias

At an establishment where group gatherings are at the center, The Real Food Academy has had to reinvent itself in order to survive and adapt to the restrictions of COVID-19.

Formerly known as Cooking With Kids Miami, The Real Food Academy is a small business in Miami that offers cooking classes to adults and kids alike. It all started in 2008 when owner Maria Cummins offered to teach a cooking class for an after-school program at Montessori School. She said it was “an overnight success” and opened her first establishment in 2010. She moved to her current location in 2017, and business has been growing ever since. 

Cummins said, “We had huge birthday parties and team building events every single day. Then, from one day to the next, everything went down to completely zero.” This was the effect of COVID-19 for many small businesses throughout Miami, and Cummins realized she could no longer rely on in-person cooking classes to support her establishment, she said. 

Turning to seek the aid of technology, Cummins began filming her employees and posting lesson videos on YouTube for customers to watch at home. She is now venturing into Zoom and recently held the academy’s first lesson in which her chefs can see the students on the other screen. The academy has been getting many requests for virtual lessons from places like Wells Fargo and Miami Dade College, said Cummins.

Moreover, Cummins had started working on adding a small cafe to her business early this year. The cafe was barely operational however, said Cummins, and with physical cooking classes out of the picture, the cafe became the center of attention.

“It was the only thing we could do. We put all our energy there and did everything we could with the limitations,” said Cummins. Though COVID-19 impacted the academy negatively, Cummins said the focus on the cafe was a major positive.

Due to the restrictions on indoor dining in Miami, she contacted as many delivery companies as she could, including Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub, and made the meals that she taught to classes available for anyone to order.

Cummins then decided to open dining outdoors, and The Real Food Academy Cafe’s patio was born. In front of the beautiful ocean-themed art surrounding her building, she bought tables and flowery plants and transformed the area into a place for people to stop by and enjoy a meal. 

“More people know us now through the cafe,” said Cummins.

Though this summer was nothing compared to the 60-70 kids that would normally come to the academy weekly, things have been starting to pick up again, she said. 

Along with the growth of the cafe, in-person classes are resuming with the proper precautions. Students are placed six feet apart and are given temperature checks. Everyone who enters is required to wear a mask and surfaces are sanitized before, during, and after each class.

Cummins said she is happy to be able to teach kids about healthy eating again. 

She started her business back in 2010 only with the goal to teach kids to cook, but after researching what was really in many foods people eat, Cummins said she wanted to take a healthier approach, which was when she changed her business name.

“We wanted to show people what is processed food and what is real food, and that’s what it’s all about.”

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