The Nibble Nook: Turning Lessons Into Sweet Success 7

Kids get into the flour with baking lessons

Chef John Boydston is most at home in the kitchen. It’s where he had his first job, flipping eggs and washing dishes at age 13. It’s where he learned the ropes from other chefs. It’s where he honed his talent as a pastry chef and teacher.

At The Nibble Nook, his bakery and pastry learning center on Green Hills Road, it’s where he’s found his passion: instilling a love of food and confidence in the kitchen in kids as young as three and adults of all ages.

A Northland native, Boydston studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and worked his way up the ladder in large hotel kitchens. He relocated to Kansas City in 2009 to be closer to his father and other family, and worked as the Executive Pastry Chef at Argosy Casino. It was in that position, he said, that an idea sparked.

“I know what I’m good at. I’m an effective leader and I understand how kitchens work. Food isn’t work to me; it’s a passion, and I love pulling talent from other people. I wanted to create an environment to teach and to show anyone who wants to learn that they can,” he says.

Learning goes both ways in the kitchen, and Boydston says he’s been surprised at how rewarding the transition from a corporate kitchen to opening The Nibble Nook has been for him.

“There’s something special about spending time with someone and seeing the smile on their face when they walk out with something they made themselves,” he says. “That’s especially true when I work with kids with special needs or someone who’s had a bad start in life.”

Boydston teaches how he learned: through repetition and constructive criticism.

“There wasn’t Food Network then. We read books. We practiced. We did things over and over again until it was right. We learned about respect—in a kitchen brigade, the chef is the top dog and everyone else has their place in line. I’m still very old school,” he says.

He’s also fun.

“We have a good time. I put on music, we dance. I’ve whipped and nae-nae’ed, and everyone laughs,” he says. “I’m proud of that. Part of working in kitchens for so long means missing a lot of work-life balance, being in the kitchen all the time and not at home, not enjoying meals or events with family and friends, and that’s something I wanted. I want to see the sunshine and interact with different people, and I can do that now.”

The work life balance is a struggle because being a chef, he says, isn’t just a job title.

“I’m not a chef at work and then someone else when I go home. Being a chef is who I am, not what I do. I treat everyone with the same level of integrity and respect as I demand; it’s just who I am. I didn’t pick this career. It chose me. I fit this mold,” he says. “And now it’s time for me to give back.”

He wants to do that by passing on what he’s learned and by making a difference in the lives of people he meets. A former adjunct at The Art Institute, Boydston now mentors high school students and has worked with the Mid-Continent Public Library.

“This is giving me so much more than I anticipated. I’m happy, the people in class are happy, my team is happy. That’s huge to me,” he says.

Youth classes are especially popular at The Nibble Nook. Boydston doesn’t let parents into the kitchen—it’s his rule, he says, because he doesn’t want his students to worry about “doing it right.

We break eggs, we spill stuff. We don’t care; we fix it and move on. I teach the kids how to safely use the ovens and I let them work the mixer. They learn by repetition and because it’s fun.”

The Nibble Nook also hosts hands-on birthday parties and mid-day classes for those who home-school.

As word has spread about the space and Boydston’s expertise, he’s taken requests to create corporate team building events and now hosts couples’ nights; Boydston teaches the couples how to make pasta and patrons can BYOB.

Boydston focuses on baking and sweets at The Nibble Nook, meaning there’s no animal protein in the kitchen, but he’s always looking for ways to grow.

“If something sounds fun and we can pull it off, we’ll do it,” he says.

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