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Spencer Venancio, a 14-year-old up and coming Culinary Arts chef in the Twin Cities giving a demonstration

Spring Lake Park High School students in Family and Consumer Science Culinary courses had the opportunity to receive a demonstration from Spencer Venancio, a 14-year-old up and coming Culinary Arts chef in the Twin Cities.

Spring Lake Park High School students in Family and Consumer Science Culinary courses had the opportunity to receive a demonstration from Spencer Venancio, a 14-year-old up and coming Culinary Arts chef in the Twin Cities.

Venancio, a middle school student from Stillwater, MN, has spent the last four years hosting dinner parties and learning from chefs in acclaimed restaurants in the Midwest including Spoon and Stable, Travail and Alinea as well as the Michelin Starred Californios in San Francisco. He currently specializes in pop-up dinner events where he takes over a restaurant for the night, creates a special menu and then cooks and serves 12 courses to 18 guests.

In his first ever cooking demonstration, Venancio prepared a seared chicken dish, displaying his cooking techniques, discussing kitchen rules and safety measures and answering questions from students.

I hope my demonstration showed these students how passionate I am about cooking and will inspire them to cook more often and find the joy of cooking. I also hope that they see cooking as a career opportunity and not just a class they need to pass in high school. Spencer Venancio

SLPHS Family and Consumer Science teacher Lori Henry said she hopes this experience allows students to see the passion Venancio has for cooking and can apply that same passion to their own future career, whatever that may be.

“He is younger than all of the students in these classes, yet is gaining real-world, hands-on experiences that will help pave the way in his future, which is a great lesson for all students as they think about what they want to do after high school,” Henry said. “I also hope this experience gives insight and encouragement to some students who may be interested in pursuing a career in cooking.”

Q&A with Spencer Venancio

How did you get into this line of work? I started hosting dinner parties at my house when I was 10 and then I started reaching out to restaurants to see if I could come in to cook and learn.

Have you always been passionate about cooking? Growing up, my family was always into cooking. I got really passionate about it when I was 10 and I’ve always had a “I want to be the best at whatever I’m doing” mentality, so when I really got into cooking, I decided to learn and much as possible, research and learn from others in the business.  

Cooking style? Modern America. This isn’t a defined style and it isn’t in a confined box, so I can basically cook anything I want and have the freedom to try new techniques and experiment with new dishes.

Weirdest dish you’ve made? Snails.

Best part of cooking? The satisfaction of knowing I made people happy because of the dishes I cooked.

Worst part of cooking? Cleaning up.

How do you balance school and cooking? I do well in school and keep my grades up because my parents won’t let me continue to cook and do the popups if I fall behind and I of course don’t want that to happen.

Current goal? Keep learning, experimenting and trying new dishes. Also, to continue to grow the pop-ups.

End goal? Open my own restaurant.

Spencer Venancio, guest culinary chef putting the finishing touches on his plate
Spencer Venancio's finished plate of food from the culinary demonstration
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  • Spring Lake Park High School