Taste Buds Kitchen specializes in creative and unique cooking events for kids, families and adults. What began as a few holiday baking classes and cupcake making birthday parties under the name Cupcake Kids quickly evolved into much more. Our culinary adventures now include an ever-growing variety of classes, parties, camps and special events that combine a well-balanced mix of engaging recipes, both savory and sweet, as we take to the kitchen to sprout taste buds and a good time. We’ve grown from a team of one to over twenty culinary professionals excited to bring cooking adventures to our clients. We support kids, families and food and strive to create a lifestyle around connecting, learning and growing in the culinary playgroup of the kitchen. Be sure to visit our Kitchen Studio in Chelsea and check our out retail outpost at the Flagship FAO Schwarz.
Taste Buds Kitchen is proclaimed the “Best Kids Cooking Class” by New York Magazine and featured as the must try activity by CBS, NBC, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, The New York Times, and Hampton Magazine.
Meet Our Management Team
Jessi Walter Brelsford, Founder & Chief Bud
Jessi Walter Brelsford is a dynamic professional who loves combining her passions for kids, food, business and start-ups at Taste Buds Kitchen. Formerly a Vice President at Bear Stearns and graduate of Harvard University, where she was a Division I Swimmer. As one of 23 first cousins, Jessi has a passion for kids and their development. In her previous life as a swimmer, Jessi started a company offering technique lessons for young swimmers and brought the same enthusiasm and fundamentals to the pool as she brings to the kitchen. Since weekly Gourmet Nights with her mom and sister growing up, Jessi has developed a true passion and expertise in culinary adventures and is excited to bring these experiences to the kids and families of New York City. When not at Taste Buds Kitchen, you can find her at home enjoying her husbands culinary talents or out exploring the many wonderful restaurants and hot chocolate spots that New York City has to offer. Jessi is available to be a spokesperson, TV personality, and recipe developer. Be sure to check out “The Cupcake Club” series for tweens, her first book series as a recipe developer with Carrie & Sheryl Berk.
Jeff Brelsford, Chief Operating Officer & Director of Facilities
In 2013, Jeff Brelsford joined the Taste Buds Kitchen team to assist in the launch and management of the Taste Buds Kitchen Franchise Business. Jeff’s background is focused in architecture, construction & real estate in New York City. With a Masters in Architecture, Jeff began his career designing and building residential buildings in Manhattan. An MBA from NYU in Real Estate and Finance brought Jeff to the commercial side of the industry where he served as the in-house architect for a NYC real estate company. Managing all aspects of architectural design and working directly with the construction department Jeff assisted in the re-branding and re-launching of the division as a Design/Build company. After years on the ownership side of the NYC real estate market Jeff re-immersed himself into the world of architecture, taking a management role in a small commercial architecture firm. In this position, Jeff managed the day to day operations of the firm. Jeff brings to Taste Buds Kitchen his vast knowledge in the area of design and construction as well as years of experience in real estate and operations management. And of course he loves to cook, especially for Jessi!
Nicole Bassis, Team Manager & Executive Chef
Native New Yorker, Nicole grew up around trendy ingredients and flavors, her favorite food memory was at the age of 7 eating Paella in a West Village restaurant where she insisted on seeing the kitchen and meeting the chef! Paella to this day remains Nicole’s comfort food! Nicole spent every summer until the age of 16 with her mothers side of the family in Finland, where she learned the importance of sustainable food – digging potatoes from the dirt and foraging for mushrooms, watching her grandma – a professional baker for over 40 years pull loaves of bread out of a wood burning brick oven, always planning the next big feast because “everyday brings new hunger.” Graduating from The Institute of Culinary Education with a degree in Culinary Arts, Nicole knew instantly she wanted to work with children and teach cooking. Nicole most recently took a hiatus from NYC moving to a ski town in the Catskills to manage a Bed & Breakfast where she created gourmet 3-course breakfasts with locally sourced ingredients. Nicole has been entertaining kids through cooking at Taste Buds Kitchen for over 3 years and loves that everyday is a new food adventure in the kitchen! When Nicole is not testing delicious new recipes at TBK she enjoys eating out at the new “it” restaurant in the city, vineyard hopping on the North Fork or camping by a fire pit in the Catskills (with a full bag of marshmallows of course!)
Sammy Rozar, Events Director
Sammy was born in Northern New Jersey, into a large Italian family, where food and family took huge precedent in her everyday life. Her love of children and food started at a young age, both from growing accustomed to the ‘sunday dinner’ tradition of her favorite Italian dishes, and working at summer camp throughout her entire teenage life. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management, where she studied event management and learned how to plan events from start to finish as well as manage her own kitchen!
Jessica Merkley, School Program & Marketing Director
Hailing from the far-away farmlands of the West, Jessica graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Early Childhood Education. Following the completion of her degree she instructed kindergarten in the public school system and served as a missionary in Lithuania, but then fell in love with a soldier in the US Army, married him, and took her talents abroad. Jessica taught in Germany for the Department of Defense Education Activity, which afforded her extensive experience serving and working with military families. The loves of her life include wood-fired Mexican tortillas, the sea when its angry, the smell of baking bread, and her hunk of a husband. Jessica’s soap-box of choice is all about kids and the food they eat. Ask her when you should start teaching children to cook and she’ll emphatically answer, “Immediately!”
Linda Velez, FAO Sales Manager
Meet Our Teachers
Food has always been a passion for Khadiga, as she travels her way around the world sampling cuisines and learning techniques from many different cultures. Her appetite started in California before moving to the Middle East then settling in New York City and becoming a teacher at Taste Buds Kitchen. During the school year, she gets great happiness in teaching kids new flavors and recipes, as well as fun nutrition facts from her Nutrition masters background. In summer months, she finds herself in foreign countries learning new recipes herself, with her most recent experience cooking authentic Italian food amongst the olive trees and vineyards of Tuscany. Her favorite part of the experience is returning home and sharing all her new skills in our Taste Buds Kitchen!
Born in Rochester New York with a BA in Theatre from Niagara University Rebecca started off as an actor and children’s acting teacher. She toured across the US and into China performing with a physical theatre troupe called Imago teaching workshops to children of all ages as she went. After she decided to settle down she found herself in NYC where she embraced the restaurant world and became the event director for fine dining restaurants, working with Celebrity Chefs Anne Burrel and Amanda Freitag. While she enjoyed her time in the New York Restaurant scene, she wanted something more fulfilling from her work. Then she found Taste Buds Kitchen, where her love of children, food and event planning all came together. She is extremely happy to be a part of the Taste Buds Kitchen team!
Courtney was born and raised on Long Island as part of a large Irish family where food and entertaining are considered some of the most important things in life. As one of the oldest of 25 first cousins, Courtney grew up surrounded by children and graduated with a degree in Developmental Psychology from Manhattan College. She started cooking at a young age, helping her Mom, Grandmother and Aunts in the kitchen. Her passion for food has only grown stronger since taking culinary classes around NYC and while studying abroad in Spain. When she is not in the kitchen, Courtney works in Marketing and Event Planning, and loves being a part of the Taste Buds team because it allows her to mix all three of her passions – children, food and entertaining! Courtney also teaches many of our adult classes and often says how they remind her of hanging out and cooking with her family and friends at home. In her spare time, Courtney loves trying out new restaurants around NYC and often attempts to recreate the menu at home whether its hors d’oeuvres and cocktails for her book club, or a full blown dinner party!
Maggie Worth is a 2010 graduate of Manhattan College, currently working in the field of IT Consulting as a Business Development Operations Assistant. After college, Maggie knew she wanted to take her love of baking to the next level, and was so fortunate to have a friend working at TBK who helped bring her on board. Not only does she love baking, but has discovered a real passion for cooking, and hopes to one day travel the world learning new skills and refining those she has picked up along the way! When she isn’t working, Maggie is an avid runner, completing her first marathon this past fall, and currently training for a slew of upcoming winter races. A resident of New York for the past 7 years, Maggie lives in the East Village and enjoys all that Manhattan has to offer; Central Park in the summer, farmers markets in the fall, and holiday windows and pretty street lights in the winter.