Everything about the Epicurean Hotel oozes luxury. From the elegance of Spa Evangeline to the decadence of dessert shop Chocolate Pi and the rooftop bar The Edge, opulence abounds. But there’s also a heart and soul which some members of the Tampa area Boys & Girls Clubs have experienced in the last month. 

Thanks to the efforts of founder Vicki Anzalone, Epicurean Hotel General Manager Tom Haines and Epicurean Chef Max Sherard, the five-class cooking series “Where Love Grows” has been teaching young chefs the art of preparing their own meals.

“This is a great, great way for me to give back,” said Sherard. “I can pass along my gift. If they don’t become the next Top Chef, maybe they can learn to make a few meals for themselves and enjoy it”.

Besides preparing their own lunch each week, the children also learn about healthy eating and how to create meals for themselves at home. Anzalone says the crusade for the Where Love Grows Foundation is to end childhood hunger in Hillsborough County and beyond. She says 28 percent of the children in the county go home hungry every day.

“We have zero budget, but it doesn’t stop me,” said Anzalone, who also uses a group of 8-20 volunteers to help the cause.

Calling the Epicurean “Mecca," Anzalone has seen the number of students increase by nearly 25 percent in the second year of the program. She was also named a Tampa Bay Lightning Community Hero and is using some of the money to help finance the launch of a mobile cooking program to reach children on a wider scale.

Next on the list is the graduation ceremony on Aug. 5 and taking part in the Tampa Yankees’ “Hope Week” Aug. 18.