This summer we challenged ourselves to teach kids classes similar to how we teach adult classes. Everyone cooking from scratch, doing the whole process themselves from measuring ingredients, prepping and cutting, working in teams and cleaning. The kids met the challenge! We had 17 kids from age 10 to age 15 and they made some delicious dishes. Even the youngest ones stepped in and took charge of their kitchen. It was impressive.
The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the premier school for Professional Chefs, just put out a new cookbook for kids “The Young Chef: Recipes and Techniques for Kids Who Love to Cook.” It really validated our approach of teaching kids actual cooking skills and techniques instead of just letting them ice cupcakes or using processed foods in clever ways. I took the title of this blog post from The New York Times review of the cookbook. To further quote that article: 'Pizza starts with dough, not an English muffin'. We couldn't agree more!
Here's the list of skills we covered in the week of classes:
• Sauté (vegetables, shrimp,)
• Pan frying (tofu, chicken)
• Roasting (chicken, carrots, cauliflower steaks)
• Breads (pizza dough)
• Baking (short cakes, pie, chantilly cream, cream)
• Snacks (lemonade, smoothies, hummus, salsa, energy bars)
• Sauces (raspberry, chocolate, romesco, pizza, vinaigrette, cream inglaise).
• Rice cooking (basmati and aborio)
• Eggs (hard boiled, separating)
• Knife safety and misc. knife skills
• Mise en place
• Keeping a clean workspace
• Cooking without a recipe
We started each class with a challenge or relay where the teams competed in creating a snack without using a recipe. Not only did it allow them to be creative, but taught a lot about balancing ingredients for flavor, texture and presentation. When you follow a recipe, the recipe's author has done that work for you, so we wanted the kids to take a stab at on their own.
The worst that can happen with this approach is that no one wants to eat the snack and stays hungry until the meal is plated. That only happened once. All the snacks turned out great except on the last day, when we made energy bars. The teams decided chocolate was a critical ingredient and if some is good, then more is better. Semi-sweet, white chocolate and cocoa powder were all used in abundance. Those energy bars were so overwhelmingly chocolate-ized that no one could take more than a bite. One team added quinoa and that strategy worked to counterbalance some of the chocolate - so we chose them as the challenge winners for the day.
It was a good lesson for everyone, including us! We learned that including chocolate as an optional ingredient is not such a good idea when kids are cooking without a recipe (smile).
Such a good time and we hope to have many more!