Kids Cooking Classes
Someone once asked me, “What is the difference between teaching kids and teaching adults?” My answer: “Adults are taller.”
But there are some differences. What is great about teaching kids is that they come with a fairly clean slate. Usually they have no preconceived notion of what they are trying to do. A lot of kids do go through the “I know,” phase. “I know.” “I know.” “I know,” they say reflexively. So I just kick into my “Obviously you do, that’s why you are not doing it the right way,” phase, which I thoroughly enjoy.
I find that adults make bigger mistakes than kids. Why? Because adults know what they are doing and try to get started without really listening–plowing through the recipe. I have actually had to throw away food that adults have started to cook with, because they didn’t listen to the instructions about how to deal with it, and because they didn’t follow my very first rule of cooking: Wash Your Hands First! That rarely happens with kids.
Kids for the most part know that they do not know what they are doing and tend to absorb instructions. Kids are quick to let me know if they think they made a mistake, and tend to make fixable mistakes. Sometimes they think they made a mistake, but actually did not. They also usually want to try something new again, which I think is great.
Kids are also fun. They like to have fun, and like to show you that they are having fun. It’s really wonderful to watch a kid try some new food for the first time and really enjoy it. And one of the true pleasures of teaching kids cooking classes is seeing the lightbulb illuminate when someone gets it. “Wow, that’s how it’s done!” Kids tend to be really impressed with cooking techniques and cool results.
I also love it when a parent tells me, “Oh, she won’t eat this or that,” and by the end of my week-long summer cooking camp, that same child will eat both this and that. When kids learn what something is – what is in it, how it’s made, where it comes from – they really open up to trying it. (I suppose adults aren’t that different, either.) And when they make their own food, their sense of ownership makes them not only love it, but want to share it.
When I teach Kids Cooking classes I don’t teach down to them. They use Chef’s knives, high heat and the rest of the potentially dangerous culinary techniques to cook a myriad of dishes from many cuisines. The only way to learn how to cook is to do it, so I have the kids do it. I teach them phrases like “Hot behind you!” that need to be yelled, not simply spoken. And we talk about what not to do if you nick yourself with something sharp. “Don’t shake your hand!” Why? Because blood can splatter EVERYWHERE. Parents are impressed with how much confidence kids gain after a cooking class, or especially a cooking camp. I love having kids mince garlic with an 8-inch Chef’s knife without looking (with both hands safely on top of the knife), to show off their new knife skills. The real accomplishment after a summer cooking camp, however, is to convince the parents to trust their kids’ new-found abilities in the kitchen.