You all know how much I love cooking with kids, right? Well last week I had the great fortune to spend a day at Nella Cucina’s cooking camp for kids. Result? Well firstly, I wish I had gone to such wonderful cooking classes when I was little (no, Welsh Rarebit in Home Economics class in Grade 9 does not quite come close) and secondly, more confirmation that teaching kids to cook is one of the most rewarding and fun jobs one could have!
Described on their website as “a FULL hands-on class, and much more involved than most Kids Camps. [They] cook real food, similar to a regular adult class. This is not a cooking class where kids sit and colour and decorate a few cupcakes!” A truer word was never spoken. The menu on the day I observed was as follows:
When I arrived around 10am, most of the kids were there. Some were playing hangman, some were eating the granola bars and fruit laid out on the table, some were helping Chef Pam make a smoothie snack to get the day started. It’s a calm vibe in there in the morning that’s for sure. The kids have mostly been together since Monday so they are pretty comfortable with each other, the chefs and the routine. As Chef Pam, Chef Vanessa and Chef Joanne get the day underway the go through the menu, cover safety rules, hand out tasting spoons to be kept in pockets at all times and make sure everyone’s hands are washed. The kids are divided into three groups, mostly by age and each group will work with one chef throughout the day.
The Chefs organise the menus so that the kids will stop mid-morning to have a snack (that they have prepared). Today’s snack was the spiced crackers and hummus (with a bonus “will they eat it?” eggplant dip – baba ganoush). Everyone got down to business:
The kids LOVED the chips and wolfed them down. The dips, well they tried them (one little girl took a look at the hummus and said “I don’t know what this is but I will try it!”) but didn’t eat much, especially the younger kids who happily munched on the chips after they had had the requisite taste of both dips.
After about 15 minutes break during which the older kids chatted and the younger ones played hangman (how refreshingly free of technology this room was!), everyone went back to work.
The Moroccan chicken kept them busy too!
Well this eggplant salad with Tahini dressing converted more than one self-proclaimed anti-eggplant teen!
Surprisingly, many of the kids didn’t eat much. Most of them tasted everything (sometimes on request of the Chefs) but many of them ate very little. It was a hot day and a lot of them looked completely exhausted (a long week in the kitchen!) but I was impressed to see how many of them at least tried the food. From my work with kids, I know there’s no point forcing the issue and that often, kids might not try something in front of strangers but will happily try at home later. I am betting many of the kids from this week’s class will attempt at least one of the recipes they took home.
After an impromptu dessert of ladyfingers and ice-cream (“SCORE!”), everyone went back to work on the dessert which they would take home in decorated paper bags:
What an absolutely fabulous day everyone had (me included!). It definitely gave me some ideas of ways to organise my Petits Chefs (alas, we will still be working in the science lab on single burners next year…) and some different techniques to teach them. Nella Cucina is doing a wonderful job of teaching the next generation that real food is easy and flavourful and totally do-able, even if you are only 7 years old!