Les Petits Chefs work magic in the kitchen with John Placko

John Placko of the Modern Culinary Academy might call himself a chef but I know otherwise. He’s actually the Pied Piper in a chef’s coat 😉 Each and every time he comes to work with my Petits Chefs, something magical happens. The boys hang on his every word. I honestly could have him administering a crazy hard test and they would do what he said. My fabulous assistant, Ms Carter, and I watched on in amazement as John led the boys around the lab this past Monday. They were rapt. To the point where I feel I might have to start teaching French through molecular cuisine 😉

When John came to work with the boys for the first time, they made melon caviar, yoghurt sheets, carbonated strawberries, cranberry snow and chocolate micro sponge and we all thought that was pretty impressive… Then he came and showed the boys how to make sous vide caramelized bananas with coconut gel and snow. And we all thought it couldn’t get much better. THEN he showed them how to work with “rhubarb in textures” and I wasn’t sure he could top that session, yet he managed to with just four words: Liquid Nitrogen. Edible Gold.

There’s something really special about watching John work magic with everyday ingredients, few neat gadgets and some “super cool” ingredients. But when you combine that with a handful of boys (even those who have been lucky enough to work with him multiple times) as his audience/ participants, something really magical happens. The whole concept of molecular cuisine is new to the boys so watching them watch as regular ingredients transform into something special (at their hands!) is kind of like watching much younger children taste new foods for the first time. There are a whole lot of very wide open eyes and a lot of “Wows”!

This week, John worked with a whole lot of regular ingredients to create a magical (and pretty!) plate of berries in various textures.

We started with eggs. Separating eggs is always a popular activity (it’s not that easy so thankfully John had extra eggs….). We were making ide cream so we just needed the yolks.

Kids learning how to crack eggs on eatlivetravelwrite.comSeparating eggs on eatlivetravelwrite.comThen John showed them how to make a quick ice cream in the Thermomix. A few of the boys have made ice cream with me in a regular ice cream maker so they were fascinated with this “quick” process…

Making icecream in Thermomix with John Placko on eatlivetravelwrite.comAfter 9 minutes, we separated the mixture into three bowls and added some flavours – bubblegum, pineapple and banana…

Making ice cream with John Placko on eatlivetravelwrite.comAnd took a little vanilla and placed it in a squeeze bottle so that the boys could make “ice cream pearls” (or “chunks” as some of the more enthusiastically dropped-into-liquid-nitrogen drops turned out!). We let the drops sit in a liquid nitrogen bath until they hardened up, then carefully removed them (well, John did) and let them warm up a little so they didn’t “burn” our mouths…

Making ice cream pearls with John Placko on eatlivetravelwrite.comThe boys also used liquid nitrogen to make “raspberry niblets”. We took regular raspberries and gently placed them in a liquid nitrogen bath until they crackled and popped and hardened. Then we crushed them between two bowls…

Making freeze dried raspberry pieces with John Placko on eatlivetravelwrite.comMaking freeze dried raspberry niblets with John Placko on eatlivetravelwrite.comKids crushing freeze dried raspberries on eatlivetravelwrite.comIt was a whole lotta fun. I mean – dangerous ingredients combined with “crushing” something? What more could you ask for? 😉

Over at another station, the boys were working on some cranberry foam.  We combined just 100mls of water with some cranberry purée and Versa Whip and whisked it for around 7 minutes. The boys couldn’t believe how the mixture went from nothing to a huge amount of foam in such a short amount of time…

Making cranberry foam with John Placko on eatlivetravelwrite.comMeanwhile, over at “liquid nitrogen central” the boys were hard at work making their ice cream base into ice cream…

LIquid nitrogen ice cream on eatlivetravelwrite.com Kids making liquid nitorgen ice cream on eatlivetravelwrite.com Kids working with JOhn Placko on liquid nitorgen ice cream on eatlivetravelwrite.com Kids mixing liquid nitrogen ice cream on eatlivetravelwrite.com Kids working with John Placko on molecular cuisine on eatlivetravelwrite.comHonestly – best fun ever!

We also carbonated some fruit in a whipped cream siphon… (not sure where my pics of these are – the lab was a little crazy – in a good way!)

Then it was time to plate up. We had a number of different components by now – carbonated fruit, cranberry foam, ice cream, ice cream pearls, raspberry niblets and a couple of things John brought for fun – pop rocks, cranberry meringues and, well, edible gold. The boys were absolutely fascinated with the gold – “We’re going to EAT that?” – as you will see in their plating attempts. Here’s what John made to show them an example…

John Placko's berries in textures on eatlivetravelwrite.comAnd they went to town…

Kids plating berries in textures on eatlivetravelwrite.comHere are some of the boys’ versions – I wasn’t fast enough to get photos of all the plates – they were being eaten as fast as they were being created!

Kids work with John Placko on eatlivetravelwrite.com Kids plate with John Placko on eatlivetravelwrite.com Kids icecream and berries in textures with John Placko on eatlivetravelwrite.com Kids plating John Placko's food on eatlivetravelwrite.com Kids berries in textures on eatlivetravelwrite.comUm, so yeah, the liquid gold… Some people REALLY liked it 😉

John, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to come and work with the boys – not only is is ridiculously fun but so educational. It’s honestly the best way to make science appealing to those of us (ahem!) who aren’t really science types. Your enthusiasm for teaching kids about food and your generosity in taking the time out of your busy schedule is so very appreciated!

If you’re interested in checking out some of John’s “magic” ingredients and equipment, you can buy Powder for Texture products at Nella Cucina or check out the Powder for Texture catalogue online and don’t forget to follow John Placko on Twitter.


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6 thoughts on “Les Petits Chefs work magic in the kitchen with John Placko”

  1. I know I’m female and older, but … could I be one of your boys?

    Very impressive!

    You really should be doing videos.

  2. Sometimes, I relish the idea of going back to school. Not as I work through global soil types and wine appelations, mind…

    But absolutely when I see the fun these boys are having! John Placko, fantastic sharing your skills and having fun with the boys. You and the entire Toronto chef community really do such a fine job sharing your passions.


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