These Kids Are Cookin!
by Kathy Sena
Maybe its the Emeril influence or the kick 1st graders seem to get out of watching the Iron Chef unveil the special ingredient of the day when its (ugh) live eel but todays junior chefs are eagerly kicking it up a notch in cooking classes designed just for them.
Todays 7- to 12-year-old chefs-in-training listen for the popping sound as they boil fresh cranberries to make homemade cranberry sauce. They tie fragrant spices in cheesecloth bags to make hot-spiced cider. They chop pecans and juggle measuring spoons to whip up a gooey praline pumpkin pie that would bring Emeril to tears.
Holidays rule in these kitchens, with class schedules that follow the calendar. Classes featuring Christmas and Hanukkah foods are popular, of course, along with Thanksgiving, Valentines Day and other occasions.
Cooking Classes for Kids
Its A Giggle, 1600 Commerce Pkwy., Ste. A, Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054, 856-222-9840. Childrens entertainment center offers a variety of classes, including cooking for children ages 4-8. Next classes start in January 2007. www.itsagiggle.com
JCCs Kaiserman Branch, 45 Haverford Rd., Wynnewood, PA 19096, 610-896-7770, ext. 192. KidsTime, an after-school program for grades 1-5, includes homework help, cooking, swimming, sports and crafts. www.phillyjcc.com
Kids Kucina, 215-518-1066,
Kitchen Capers, Eastgate Square, 1341 Nixon Dr., Moorestown, NJ 08057, 856-778-7705. Kids in the Kitchen childrens
ShopRite Culinary Workshops, offered at ShopRite supermarkets in Delran, Hainesport and Marlton, NJ. Kids' Culinary Classes, 2-hour workshops for ages 5-12 are limited to 12 participants. Contact the courtesy desk at your ShopRite for information. www.shoprite.com/CulinaryWorkShop.aspx
The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, 4207 Walnut St., Phila., PA 19104, 215-222-4200. Each summer, The Restaurant School offers a Junior Chefs Cooking Camp. www.therestaurantschool.com
Young Chefs Academy, Limestone Road, Pike Creek, DE 19711,
Wilde Thyme Cafe and Cooking School, 1149 Lancaster Ave., Rosemont Sq., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010, 610-581-7700. Parent and child pairs are encouraged to participate in Teaching Traditions, monthly cooking classes that highlight traditions surrounding the nearest holiday. Ages 5 and up. Advance registration required. www.wildethyme.com
Learning how professional chefs go about their tasks makes an impression on students, says Moore. Within the first 10 minutes, her students know the meaning of a well-known phrase in restaurant kitchens: Hot! Behind! Translation: Danger! Im coming up behind you and Im carrying a hot pan!
Theyre learning life skills, says Moore, who reminds kids to walk with knives held close to the body and pointed down and to lift pot lids away from them so as not to send hot steam into their faces.
Cooking can give kids math and reading skills a good workout too. Moore breaks the students into small groups, with one child in charge of reading the recipe and others tasked with measuring spices, flour, etc. Theres much chatter about half cups, quarter cups, teaspoons and tablespoons along with the inevitable mix-up here and there. But even the occasional kitchen mishap is a good opportunity. We learn from our mistakes, Moore says. We talk about them.
Outgrowing the Yuckies
Mom Denise Crandall says taking kids cooking classes has been a great experience for her grade-school-aged boys. But she confesses she cant wait to exact just a bit of motherly revenge the first time her kids cook the family dinner. Im going to say Ewwww, I dont like this. This tastes yucky. The salad and the beans are touching! she laughs.
Getting over the yuckies is all part of the process when kids find that food tastes better and seems a bit less mysterious when they make it themselves. One of the benefits of kids learning to cook is that they become willing to try foods theyd never touch at home.
Im not sure about pecans, says one 8-year-old as he carefully chops the nuts at a Turkey Day! cooking class. But I know whatever I make here is gonna be good.
Kathy Sena is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to MetroKids.