Encourage that little master chef! Tips for parents by Chef Arundati Rao of Escapades Culinary Studio

Teaching your kids how to cook will not only help equip them for a healthier, simpler life once they are older but it’s actually a really great way to help them “learn”. Kids who can cook develop confidence and self-assurance, and a greater understanding of the world in a range of ways. Here are just some of the reasons given by Chef Arundati Rao of Escapades Culinary Studio explaining why you should teach your kids to be little masterchefs!

Read on for the entire interview she gave KidEngage.

Q1. According to you, what is the right age for a child to join a cooking class /workshop?
For an organised and structured workshop it is important that the child is comfortable, able to follow instructions and act on simple instructions such as mixing and measuring. 6 years or more is ideal, but it also depends on how independent the child is, degree of shyness and interest in food. Around 6 is when they are able to follow instructions, understand reasoning and are curious too. So that is the age around which we take kids into our classes. 

Q2. Certainly, it is easier and faster for an adult to work in the kitchen alone. So why shouldparents encourage their school-age children to join a cooking class?

A: Not just joining a cooking class, the interest of a child is encouraged through involvement.Fussy eaters can be encouraged to eat better and more happily if they are involved in the process of making the food right from shopping at the supermarket for groceries to deciding the menu for the day. Ask them to be involved in simple things to start them off – decide on the menu, lay the table, pick out the plates, chop or grate vegetables and put together simple desserts. They will be excited to be a part of the meal process and more accepting of diverse food choices. Them being slow is a small price to pay for inculcating better eating habits. 

Q3. Can working in the kitchen or learning how to cook help to foster responsibility in a Child?

A: Yes, definitely so. A child feels empowered and more interested in food. It helps them make a choice slowly but surely between good and nutritious food over sugary trash when they feel like their opinions are being valued. Try encouraging a child to find out more about why a store bought sugary treat is not so good, or why a home made burger is way better than a fast food counter burger, and they will be more than willing to start making healthier more intelligent choices. Also cooking helps them to be responsible for results which are so evident in the end product. It is immediate reinforcement for the child. 

Q4. Is it true that a kitchen is actually a learning lab?

A: True. Since cooking is a step by step process, the child is encouraged to be responsible not just in following a recipe, but managing their ingredients, measuring, mixing etc. They get their hands dirty, taste, check and confirm if they are doing the right thing.The entire process is an enjoyable learning process. They also get to recreate tastes from memory which is very thrilling for children. 

Q5. What tips you have for parents who are scared of the mess that will be created once the kids enter the kitchen. How do you deal with it during your workshops?

A: Firstly, not all adults work in a clean and organised manner. So we need to go a little easy with kids. While cooking ensure first to pick a relatively easy recipe which doesnt have multiple complicated steps. Once the child is comfortable, move on to more complex stuff. While working, set some ground rules – designate a space for them to work, either the kitchen counter or a dining table, spread it with newspaper to catch spills so that you dont have too much to clean up, have a tray or a plate for wet spoons etc, explain that they need to keep a dry and wet area separate. Work as you go and encourage to do better next time if they make a mess instead of freaking out. At our workshops we do all of this and also tell them what results to expect if the process is haphazard. It is never too early to learn this. 

Q6. If you realise that one of the young participants in your sessions is actually a budding Chef. How should parents encourage and bring out this talent in their child?

A: Since it is very difficult to say if the young child is a budding chef or not, we usually encourage them to continue to cook/ bake and explore their interest. They have a long way to go before they choose a career. We love getting pictures of what they have made, post it to our FB page as encouragement, discuss what they have created or eaten on trips or baking/ cooking sessions. Basically keep the conversation going, encourage them to keep on exploring and help them navigate difficult recipes. 

Q7. It’s surprising how a fussy kid will try a new food when it’s something he’s cooked himself. How much truth does this statement hold?

A: It is a sadly ignored fact that fussy kids will try something with enthusiasm if they are involved in the cooking process. They are excited and proud to show off their creation and more likely to not ignore the effort that goes into making food if they have helped in some part of the cooking. This should definitely be encouraged in all children. Introduce them to different tastes, textures, dishes, cuisines by tasting, making it a family affair to try a new recipe weekly or start a family ritual around cooking and eating. Try this and see what a difference it makes to their eating habits. 

Q8. How does learning how to cook help Increase self-esteem in a child?

A: It is a life skill and hence very important. Apart from that, cooking and baking is now glamourous and brag worthy. So a child who is involved in cooking at home, will automatically be happy to share the stuff they make with friends and family, talk about it and even be ready for feedback. These all go a long way in bolstering their esteem. It becomes a talking point and not to mention increases their popularity.
Arundati Rao has had a 14 year long career as a corporate trainer. To give wings to her love of food, she began teaching cooking and baking from home over 9 years ago on weekends. Their success has prompted her to open a first of its kind and Hyderabad’s only Culinary studio where she conducts corporate and individual cooking and baking workshops. 

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