I try to teach my kids how to cook and to make it fun. I’m not always as patient as I should be, but for the most part, each of my four children love to eat, they’re happy and relaxed in the kitchen, and they know how to make a lot of the basics. They can make a bechamel and how to poach an egg. They appreciate homemade pasta and freshly ground meat for burgers. But my youngest, the 8 year-old, is the one with the greatest passion for cooking. If you follow my Twitter feed, you know how frequently I come home to muffins or cookies or bread. Clara makes those all the time, and her favorite book right now is the Fannie Farmer Baking Book (she actually reads it before she goes to bed). She also loves baking books by Dorie Greenspan, Karen Barker, and Nancie McDermott. Yes, the child likes to cook, but she really loves to bake.
Well, last week she spent her days at a cooking camp: Classy Kids Cook! in Cary. When I read about this place, quite frankly, I wanted to gag a bit. The website seems so over the top in the “touchy-feely” category. And when I heard that the instructors all had to be called “Chef,” I really rolled my eyes. But then Clara started to go to this camp and come home describing what she did that day. She made pesto and pasta from scratch. She learned the proper way to set a formal table. She worked in a professional kitchen with a full walk-in fridge and learned not to be a slave to recipes. And most importantly, she had fun.
I’ve attended a number of cooking classes, and quite honestly, they’re usually a waste of time for me. Yeah, I’m snooty and feel like I know more than the instructor, but that’s because the type of class offered is rarely focused on advanced technique, like learn butchery or esoteric Asian cooking. Most classes focus on cooking from recipes without giving proper attention to technique. They’re geared to the home cook who isn’t all that comfortable in the kitchen. And more often than not, the instructors take themselves WAY too seriously. After hearing about Classy Kids Cook!, I certainly thought that this camp would fall victim to the “too serious” approach.
I was wrong.
Yes, Classy Kids Cook! does take itself seriously, but they don’t take the fun out of it. They teach kids to respect the food and how to prepare it. They properly teach basic technique. But throughout the process, they engage the children. The kids don’t learn to cook purely by recipes, they learn to think about what they’re doing and how to improvise. And most importantly, they also make the kids laugh. The camp ends with an “Iron Chef” type of competition, with three separate teams each making 3 dishes, all judged by the parents (we don’t know which child was on which team, so it’s pretty fair). Clara’s team didn’t win (although I gave them highest marks even though I didn’t know it was her team), but she still got a kick out of it and loved explaining how they made their three dishes.
In the end, Clara had a blast and is ready to do another session — Spain, perhaps?? And I look forward to getting home this evening to see what she whipped up today.