Getting kids in the kitchen with Growing Taste Buds

After having experienced such a wonderful appreciation of food during my Paris trip, I felt compelled to get involved with food-related initiatives in Toronto. I investigated helping out at farmer’s markets, community kitchens and nutrition in schools programs with one goal in mind:  To help get people more involved and appreciative of the food they eat.

I really wanted to help out children since I believe that introducing cooking and healthy food behaviours early on can make a significant impact for when people become adults (one can hope). This led me to a volunteer opportunity with helping out at a children’s cooking class at Evergreen Brickworks. The program is called Growing Taste Buds where children ages 8-12 learn how to cook specific foods each week. This week was French cuisine where we taught the class how to make crepes from Julia Child’s cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.

Okay, it’s times like this when I can say that my cooking classes at George Brown are totally paying off. I just learned how to make crepes last semester during my French cuisine class!  I still remember everything that my teacher taught me (i.e. the reason why you let the batter rest, the technique for tilting the pan so you get a nice round, thin crepe and how you can tell when the crepe is ready to flip onto the other side). It also helps that I analyzed and researched crepe recipes and technique ad nauseam for a homemade vs. store bought crepe taste test that I did.

The kids took to making crepes like fish to water. In fact, at one point I had a system going on where I had each kid responsible for a specific task at the crepe station (one person greased the pan, one person poured the batter into the pan and one person tilted the pan and flipped the crepe) so I didn’t have to do anything. All I had to do was supervise! Haha!

And the kids loved the crepes! They were coming back for thirds (but we only allowed two per person otherwise there wouldn’t be enough left over for the *ahem* lovely volunteers). Having never helped out with a children’s cooking class before, there are several things I noticed:

  1. Kids view cooking as just being another activity or craft (except you get to eat what you make). And they always want to have something to do which brings me to my next point…
  2. Kids have very short attention spans. Which translates into “Make sure you give them small bits of information and break things down so that everyone is busy doing something.” This really requires a lot of anticipation for the volunteers/coordinators. I’m constantly thinking about what steps are coming up next and how to break it down so that everyone can be involved. Which leads me to my next point…
  3. Fairness is a big deal in children’s cooking classes. If anyone gets to do more than another person you are going to hear about it. You know that someone isn’t going to be happy so it’s really important to control for this as much as possible. (hence, why I breaks things down into many small tasks). And my final observation…
  4. Kids at this age (8-12 years old) are capable of a lot. It kind of blows me away because I know a lot of adults who don’t know how to make crepes (and are actually a little intimidated by the thought) and here is a group of kids who are pretty much pros at it now!

Next week we have a guest chef from Table 17 who is going to show everyone how to make homemade pasta. I am really looking forward to that!