Cooking With Kids With Chef Kunal Kapoor

DAY WITH CHEF KUNAL KAPUR:

“Yes Chef!” said the bundle of 8-10 year old kids to celebrity chef Kunal Kapur as he brought the eager excited minds into attention for the class. The reverence for the chef in the kids’ eyes was obvious. What was more obvious though, however, was their excitement to get cooking. Everyone has witnessed the quirky fun side of the chef in his seasons of Masterchef and Masterchef Junior that made him one of the most popular and loved chefs of the country among kids. Working with kids has been something the chef thinks as a way to put things into perspective considering the children’s innocence. His love for food also began at a young stage with his home kitchens where the men of his family used to cook often teaching the young Kunal Kapur the many spices of the country. His story of being a chef is one that almost all of us could relate to. He had a banker-oriented family who wanted him to be a banker too. However, his hatred for the elusive mathematics led him to choose a path that he thought would be more comfortable – the one which meant him taking up Hotel Management at a time when there were very few opportunities for young chefs. Have a conversation with him and he’d tell you about the stigma of becoming a chef in our country. He strongly believes in inculcating the absence of that stigma in kids because that is when they are the most eager to learn and understand. India has of course been taking a lot of steps towards this with the increase in the number of cooking classes in the country and the Masterchef Junior franchise. With the festive season approaching for kids to show off, we came up with the idea of introducing these tots to the culinary world. Kunal says that one of the best parts of his journey on Masterchef as a judge was his experience at Masterchef Junior. Extending his excitement and keenness to expand the horizons of the youngsters of the country, he joined us on a perfectly weathered day for a cooking class with recipes specially curated by him using ingredients that would excite anyone with a kid still in them.

The day started with Chef whisking a smooth fluffy mascarpone for his Banana Mascarpone Hazelnut Sandwich. As soon as the bowl of Nutella was brought out to the table, the kids had a hard time not attacking the bowl but chef masterfully kept the children in control giving each of the kids chances to make their sandwiches and eat as much Nutella as they wanted to. He, with ease, switched between joining in the kids’ mischief and disciplining for the class when needed. As he put his finishing touches to the sandwich, the expressions on the kids’ faces were worth watching. Their eyes twinkled as they bit into the slightly toasted deliciousness. The cookie decoration hour was another highlight of the day with the kids taking their colourful imagination on a spree decorating the butter cookies with orange and pink icing and rainbow-coloured stars. The kids went bezerk showering each other with flour and even spilling plenty into each other’s bags.

All in all, the day ended with a bunch of exhausted kids who had a gala time in the kitchen with someone they love to watch on TV. Kunal with his charismatic nature won over all the kids and their parents and gave them a peek into his skills. Watching him work in the kitchen and handling the kids was a treat for everyone and it was a beautiful day filled with masti and chocolate and other yummy treats. As much as he is known to be a tough onality, on that Sunday, Kunal showed the child in him while motivating the kids to work in the kitchen and gave the kids some amazing food tips

ENCOURAGE YOUR LITTLE ONE

Cooking with kids can be fantastic fun but they won’t necessarily know that. First, you’ll need to pique their curiosity by exposing them to positive examples of food and cooking. Provide plenty of encouragement when they show some interest, and then get your child off to the best start by providing safe, manageable utensils and equipment.

Children like to help. They want to learn. And they love to copy adults. To a cautious parent, the kitchen is a room full of hot pan hazards and potential finger cuts. But to children, it’s a fascinating, creative, even magical place. It’s never too early to encourage children to develop a positive relationship with the kitchen. Don’t wait for them to ask – show them. You’ll be able to teach them valuable skills, a sense of responsibility, and have fun together. If you’re already an enthusiastic cook, children will associate the preparation of food as a good thing. If you’re not, take the time to learn together.

Start your toddler on simple yet worthwhile tasks such as taking food peelings to the bin or recycling packaging. Give them food or containers from the fridge to carry over to the worktops. Little tasks like these give your child purpose, and, for preschoolers at least, they’re actually exciting!

In the supermarket, you can play a game of fetch and ask the kids to gather produce from low shelves. The more involved they are, the greater the diversion from tantrums. Back home, let kids help you put food away so they learn what goes in the fridge, freezer and cupboards.

You must teach provenance: potatoes come from the ground; eggs come from chickens; beef comes from cows, chocolate is made from cocoa beans, and so on. Always, respond to their questions and if you don’t know, look it up together.

A failsafe option is also to choose no-cook recipes such as hummus, chocolate cornflake cakes and fruit salad. Keep food neutral. Even if you’d kill for a cupcake, cook healthy meals as well.

Whilst safety in the kitchen is paramount, being too cautious and overprotective can turn even the homeliest of kitchens into a fun-free zone for children. Too many rules are a turn-off for even the most curious kid; not enough rules and you run the risk of regular trips to a hospital emergency centre. Always warn and supervise their actions. Trusting them with little things and praising them for their achievements is encouraging.

A few other ways to encourage kids to cook:

  • Play sets: Imaginative play is an excellent way for your child to engage in food preparation and cooking without the mess.  

 

  • Cookbooks: If you get children interested in recipe books from an early age they’ll be less intimidated by the cooking process.  
  • Cooking websites, apps and games: Games can simulate kids’ interest in food.  Younger kids will enjoy apps where they can mix ingredients and prepare dishes. Older children will appreciate video recipes and apps that let them ‘run’ a restaurant or bakery.
  • Cooking as art: Using vegetable slices to create faces on pizza bases, or decorating cupcakes, is fun at any age.
  • TV shows: The enthusiasm of many chefs can be compelling and cookery programmes are a way of drawing your child’s attention to sourcing, preparing and cooking food.   
  • Restaurants: Let your kids order food which will help them to understand the menu. Also, take them to places that boast open kitchens so they can observe and learn.
  • Food-related games: Ask you ask your kids to find fruit and vegetables beginning with every letter of the alphabet or how many types of green vegetables or red fruit there are or  try a blind taste test. This will help in development of their sensory organs too.
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