Cooking with kids is fun, but needs rules
BY CHEF TIFFANY POE The Busy Kitchen
Monday, November 19, 2012
11/19/12 at 8:03 AM
Editor's note: The Busy Kitchen is a Monday column written by two area chefs - Tiffany Poe and Valarie Carter - who also happen to be mothers of young children. They explore nutrition, cooking for kids and more.
I love having kids in my kitchen.
With all the activity I have in my life, cooking with my kids gives me great pleasure. If I'm not cooking for one of my bed-and-breakfast guests or feeding my brood of three, then I'm testing a recipe or catering for a friend. My kitchen never gets a break.
There is the rare occasion that I have a therapeutic day of just "Chef Poe" time to myself but more often than not I have my mommy/teacher hat on and three little sous chefs under my feet.
Having kids in your kitchen can be enjoyable and create lifelong memories. It also helps to establish children's view of food and encourages them to try new flavors and textures. Children learn through sensory and tactile experiences, so having your little or big ones in the kitchen can set the tone for their diets as adults. It's also a great place to incorporate math, science and art into their learning times.
When it comes to having kids in the kitchen, there are several safety factors to consider as parents.
Safety is important anytime in the kitchen, but when kids are involved, it goes from code green to code red. My kids are still little so being in the kitchen means listening and obeying. I have a couple of hard-and-fast rules I live by for providing a safe kid-friendly environment in your home kitchen.
The terminology alone is pretty self-explanatory, but I'll elaborate briefly for fun.
- Obedience or you're fired.
- SHARP and HOT.
- Ask before you touch.
The first rule sets the tone for "kitchen time" in general. When my former culinary students would mess up on their food, I would jokingly "fire" them.
It was my way of reminding them that whereas I couldn't really "fire" them, the mistake was noted and we should try to improve next time. My kids love to cook, but if they don't have their listening ears and obedient hats on ... they get fired. Then they have to settle for watching from a distance.
The second rule comes from the restaurant world. When you are in a professional kitchen, you have words you shout out to your teammates like "HOT" or "BEHIND YOU" to let them know of potential dangers. I teach my kids those words early. I want them to understand that the kitchen is a busy and possibly dangerous place. But, with the right communication, we can all have fun and be safe, too.
The third and final rule covers everything else. It's all about patience, right?
My little ones always have their own idea of what they want to do in the kitchen. They are decisive and opinionated when it comes to cooking ... I wonder where they get it? The hardest part is not squashing their excitement for food and cooking. I encourage them to ask questions and raise their hand before taking action. It helps them realize they can have fun and follow direction while helping Mommy be successful, too.
Cooking with your kids or grandkids can be some of the best times you will spend as a family. My best memories from childhood were made with my mom, dad and grandmothers in the kitchen. Those precious smells, tastes, sounds and experiences inspired me to become a chef. Cook with your kids this week and help create their "life recipe."
My top 10 kid-friendly kitchen tools
Butter knife: General all-purpose tool for dough work and basic cutting.
Plastic salad knives: To let kids practice what a real knife will feel like.
Ice cream scoop: For cookies or to practice batter placement.
Off-set spatula: Helps kids learn how to spread evenly and is great for decorating.
Melon scoop or baller: Fruit work or to help them clean vegetable seeds.
Bench scraper or bakers dough scraper: To do simple cuts or clean up kid kitchen messes.
Colorful spatulas and whisks: Keep it interesting with colors and shapes.
Cookie cutters and biscuit cutters: Simple, creative way to keep them involved.
Measuring cups and spoons: I let my babies play with these to keep them occupied and then I make my bigger kids do their math calculations using them when we cook.
Rubber or wooden pastry brushes: Egg wash, water, butter and more ... let your kids feel like culinary artists.
Safety suggestions when cooking with kids
- Always keep sharp knives out of reach of children. (I lock my "big girl" knives away for safe keeping.)
- Keep their tools down low or within reach and they will leave yours alone.
- We start with hand washing and we finish with hand washing ... we sing "You are my sunshine" while washing.
- To prevent food poisoning, wait for food to be cooked before sampling it and always use a spoon when you do taste.
- Always keep kids at the level of activity. Use a stool if necessary.
- Use cooking tools that will not break - plastic or stainless steel.
My favorite cooking with kids websites
Original Print Headline: Cooking with kids requires guidelines
Chef Tiffany Poe, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., owns Tiffany Poe Culinary Services, a consulting, food styling and corporate coaching company. She and her husband have three small children and own The Grandview Inn, a historic bed and breakfast near the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Pawhuska. Find more of her recipes and step-by-step instructions for her Tulsa World recipes on her blog, tulsaworld.com/gastronomymommy
Cooking utensils in fun shapes and colors keeps things interesting when cooking with kids. Courtesy