CULINARY ARTS

Cooking is a basic, yet essential life skill that all children should be learning. At FOCUS we believe in nurturing and encouraging an interest in cooking at a young age. We’re aware that children have the ability to cook an intricate meal and with the possibility of it tasting just as good, if not better than the average adult. 

Through the New York Times, KJ Dell’Antonia and Margaux Laskey shared:
the top five reasons we should get our children involved in the kitchen, whether they’re 3 or 13

Children who cook become children who taste, and sometimes eat.

Involving children in the process of cooking — picking out the watermelons and tomatoes and plucking the herbs to add to a tomato and watermelon salad, for example — greatly increases the chance that they’ll actually try the finished dish. And hey, they may discover a new favorite. Or not. But cultivating a welcoming and open-minded approach to food can grow adults who approach life similarly. Arms open and mouth wide to new tastes, cultures and attitudes.

 

Children who cook say “I can,” not “I can’t.”

Sliding a spoonful of raw chicken or a piece of breaded fish into hot oil (as K J’s children did making ketchup chicken and an outdoor fish fry)? Daunting. Making dinner for six people at age 9 (A 9-Year-Old Makes Pasta With Tomatoes and Mushrooms)? Intimidating. A child who can do those can look at any restaurant dish and say, “I could make that.” That’s an attitude that can carry a child beyond the kitchen.

Cooking is a way to talk about health.

Experts say that the single most important thing you can do for your health is to cook at home. Inviting children into the kitchen and involving them at a very young age fosters a habit that will have lifelong benefits. Also, it gives you an opportunity to discuss with a 3-year-old how fish (like broiled fish with chermoula) can help make you smart (fatty acids), how “eating a rainbow” ensures that you get a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, and how eating plenty of fresh vegetables and drinking lots of water will “keep your poop from hurting when it comes out.”

Cooking is a way to talk about healthy ingredients.

Children who have made ice cream and caramel (like strawberry-rhubarb ice cream with a caramel swirl) know what is supposed to be in ice cream. They know they didn’t add any guar gum. If they’ve made no-knead bread, they’ll know that good bread doesn’t need sugar. When you flip over packages in the grocery store, they’ll understand that you’re looking for things you can’t pronounce, and they’ll join you. (They may, in fact, police your shopping more than you’d like.)

Cooking brings cooks of all ages closer.

For better or worse, you will get to know your children, and they you, more deeply when you cook with them. For better, you will share recipes, techniques and anecdotes that you learned at the elbows of mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers long gone. For worse, you will huff and puff and whine and lose your patience when they accidentally spill heavy cream all over the kitchen table while making mini-shortcakes with berries, but they will love you anyway, teaching you, the one who’s supposed to be the grown-up, about unconditional love and ready forgiveness.

However even with all of this information there are still some parents who argue against involving children in the kitchen. The boiling water, hot oven, heavy pans and sharp knives, can be a recipe for disaster. Children are often accident-prone, they spill and press buttons out of curiosity. We all know it takes longer to get things done with them around. Even with all of this, there are still many reasons to persist and cook with our kids

Most importantly, cooking time is quality family bonding time. It’s a casual setting to talk about what’s going on in everyone’s individual world, which is essential for youth to feel comfortable and open. When they’re being trusted with a task like preparing a family meal, they’re more likely to extend that trust in return. Cooking also stimulates all of our senses. The soothing aromas and tastes alone create beautiful memories, which enables us to retain what we learn from cooking and conversation.

Youth who can cook for themselves, their siblings, family and friends tend to be more nurturing and compassionate individuals. In many urban communities, most adolescents are helping with younger siblings due to single-parent households. Being home alone, they’ll have more options than cereal or frozen, processed and microwave-ready foods. It also feels good to exercise independence and self-sufficiency; this teaches responsibility and heightens confidence and self-worth. 

Young children can quickly learn proper kitchen functioning with a little patience. They also learn: reading comprehension and application, measuring, counting, fractions and geometry with acknowledging baking pan sizes. Unless a family eats solely from their own garden, shopping is part of the cooking process where kids learn about budgeting, weighing and sourcing fresh ingredients to make their favorite foods. 

Teaching children cooking at a young age assists in building healthy lifestyle practices while effortlessly bringing families and cultures together. Young children and adolescents who enjoy cooking will gladly take the job off their parents’ hands once in a while. This is an enjoyable result that proves the longer cooking times, possible messes and effort throughout their younger years to be worth it.

It’s also fun to create culture specific meals and sneak in a short history lesson on days like: St. Patrick’s Day (to learn about the Irish culture), Cinco De Mayo (to learn about the Mexican and French battles) and the Chinese New Year (to learn about their philosophies while enjoying wontons, dumplings, fried rice and more). Cooking truly is an ancient art and science that our youth can enjoy and take pride in.

At FOCUS Youth Center we provide cooking and nutrition classes for kids ages 5-11 and 12-18. Our staff of trained professionals will ensure the supervision and safety of our youth, while they’re learning how to flow through a kitchen. Class Structure and Details Coming soon.

CLASSES OFFERED

Cultured Cooks

It’s important for youth to experience diversity and try a variety of delicious meals. Cultured Cooks is a program currently being developed for youth ages 5-11 and 12-18 where they have the opportunity to enjoy and learn how to create dishes from all over the world.

 

Knife Handling

Whether slicing an apple or chopping an onion, the right knife for the task makes life easier and safer in the kitchen. This is a class designed specifically to teach kids the different styles of knives, as well as which fruits and vegetables they’re used for.  Youth will learn the difference between; Chef’s knife, utility knife, bread knife, tomato knife and other essential kitchen knives used for detailed work like pairing and carving. 

Class Structure and Details Coming Soon.