Cooking with The Creative Kitchen in Downtown Manhattan. Read our latest blog entry from FiDi Mom, Chandana…
Of all the irrational fears I might pass on to my daughter, the fear of cooking tops the list. Growing up in India with very loving, equally paranoid parents, one of our father’s golden rules was for kids to stay out of the kitchen—comparable to a landmine in terms of potential danger. If the knives and hot oil kadais didn’t get us, the spices would. Even if our favorite foods were being prepared, we would wait impatiently outside. Cooking was a mysterious, dangerous sort of magic that our mother practiced alone. And we felt safest and best fed far from the kitchen.
Cut to a Manhattan apartment 20 years later. I find myself fearfully throwing together limited ingredient meals in our doll-size kitchen, tripping over a 2-year-old and a gourmand dog. The sturdiest baby gates on Amazon can’t keep them out. Adaa clambers to sit on the counter and watch what I do. “Can I mix it? Can I mix it pleeese?” I let her. Thirty minutes later, I am face to face with my other big irrational fear—the fear of cleaning up.
A lazy weekend Internet search for toddler classes throws up an interesting possibility. The Creative Kitchen and its ‘cooking’ classes for juniors, Downtown! What? People can actually have fun cooking with their kids—and not have to clean egg yolk off their walls or dispense band-aids later? I obsessively read about The Creative Kitchen and its ‘Big Cheese’—celebrated NYC Chef and author Cricket Azima, who has quite a fan following of parents, kids and educators in the city. I ‘like’ their buzzy Facebook page before poring over the calendar to find a class close to us.
We sign up for the Snack Attack class for ages 2 to 6. The class is at Whole Foods, TriBeCa. We make our way to the Kids Korner, part of the large café space upstairs, where our lovely teacher for the day, Joyleen, is prepping ingredients. A waiting nanny raves about the salsa they made last week and gets me hungry. I’m nervous about my 2-year-old’s attention span but Joyleen manages to draw her in.
We start off with a craft—decorating an adorable child-size chef hat. I am busy taking pictures already. Adaa gets to pick from bowls of fruit-shaped stickers and color markers to jazz up her hat. She picks oranges and a surprise dinosaur before scribbling all over. Joyleen infuses learning into each activity—kids identify the colors, shapes and names of the fruit and younger ones learn the motor skill of peeling stickers and pressing them down.
A hand washing exercise later, we are ready for the recipe du jour—patterned strawberry parfait! Kids learn to hold a plastic knife, making a bear-claw for control to slice peaches, bananas and strawberries. There is some sensory time to squish and feel the unique textures of each fruit. Once the fruit is cut into little pieces, kids spoon creamy yogurt into generous cups, layer the parfait and ‘make it pretty’ by scooping from bowls of graham cracker crumbs and rice puffs. Joyleen is incredibly patient, coming up with new ideas when a tiny chef is distracted and swooping in with tissues for the occasional spill or mess. The layered parfaits look Pinterest-worthy and ready to be sampled. The class ends with an enthusiastic tasting and a little cleanup activity for the kids (Yay! No counter mopping required!)
I’ll admit I was wary that a cooking class for tots might be as snobby as a crawler fencing lesson or a cheese pairing for tweens. But The Creative Kitchen seems to imbibe Cricket’s warm and approachable personality—creating a friendly, fun atmosphere that lets you kick back and have a blast with your kid. While my 2-year-old ran off twice to retrieve her chef hat from a new friend, she still got to participate in everything. If your child is a little older, you will probably have even more fun than we did!
The Snack Attack class is a breezy first class to try. If you’re adventurous, try the Toddler Fun Foods class where a child can create and eat a hearty meal with menus that include playtime pasta and veggie sushi. Recipes are usually vegetarian and if you call ahead, they can accommodate most food restrictions. If something can get my child excited about green veggies, I’ll try it!
Cooking with your child needn’t be fancy or elaborate or something you have to do—especially when you live in a Manhattan apartment, possibly without 24-hour cleaning staff. Letting children make something with their own hands without worrying about prep time, messy faces or mixed up recipes, is magical. For both of you!
I walked away from our adventure in a great mood and only one dot of yogurt on my sleeve. As soon as I strapped Adaa into the stroller, my fussy eater polished off almost every crumb of parfait before offering me the very last spoonful in an unexpected gesture. Mmm… Divine! Lucky me, I get to taste my daughter’s cooking while she’s still so young. I remind myself that I really want to cook for my Dad the next time he visits.
Schedule: Check out their calendar for the best class for your child
Location: 270 Greenwich Street in TriBeCa
Ages: 2 – 6 yrs old; Please note that there are classes for kids up to age 12 at other locations.
Cost: From $25 to $45 depending on class type and location.
FiDi Families Insiders: Classes fill up quickly so it’s best to register at least a day in advance.
To Register, please visit http://www.thecreativekitchen.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
— Chandana Menon, FiDi Families Guest Contributor/Blogger/FiDi Mom to 2 yr old Adda