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Little Chefs

Sat Aug 18, 2007

No, I’m not talking about a cartoon rats in toques, scurrying around Paris and chasing truffles and I’m not referring to knife-juggling midgets. I’m thinking of tykes. Kids. Those moldable balls of dough whose eating habits are still pliable—who eat olives and slices of lemon and sushi when given the chance.On a recent trip to Las Vegas to visit my brother, sister-in-law and nephew, we made a rare trip to the Strip for dinner. At Enoteca San Marco in the Venetian, one of Mario’s new Vegas Ventures, my nephew nibbled on prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella, then blew me away when he started telling me about pizza dough— how it’s thin and crisp toward the middle and how the edges bubble up with air and crunch. I thought about how lucky we were when one of the manager’s took us back into the kitchen for housemade gelato, straight from the case. And then my nephew joyfully finished two bowls full of bright ruby raspberries, smiling like you’d just given him a new toy. Did I mention he’s four?I didn’t give the dinner much thought, though, until a friend of mine called from Northern California to tell me her daughter has been disappointed with every cupcake she’d had since we’d whipped up a batch up Magnolia Bakery-style treats last summer, could I send the recipe? Luna was nine years old at the time, with wide, slightly sad-looking eyes and long, wavy brown locks pulled into a ponytail beneath a white toque we’d make from printer paper. She ended up with picture-perfect streaks of flour across her cheek and left the kitchen a mess. We didn’t have an electric mixer, so we mixed the batter by hand, made the icing by hand. And the whole time, Luna grinned. When the cupcakes were done and frosted, this little girl who, like most little girls, loves cupcakes, sat quietly and ate one, freshly iced and sprinkled still-warm confection, eyes closed and savoring every bite.

Which brings us to little chefs. Luna cooks with her dad all the time. She mans the spatula, she stirs. She religiously watches the Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes.” Last time we talked, she told me she wanted to be a pastry chef, or maybe a vet. Kids love food. And I think they inherently love the creativity of cooking, too. Seeing different ingredients come together to create the flavors they love makes them excited about what’s on their plate. And their little palates are like blank canvases, they’ve got few biases and love textures. And while I can hardly imagine a kid who doesn’t love sweets, I’ve seen Luna eat sushi out with her mom and my “Fancy Joes” (as she and her twin sister Lili called them) made with duck sauce, Worcestershire and ground turkey. I’ve come to believe that kid-friendly food is a myth. It’s kid-friendly cooks that make the difference.

This morning, per Luna’s request, I’ve hunted down the recipe for Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes. If you make them again, Luna, send us a picture to post, okay?

So next time your planning what to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon, grab your kids, your nieces and nephews or your friend’s kids, if you don’t have any, and whip up a batch of Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies, or homemade pudding or make pizza dough from scratch. Get your kids comfortable in the kitchen and maybe, you’ll be surprised to find they’re little chefs and that you’ve got a little chef in you, too.

Nicholas

Yum, raspberries!

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One Response to “Little Chefs”

 
  1. lulu Says:

    hi it’s me luna, thank you for writing this story. I like it because it’s about the kids. I feel happy.
    It was a really great story. I have to go now, I have to get the recipe on cupcakes that you sent.
    your penguin friend, lulu future owner of: lulu’s cakes.

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