Cook­ing classes cap­ti­vat­ing chil­dren

Flour all over the floor, eggshell in the bat­ter and sticky fin­gers ev­ery­where – that’s the re­al­ity when you in­vite kids into the kitchen. Catherine Healy meets two mums who are pre­pared to take all that mess off your hands. DAILY GRIND

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

The ben­e­fits of get­ting chil­dren in­ter­ested in cook­ing at a young age are clear. But if both par­ents are work­ing full­time, when and how do you teach them those skills?

There’s a new cook­ing class for five to 12-year-olds start­ing at the St He­liers Com­mu­nity Cen­tre on May 15.

Lit­tle­Cooks is the brain­child of two Auck­land mums, Suzi Tait-Bradly and Re­becca Wool­fall. They launched the busi­ness in Devon­port in Jan­uary 2012 and are now ex­pand­ing to St He­liers.

With Mrs Wool­fall’s cor­po­rate mar­ket­ing back­ground, Mrs Tait-Bradly’s de­gree in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion and their shared pas­sion for food and kids, they have the skills to make the busi­ness work.

Their small charges meet once a week for a term, cook­ing a huge range of dishes along the way.

‘‘We try and teach them a pas­sion for cook­ing. We em­power the kids to be­lieve they can do it,’’ Mrs TaitBradly says.

They don’t shy away from dishes that most adults would find daunt­ing, be it mak­ing fresh pasta or prof­iteroles.

‘‘It’s not hard to cook things from scratch. There’s no rea­son not to do it your­self,’’ Mrs Wool­fall says.

They also put on themed chil­dren’s birth­day par­ties which in­clude creative party games as well as time in the kitchen.

‘‘It’s hard work,’’ Mrs Wool­fall ad­mits, but the feed­back has been very pos­i­tive.

‘‘One mother told me that the rea­son her child likes our classes so much is that it’s just good old-fash­ioned fun – there’s no pres­sure to win or per­form.’’

Par­ents are sur­prised to find that chil­dren are much more likely to eat some­thing they’ve cooked with their friends. A child who wouldn’t eat eggs has sud­denly be­come a fan of frit­tata; the veg­etablea­verse will eat coleslaw.

The range of ages means the big­ger chil­dren look af­ter the lit­tle ones. They work in small groups, first ap­point­ing a leader, then read­ing the recipe care­fully to­gether, mea­sur­ing and cook­ing. If there is down­time while the dishes are in the oven, Mrs Wool­fall and Mrs Tait-Bradley run games to keep the kids busy.

‘‘I had a group of 14 boys so ex­er­cise be­came the theme – they needed to burn off some en­ergy. I got them do­ing Zumba,’’ she says.

While the two women pre­fer run­ning the classes to­gether, as their busi­ness has grown they’ve had to ditch the dou­ble-act and work in­de­pen­dently.

With three classes a week in Devon­port, the new class in St He­liers and more birth­day par­ties than they know what to do with, they’ll soon have to find oth­ers will­ing to muck in.

‘‘You need to have that sense of fun as well as pa­tience and tol­er­ance. Kids get up­set some­times when their food doesn’t come out look­ing quite right.’’

Be­ing busi­ness part­ners and friends is tricky, Mrs Wool­fall says.

‘‘We’ve had to have some dif­fi­cult dis­cus­sions and we’ve come out stronger for it. We have com­pletely dif­fer­ent back­grounds and strengths.

‘‘But I wouldn’t want to do this with any­one else.’’

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Kitchen fun: Re­becca Wool­fall and Suzi Tait-Bradly have built a busi­ness out of teach­ing kids to cook.

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