SELLING SAUCE IS CHILD’S PLAY
Young siblings duel with Dragons
The Dragons are on fire.
“You guys are just incredible. I just love what you’ve done,” an excited Joe Mimran of the Dragons’ Den tells the brother-sister team pitching for a cash infusion for their pasta sauce business on the popular CBC TV show. As the founder of Club Monaco and Joe Fresh, Mimran is no dummy.
“I think we can make a deal,” says Dragon Jim Treliving of the Boston Pizza empire, joining the heated bargaining.
“I’ll give you $25,000 for 10 per cent,” he said, meeting the “ask.”
Another eager Dragon joins him on the deal while a third loses out because she wanted a 20 per cent cut.
As Vancouver’s Skylar and Chloe Sinow walk off the set, Mimran turns to his colleagues. “They were amazing. They did a better pitch than, I’d say, 70 per cent of pitches. Easily!” he says.
What’s remarkable is the dealmakers were 10 and 12 years old when they met the Dragons last November.
The cash infusion, Chloe told them, would be “used for working capital for production and marketing the product.”
A cookbook, Kids Can Cook Gourmet: A Culinary Journey Through Europe, is done and they were looking for a publisher because “it’s a good synergy,” she said.
How many 30-year-olds are as verbally deft, I ask.
Since the Dragons’ Den episode aired, Kids Can Cook Gourmet pasta sauces (Tomato Basil, Marinara, Creamy Tomato, all $8 a bottle) have landed on shelves in about 130 stores in B.C. and Alberta, including Whole Foods, Choices, Urban Fare, Save-On-Foods, Thrifty Foods, Stong’s Market, and Dirty Apron Cooking School.
It wasn’t just Dragon magic pushing sales. Skylar pushes himself harder than most adults. He cycles home from school at lunch to make business calls to distributors and suppliers, and cold calls new markets.
The ingredients are organic and the sauces are made in a co-packing facility.
“We go in and we make everything from scratch,” Skylar says.
While Chloe handles the Tweets, Facebook, Instagram and bookkeeping spreadsheets, as well as sewing and selling very cool aprons on their website (kidscancookgourmet.com), Skylar is the wonder-kid chef. Remember his name. In a few years, it won’t be Skylar Who?
He cooks at every opportunity, including family dinners. On June 3, he accompanied Darren Brown, a restaurant consultant and former exec chef at Fairmont Pacific Rim, to help cook for 400 people at the Sea to Sky Gala, a fundraiser for a community services building in Squamish.
“Skylar is definitely a better cook than me,” says mom Andrea Sinow. “He makes most of our dinners now. If you asked around his school, most people wouldn’t know what he does, but when he wants to get his message out, he’s loud and clear.”
One message is social responsibility. Skylar was a contender on the Chopped Canada Teen Tournament championship last December (busy guy!) and had he won, he would have donated 1,000 jars of pasta sauce to the food bank with his winnings. (Under-cooked pork chops did him in.)
I watched him cooking at home. He had just come home from school and had made fresh pasta dough ready to roll out for tortellini and tagliatelle.
He made a tortellini filling with ricotta, shallots, bacon and sage without using a recipe.
“I’m going to plate it with brown butter, walnut and sage. I just made it up,” he says.
By the time he got to plating, he added tomato confit and some Kids Can Cook Gourmet tomato sauce. For the tagliatelle, what else but Kids Can Cook Gourmet sauce.
Brown helped him train for the Chopped Canada competition.
“We’d go to Granville Island, buy every kind of fish we could find, break them down, and cook. He is a super-hungry kid (to learn). I’d show him something and he’d spend the rest of the week learning more and practising, and by the time I saw him again, he’d be better than me. He’s got a ton of depth.”
When Skylar meets chefs, they’re happy to mentor him. Trevor Bird, of Fable in Kitsilano, welcomes Skylar into the kitchen, often on Saturday nights during service.
Bird jokes Skylar will be running a conglomerate by the time he’s 18.
“He’s light years beyond what I was doing at his age. Whatever direction he takes, he’s going to be successful. When he was working on his first pasta sauce, he worked on it for 22 hours straight. He’s so enthusiastic, it’s crazy. He’s almost over-eager. He wants to learn so much, so fast.”
Sister Chloe is right there, shooting photos and videos and Tweeting out Skylar’s evening at Fable. “They’re a good team,” Bird says. Skylar isn’t above door-to-door sales, pitching three-packs of pasta sauce — buy three and they donate another to the food bank.
“Me and my dad went to Alberta and drove for 16 hours to Edmonton. We pitched 40 stores in two days,” he says.
They also exhibited their sauces at the Healthy Family Expo last month and gave out 800 samples.
“They sell better when they meet us,” they say.
The siblings began by selling pasta sauces at farmers’ markets and kids loved it.
“It’s kid-tested and parent approved,” they say. The secret? They know what kids like: nothing too intense. The sauces are lightly seasoned. A lot of parents told them their child didn’t like pasta sauces until they tried theirs.
The Sinow family took a year out when Skylar and Chloe were 11 and nine, visiting 17 countries in Europe, and that’s what kickstarted the idea for Kids Can Cook Gourmet. Shopping at markets and cooking with fresh ingredients inspired them. As part of their homeschooling, they started working on a cookbook.
“At home, he makes a lot of soups and makes all the broths from a whole chicken. We’re not allowed to buy broth,” Andrea says. “He’s a fanatic about not using GMO ingredients or additives, so shopping can be frustrating with him. He’s always reading labels.”
He is also growing a lot of his own ingredients and has seedlings started in trays in his bedroom.
As Chloe has observed, “There’s a food revolution going on, and we want to be the brand for our generation.”
Skylar Sinow shares a couple of recipes from food that inspired him during his family’s year-long trip to Europe. The pasta dough is a starting point for many dishes, and of course, you can buy some Kids Can Cook Gourmet pasta sauces to have with it!