Pop Chef: A Gastro-Dad Talks Cooking With Kids

Filed under: Feeding & Sleeping, Mealtime, Nutrition: Big Kids, Nutrition: Tweens, Nutrition: Teens

Gastrokid's Two-Zone Shitake Mushroom and Plum Tomato Pizza. Credit: Hugh Garvey and Matthew Yeomans

Hugh Garvey co-founded the Gastrokid blog to document the trials and tribulations of a foodie father living in a mac-n-cheese culture.

Since then, the dad of two and features editor of Bon Appetit magazine has co-authored the "The Gastrokid Cookbook: Feeding a Foodie Family in a Fast-Food World," encouraging countless parents to bring their kids into the food-lovers fold with recipes like Herby the Love Omelet and Tuscan Steak for Toddlers.

Garvey talks to ParentDish about getting his kids to help with the cooking.

ParentDish: We know your kids love your food, but how do you get them interested in the preparation, not just the results?

Hugh Garvey: It's mostly about showing them your enthusiasm, and they will absorb it. You give them a no-pressure open invitation to share the joy of the kitchen, and they'll come to it naturally. Don't force it. My kids have become great volunteers. When they like a dish they become interested in how it's made, and will want to help.

PD: Sounds like they spend a lot of time watching you cook.

HG: People used to say "I learned to cook from my grandma," but I think the next generation will be saying, "I learned to cook from my dad." And it's different because dudes, by our nature, want to explain the why behind every step. It's like teaching a kid the difference between a changeup and a slider -- the gear-head geeks are taking over the kitchen.

PD: On behalf of parents of picky eaters, do you notice that your kids are more likely to eat foods that they help make?

HG: I won't say that kids are going to like something just because they made it, but getting them involved in cooking something new will at least make them more inclined to try it. And that first bite is not easy to get.

PD: What safety precautions do you take when cooking with your kids?

HG: Keep them away from the heat, and keep the sharp knives out of reach. A plastic knife and a colored cutting board are the coolest things you can give a kid. With their own space and their own tool, they will stay in their "station" and stay safe.

PD: A plastic knife?

HG: Yes, the white kind with little serrations that come with takeout food. Everyone knows kids can help with measuring and mixing and pouring, but they can also start learning knife skills when they are very young. Plastic knives won't cut skin, but they are great for fruits and veggies. I learned to crush and chop garlic at age 20, my son learned it at age 3. We just took 17 years off the learning curve.

PD: Are there any particular dishes that you love to cook with your kids?

HG: Handmade pasta is a great one. You don't need a pasta machine, and you can make healthy whole wheat versions. Kids can knead and roll the dough, and cut pasta shapes or stuff ravioli. It can get super messy, but you can't beat that for fun.

Related: One-on-One with the Pioneer Woman, Top Chef Talks Picky Eaters

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.