food revolution day 2014

Cooking and sharing food with others is in my blood. I grew up cooking with my mum, and my memories of childhood are full of epic dinner parties at our house. I count myself lucky to have been involved in food preparation at home from an early age, and am so grateful to my mum for giving me that gift.

Unfortunately, many people feel they don’t have time to cook from scratch, let alone cook with their kids, and both are becoming less and less common. If, like Jamie Oliver, you believe that “getting kids cooking from as early as possible helps them to develop an essential life skill” then it’s time to get involved.

Rolling Jamie Oliver Flatbreads on eatlivetravelwrite.com

Teaching kids to choose and cook better food, and to think about where their food comes from, are fundamental goals of this year’s Food Revolution Day (May 16th 2014).  Jamie is encouraging everyone to work together to “get kids excited about food”, showing the importance of cooking good food from scratch and how it affects our health and happiness.

The Food Revolution Day website offers lots of suggestions for getting involved, and doing your bit on the day can be as simple as helping a child cook a meal from scratch with one of the official recipes. Alternatively, you can take part in the biggest-ever live cooking lesson led by Jamie himself and learn how to make a rainbow salad wrap – the goal is to break a Guinness World Record and get one million kids cooking on the day!

Mixing the granola

Like those at the heart of making Food Revolution Day happen (this is my third year taking part), one of my main goals is to encourage people to get kids and their families excited about food beyond the day itself.  I’ve run after-school cooking clubs for over four years, teaching cooking basics to younger students and more complex dishes to older students.  Watching the kids excitedly prepare a meal from scratch and then taste it is one of my favourite parts of the week. At my school, it’s a mini Food Revolution every week!

Simple ways to get kids excited about food

1. Use real cookbooks!

Over the years, I’ve learned that you don’t need special kids’ cookbooks – in particular, Jamie’s recipes teach basic cooking skills whatever your age! If you set the bar high, kids will come up to meet you – they have a fearless “can do” attitude when it comes to cooking!  With a great recipe, a little guidance and encouragement, kids can cook proper food that tastes great.

2. Choose dishes they already like!

It’s easy to get kids excited about preparing dishes that they already love.  Recipes I’ve successfully made with my students include granola, crunchy chicken fingers and “fries”, sausage rolls, lasagna,  tomato soup, meatballs and pizza – all dishes whose store-bought versions often contain too much fat, sugar and salt (not to mention unpronounceable ingredients).  They are, however, easy to make from scratch and my students are always amazed how “real” our versions taste.  Feedback from parents also tells me that many of these dishes have become regulars for family dinners.

Les Petits Chefs make Jamie Oliver's cheat's pizza on eatlivetravelwrite.com

3. Get organised!

Cooking with kids is fun but involves some organisation. Basic strategies like reading your recipe from start to finish (on your own and with the kids) and double checking you have all the necessary ingredients/equipment before you start, then grouping these in the order they will be used, are essential in setting up an organised and safe environment. Clean up as you go – wipe work surfaces/cutting boards clean after each step and put unneeded items in the sink or dishwasher. Always use a scrap bowl for food waste, as it helps keep workstations clean.

cutting chicken

A little prep goes a long way in ensuring a smooth kitchen session, and will encourage both adults and kids to want to continue cooking together.

4. Relax!

Things won’t always go to plan. Your kitchen might be a little chaotic, but that’s OK; mistakes happen, but use them as teachable moments. Showing kids what to do when things go wrong in the kitchen (like, say, someone dicing bacon instead of cutting strips) is setting them up for success later in life too.

Jamie Oliver's Spaghetti and meatballs

5. Have fun!

If you’re enjoying working with food, kids are likely to be enthusiastic too.  And if kids are having fun, they won’t even realise they are practicing other skills like maths and reading comprehension, both of which are part of following a recipe.

Jamie Oliver's macaroni and cheese

Cooking with kids doesn’t have to be complicated. Start by setting aside time once a week to cook a meal together. I can’t think of a better way to get kids excited about food beyond Food Revolution Day than carving out time to cook (and eat) with them regularly.

About the author

Mardi Michels lives in Toronto, is a full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and the author of eat. live. travel. write - a blog about culinary adventures near and far. As part of her job, she runs cooking classes twice a week for 7-13 year-old boys, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. She’s a founding member of Food Bloggers of Canada, a Food Revolution Day Ambassador for Toronto and also teaches French pastry classes around Toronto. Follow Mardi on Twitter, Instagram and Google+.

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  • LostInCheeseland

    There’s no one I would trust more on this topic than Mardi. So excited to see here writing for this site!

    • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/ Mardi Michels

      Thanks for reading Lindsay!

  • Jill Colonna

    Super checklist, Mardi. You’ve hit a nerve – especially on the relaxation part: I’m guilty of just doing things myself without getting my children involved much, as it’s quicker and less chaotic but with a bit of patience, it’s far more fun with kids and satisfying all round. They feel so grown up.
    Bravo and good luck on the Food Revolution’s world record goal – one million kids cooking? Fabulous! Look forward to seeing more of Mardi’s articles here.

    • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/ Mardi Michels

      Thanks Jill! I know it’s hard to step down and be “hands off” and watch kids move more slowly than you might like but over the past 4 years teaching kids it’s been my biggest lesson. Even if what they make isn’t perfect and even if the work space is a little more chaotic than you’d like, they are still so proud and that’s the point right? Thanks for reading – and hey, maybe you and your kids could cook together for #FRD2014 !

  • Katja Presnal

    I love cooking with the kids, we cook as a family almost every dinner. I didn’t know about the food revolution day, will have to read more about it! Great to see you writing here Mardi, always a fan of your work… and of course, been a fan of Jamie for years :)

    • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/ Mardi Michels

      That’s wonderful that you find the time to cook as a family Katja – I am sure your kids will grow up loving kitchen time and hopefully passing that passion to their own kids. Would love to see you taking part in Food Revolution Day – even if it’s just with your own kids (tons of recipe on the FRD site for you to check out!). Let me know if you have questions about FRD – happy to help!

  • simplebites

    These are some solid tips! Thrilled to see Mardi writing over here.

    • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/ Mardi Michels

      Thanks Aimée – if you think these are solid tips that means a lot :)

  • Food Ren

    Yay congrats Mardi on your first post for the team and such a great topic, too. Looking forward to reading more.

    • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/ Mardi Michels

      Thanks Ren – thrilled to join a team of writers I really admire :) I was so happy to write about a topic close to my heart for my first piece!

  • Debbie Everets

    Love your blog with your Petits Chefs, so excited to read your article for Jamie Oliver :)

    • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/ Mardi Michels

      Thanks Debbie – I’m really happy to be joining this team!

  • Geoff

    Very positive, upbeat contribution, Mardi.
    Les Petits Chefs will also be proud of you.

    • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/ Mardi Michels

      I will definitely share this article with the boys and their parents – after all, I wouldn’t know what I know about cooking with kids without them!

  • http://www.familybites.ca Jan Scott

    Mardi, you are such an inspiration and your passion for teaching kids to cook is admirable. What a wonderful article!

    • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/ Mardi Michels

      Thank Jan, teaching the boys to cook is one of the highlights of my week, every week :)

  • Carol Harrison

    Hi Mardi,

    Your passion for food education really shines through here. I love the practical tips as well.

    We can no longer view food education as optional. We need more food champions like you making a difference! I’m inspired to start a small kids cooking club…must come see your group in action for some pointers!

    • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/ Mardi Michels

      Thanks Carol – I do love teaching kids about food :) We’d love to have you come and visit the class sometime!

  • cathybest

    Excellent article with great tips for how to get our kids more involved in cooking! As the weather – finally! – warms up and as we anticipate summer vacation, I look forward to returning to the local farmers’ market with my girls to choose fresh ingredients and try some new things in the kitchen. Your blog is a great source of ideas for cooking with the little people!

    • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/ Mardi Michels

      Thanks Cathy – sounds like a great way to get kids excited about food by involving them in the shopping process too!

  • Yes 2014

    My two kids are still young – 4 and 3. but they help me make things like bread and pasta from scratch. they also love making cakes with my wife. Considering letting my 4 year old help make a full mac n cheese next time.

    • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/ Mardi Michels

      That’s wonderful you are getting your kids involved in cooking at such a young age! I think they could most definitely help with a mac and cheese :)

  • MaryCatherine Anderson

    So many great ideas here Mardi! I so agree with you, get the kids to make the foods they already enjoy. They will learn how to take on the basics and then the whole world of food and cooking opens up to them! Amazing!