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Jan 7, 2008 12:32 PM

Teen Cooking

The time has come for my daughter to learn how to cook. She is eager and has an affinity for various cultures and a well developed palate. We reside in Chicago and while there are a few options commercially, most are geared towards adults and not for the older teen cook. I would really like to give her a solid foundation and would appreciate any suggestions you can offer on books, classes, techniques that would be suitable for a beginner (17 yrs). Thanks in advance!

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  1. I'm not quite sure how an older teen cook's needs differ from an adult cook's in this respect. She's old enough to use knives and such and she's already motivated to learn. I think the best way is to get her in the kitchen with you when you make dinner. She can learn the basics there. Then ask her what she's interested in cooking, and point her to books/classes in that area. This is how I learned, and it gave me the double benefit of decent cooking skills and quality time with my parents.

    1. Now a 23 year old dad, I began cooking at 13-14. It all started when we finally got Food TV in my area. My parents who are staight out meat and potatoes people were more than happy to let me expiriment with new recipes.

      I just started out with basics. Took over grilling duties on the weekends (Added grilled veggies and my parents were hooked) , made dinner once or twice a week again nothing over the top but just trying new foods/techniques. After a while I moved to more advanced things.

      Most important as the parent though I think is to be supportive, my parents allowed me to cook, allowed me to do my own thing, often trying new foods that they otherwise would have never had, most times they enjoyed it, sometimes they didn't (My dad hates pineapple and pork sadly) but they were always supportive.

      As you are posting here, I assume you have a more varied palette than my parent's meat and potatoes, so it should be fairly easy. Choose recipes and put her in charge of the side dish one night or the main dish another, if you enjoy similar foods teaching your child to cook should be a snap, not to mention take some dinner time stress off the parent :). Cooking together is a great parent/child activity and you get to teach her everything you know, the best place to learn the basics is at home.

      I now cook with my little one (3 years old) he's usually in charge of salad (no knives) I just let him tear away at lettuce, make the dressing in a shaker, he also does alot of general mixing, he loves the mess, and almost has fresh pasta figured out (I have to do the rolling) So it is never to early to start, I say just have her jump in on dinner time to help out/

      1. I really appreciate the feedback. I'm going to sign her up for a knife essentials course. A few places locally offer it and it will help her tremendously with preparation. She has been fortunate to grow up when Julia was still on television and has always been exposed to a variety of foods. I have assigned her a night of cooking and she will be preparing the meal and shopping for the ingredients. I'm looking forward to the extra hands and a meal option from her aside from well seasoned top ramen!

        4 Replies
        1. re: gabby29

          gabby, to add a few add'l suggestions to the thread.. I took over kitchen duties when my father passed away and my mother began working full time. So my exposure to cooking was not only early but an ongoing adventure full of practice, practice, practice.

          My mother would take me to the library to explore books on food cultures and we'd copy recipes on her day off. I remember really enjoying that time with her.
          Relatives, willing and eager to teach, invited me to their home for "lessons" in sauce making, baking, etc. Some of the best teachers I ever had and those "recipes in their heads" that never got written down are now in MY head.
          In high school I started taking cooking classes around town and at the local grocery chain that offered theme classes.
          During college I continued to take night classes that caught my interest. Now it's a hobby.

          What started out as a chore became a real joy. I'm not a pro in any particular area but I am one hell of a short order cook and I'm not afraid to try anything.

          A bit of encouragement, like you are offering, is all she'll need.

          1. re: HillJ

            Thank you for your kind words. My daughter has been very spoiled. While I often helped in the kitchen when possible she has no clue aside from the microwave. I'm concerned that she will be in a bind in the years to come when she heads off to college and will be dependent on what's available in the cafeteria or through delivery. Based on the suggestions I've gotten I will have help helping out and assign a day where she goes it alone. I've decided that she'll use Mastering the Art of French cooking. She adores Julia and I am focusing on proficiency and technique.

            1. re: gabby29

              gabby, I wouldn't worry too much about your daughter growing up w/out a clue. Come college, she will meet other young adults learning how to prepare meals for themselves and they will teach eachother. Students pursuing culinary arts may also cross her path with skills to share. Whether she absorbs every word in The Art of French Cooking or meets a frenchmen and learns at his side-she's bound to expand beyond the microwave.

              Remember, keep it fun!

              1. re: gabby29

                It seems like a bit of a leap from the microwave to Mastering the Art of French Cooking? I know Martha cooked her way thru it, but she's ... unusually ambitious.

                My mother never wanted us in the kitchen when she was cooking, so ... I somehow learned by osmosis without actually being there. At some point after she had my brother, she went on an extended diet and I started cooking out of self-defense using whatever I could find in the pantry. I still enjoy the challenge of creating something from "nothing."

                My references were Joy of Cooking, and an old textbook of my mother's with white sauce proportions. I still occasionally refer to the Joy.

                Then and now, I prefer to cook (but not bake!) without recipes. I still don't use chichi cookbooks ... I like church cookbooks and magazine compilations for inspiration. Also the cookbook row at the library.

          2. i was working full time in the summers in a kitchen on the line at 17 - she is capable of anything!! I think knife skills course is fantastic idea - if there is a sauce class in the area and or a good nutrition class either or both would be good. Undertsanding your food nutritionally and vitamins etc is a great life skill.
            My daughter likes to recreate things she's eaten out and enjoyed.
            The other tough one is watching the mistakes happen, I must let my daughter do it her way sometimes , even if I know there is no way it will taste good or chemically work....when she bakes - not exactly the place for creativity in the recipe . Thats tough on a 16 yr old - but a couple of failures later they are reading the recipe thru and checking it for ingredients and procedure before they start.
            Another great idea and I have my daughter working on one is a family recipe book - she'll be going to college or whatever soon abd hopefully want to recreate some of the family favorites. Have her identify things she really likes to cook that you do and make the recipes with her while she writes down what to do. Not only is it a great way to work on cooking skills and terminology but also to make a family recipe collection ( they have great computer programs to hekp with this)

            1 Reply
            1. re: coastie

              Exactly. I just received Crust: Bread to Get Your Teeth Into by Richard Bertinet and I had her in mind. The simple to follow recipes complete with color photographs of each step and the accompanying dvd would encourage any novice baker. I have RLB, Medrich, Greenspan, Martha, and many others but I like the idea of precise directions and explanations that give feedback on why things are done a certain way. I'm encouraging questions and reminding her to utilize the library we have when she comes across a term or ingredient she's unfamiliar with.

            2. My 14 year old son is on his way to becoming a fine cook, so as a Chanukah gift, my husband and I are sending him to cooking classes at Sur La Table. They offer classes just for teens (a sushi class!) but they also said that they would allow him to come to one of the other classes if I accompanied him. He was VERY excited about the classes. If you have a Sur La Table in your area that offers cooking classes, that may be a fun thing to do with your daughter.

              1 Reply
              1. re: bards4

                What a wonderful gift! Our local Sur La Table is within walking distance and doesn't offer many teen classes. But I will inquire about her taking the adult classes or helping out when she becomes more proficient. Thanks for the suggestion.