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Dec 14, 2011 06:44 AM

Inspiring a Budding Young Chef with a Simple Gift

My nephew, 13, has just discovered cooking, and I'd like to give him a Christmas gift that further animates his nascent love. Given his age, I think a piece of cookware is just the ticket. The processes of elimination [nothing dead-tree; nothing by subscription; nothing like a pot or pan or toque] suggest giving him a knife or knife-set.

Is this a good idea (I can do the research for the best once the decision's made) or am I missing something obvious for a boy that age? I'm supposing that something tactile will work best, yet I welcome any and all creative suggestions.

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  1. Hmmm.....well I suppose it depends on what he ikes to cook, but my thought:

    1. A cooking class. Lots of places hold begginner's classes. Maybe one in baking or a cuisine he likes (learning to make pasta). Can't get mroe tactile than that.

    2. At that age, I was a fan of anything cooked ona grill. Tom Douglas makes an intresting variety (Chinese, indian, Native American) spice rubs. A little exposure to different flavor profiles might expand his horizons.

    3. if it came down to a "dead tree" Jamie Oliver's cook with Jamie.


    1. He might like some of Alton Brown's DVDs. He did a few with a kid purported to be his nephew, and the kid always looked as if he was having a good time. But Brown covers technique and recipes in ways that a younger guy might find interesting, especially if he already is interested.

      1. agree wholeheartedly with the cooking class suggestion - a basic skills class/series would be a perfect place to start. before you give him good knives he should learn how to use and care for them properly.

        4 Replies
        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          I like the cooking class idea but, nonetheless, would go with the knife. Basic tools can really effect the result, and one's satisfaction and sense of accomplishment . My husband is a painter and a strong believer in only giving kids good quality art materials so they can take pleasure in and feel some mastery in the mark they make. Same goes for cooking.

          1. re: janeh

            from a safety standpoint, giving a kid a sharp knife without teaching him how to use it is far more dangerous than giving him free reign with a canvas and some paint.

            a knife skills class at a cooking store is great because they teach you proper form and care, *and* can offer guidance on the best knife for you - what works for one cook may not be the best fit for someone else. i'd get him a class plus a gift certificate that he can apply toward the purchase of a good knife...and stores usually offer class attendees a discount on anything they purchase that day.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              I totally agree with the knife skills class. He will learn about the care and proper handling and use of different knives. Right now Wusthof has some excellent deals on knives so it is an opportune time to be able to purchase chef's knife.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                ... giving a kid a dull knife is pretty dangerous. particularly with learning disabilities...
                I wouldn't give this at Christmas, unless given as an IOU (to be given later during the holidays). This deserves a good lecture on knife care, at minimum. And that's best done when it's quiet. perfect for a birthday gift thou.

          2. Knife. He's going to need one anyway so you might as well start him off on the right path to using good-quality equipment. The Basic Skills cooking class is nice, but he needs to be able to put what he learn to effect at home and without tools, he's not going to get very far.

            As a good uncle, you'll also want to throw in a penny, a big bag of potatoes to practice on, a bottle of 3M's Nexcare Liquid Bandages, some traditional bandaids and perhaps a good wood cutting board.

            1. As a former 13 year old boy who was cooking (as well as using power tools), I'm in the "a good knife is a great gift" camp. In fact, it's immediately what came to mind when I saw the thread. Though I may have appreciated a few tips from a cool uncle, I'm pretty sure there is no way I would have gone to a class with a bunch of "moms." As an experienced adult cook (and carpenter/handiman), I'm also a believer in the paramount importance of good tools. As an uncle, though, I think it might not hurt to check first with his folks.

              7 Replies
              1. re: MGZ

                Not to generalize too much, but yeah... boys like knives. I second the recommendation for a knife with 2 conditions - that the nephew in question is reasonably responsible for his age, and that his parents don't mind the thought of getting him a knife.

                Also of note, if the OP knows how to sharpen a knife, I suggest he teach his nephew. I once roasted a pig and a bunch of briskets for a wedding. Before cutting the meat, I sharpened up a couple slicers on a few waterstones. I soon had an audience of 12 year old boys who were fascinated. It's a good age to learn the basics of that kind of thing.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  "Not to generalize too much, but yeah... boys like knives"

                  It is totally true and it would be ignoring the an elephant in the room. Just look at CHOWHOUND, how many people who discuss knife sharpening and sharpening stones are not men. We can debate if this is nature vs nurture, but the end result is what it is now.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    It's funny how the most fundamental "male" tasks have become the "spectator sports" of today. Like you, I have been able to mesmerize members of the generation younger than me by simply sharpening a knife in the kitchen, Even funnier was the time I had underestimated the amount of wood I needed to barbecue some pork and wound up having to split a few logs with an ax after the party had started. I could have sold tickets to defray the cost of the fete.

                    1. re: MGZ

                      As a woman, I've got two axes in the house -- and I'd have paid to watch your technique. You do it more often than I do -- and if I need it, i'd better be able to do it well.

                      1. re: MGZ

                        Hey MGZ:

                        The tickets would've been worth it--watching "logs" being split with an axe is pretty funny if you've ever swung a maul.


                    2. re: MGZ

                      Im also on board with the knife Idea. If he is reasonably responsible it will be an invaluable tool he can use for many years to come. As stated earlier, check with the parents first of course.

                      1. re: twyst

                        +1 on a knife after checking with parents. Maybe some lessons on