Kid-Friendly Recipes from Chef Marc Dunham
Brittany Smith, www.brittseye.com
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Every August, our hallways at Francis Tuttle School of Culinary Arts are filled with a new group of high school students, nervous as they stand in line and stare at our chef instructors with trepidation. I’ve asked them from time to time, “What is going through your mind as you standing in the middle of this intimidatingly beautiful facility with chef eyes peering at you?” As you might expect, there are mixed reactions. Some are filled with insecurity and fear of the unknown, some smiling with excitement, some simply tired and looking for a bed to crawl into.
And then the ice is broken, usually by our resident comedian Chef Claes Passmark. After all, the chefs are there to nurture, encourage and grow their passion and their ability to learn culinary arts. But here is what strikes me as a challenge every semester: to gauge a student’s experience with cooking, learning and food, we enter into a simple dialog with them so we know more about how each of them learns and how much exposure they have had with food and cooking. Time after time, the students who know the most about food have learned it by cooking with their family and friends, but most have can’t identify common vegetables.
Over the years I have been exceptionally lucky to have had opportunities to work with so many fantastic educational programs that promote cooking education for kids. Whether it is Summer Quest at Francis Tuttle or a program I worked on several years ago with Dallas Independent School District, I’ve found these experiences to be the most rewarding and potentially the most impactful.
So here is my unsolicited advice to you reading this article based on my experiences: get in the kitchen and cook. Get in the kitchen and cook as many days during the week as you can and bring your kids with you. We live in a time where most children cannot identify the differences between a fruit and a vegetable. And forget about identifying specific vegetables. Are they going to make a mess? Of course they are, but the bonding and relationships you build with your children in the kitchen are not only educational and crucial for them to learn, they are also moments in their life that they will remember as long as they live.
How else are they supposed to know what is good for them? How will they develop the patterns of eating in life that lead to a healthy and happy life? How will they learn to appreciate the hours of hard work put into making dinner if they don’t experience that with you first hand? And talk about fun! There is nothing more satisfying than seeing my girls Olivia, Emily and Claire so excited that they accomplished something that their daddy does for a living. Chef Claes is famous for saying “we teach self-confidence first...the cooking is an added benefit.” This can’t be overstated. Cooking builds character and confidence.
Full disclosure, my wife Jenny is much better at allowing them to have freedom in the kitchen and make messes and learn. It’s engrained in me to work clean and organized, so I struggle with that part with my daughters. Don’t be like I was in the beginning. Just let them have fun for a while before you start trying to teach your 3-year-old about “mise en place.” Do the simple things. Keep them safe with knives (yes, you need to let them learn how to use them), keep them away from hot areas, but let them experiment. One of the best foods to start with that is fun and safe is making some sort of dough, like pizza dough or bread.
Once they get a little better and more comfortable, you can incorporate new tasks like chopping vegetables, mixing, pouring, adding seasoning and salt and tasting new foods. And guess what, my kids struggle with vegetables and fruits just like every kid I know! Just keep involving them and making it an option and eventually they will try it. The recipes our family decided to show you are simple, seasonal, beautiful, nutritious, and fun to make. Even after we finished these recipes and finished taking the photos, all three of my daughters asked my wife and I if they could have some candy and cookies...the struggle continues. Keep cooking!
Marc Dunham is the Director of Culinary Arts at Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City. He’s also recently produced a documentary made for TV called Course of Food that won Best Oklahoma Short Film at the deadCENTER Film Festival in Oklahoma City last month. Course of Food will be airing on OETA later this fall. For updates, follow the them at http://www.facebook.com/courseoffood and on Twitter @courseoffood. Marc currently lives in OKC with his wife Jenny and daughters Olivia, Emily, and Claire.
See kid-friendly recipes from Marc on the next page!
All photos by Brittany Smith.