Meet Sanaa and Jalaja-Founder of KidChen (Cooking workshop for Kids)

kidchen cooking class for kids

Kidchen is a food venture by Sanaa and Jalaja that teaches children, 3 years and up, how to cook and introduce them to the wonderful world of honest flavours, real ingredients, and good food.

They conduct introductory workshops and regular classes covering various kitchen skills and techniques, and enabling them with a life skill that promotes a healthy attitude towards food.

 

kidchen cooking workshop for kids

 


Tell us about yourself and your family

Sanaa: I am an ex-advertising professional, writer, storyteller to a 5-year-old boy.

Jalaja: I’m a writer, baker and biker who loves to explore new places, music, culture, books, recipes and experiences.

What made you think of starting a food venture for kids

Isn’t it strange that almost every second parent finds it hard to feed their kids. How could something that all of us as adults can’t stop ourselves from indulging in, be repulsive to children? Why do children have to be forced / tricked / bribed into eating using all sorts of methods.
If you notice, in our country, there are separate dishes for children, and for adults. Anywhere else in the world, the only difference in an adult’s main course option and a child’s, is the portion size. Not flavours, not ingredients.
Is it then a big surprise that a child does not want to eat bland diluted-in-flavours food?
So I introduced my son to various flavours in various forms everyday. Mashed apples with cinnamon. Garlic roasted carrots. A hint of cardamon with banana. And by the time he was 2, he was helping me cook. He made his lunch everyday. I let him use the rice cooker to avoid the fire, and he would pick different ingredients from the pantry to add to his rice. Strange flavours like garlic and mango pulao, that would taste awful to me. But since he made it, I assume it was served with a side of pride. And he thoroughly enjoyed eating it.
And that’s what resulted in Kidchen.
                       

 Tell us about your journey from conceptualizing to actually setting up

We started with test workshops at home where we invited our friends’ kids for cooking play dates. We were pleasantly surprised at the equal level of curiosity and interest across ages.And all the parents told us that they have never seen their children eat their meals as enthusiastically. We then slowly moved to weekend classes, and workshops on special occasions like Christmas, Valentine’s day etc.



What do you find to be the biggest challenges when cooking with kids? And, how do you work to minimize these challenges when cooking with your kids or in classes?

Some children come with a pre-conceived notions about certain vegetables being yucky. We try to tackle it by getting each class to try ingredients with a newly-educated palate.

The other is their attention span – keeping them engaged when there are breaks in the cooking process. There are breaks when the dough has to rise, or some dish has to get baked, cool or set. We developed modules after considering such intervals by engaging them in activities like science experiments, story sessions etc.

Although every child is different, generally speaking, at what age do you think it’s best and most realistic to get kids involved in the kitchen?

If they are old enough to eat, they are old enough to learn about where their food comes from and what goes into each meal. That’s what we believe at Kidchen.

As an adult, we like sugar in our coffee, or salt in our lassi because our mums gave us sugar in our milk at the age of 2 or 3 – decisions we didn’t make for ourselves. These childhood habits aren’t easy to break. Many of our our unhealthy habits go back to that young age. We feel – the earlier the better. At an year and a half, they can start by helping with simple tasks like stirring ingredients, sprinkling and mashing. At Kidchen, we start with 3-year old children.

Do you have any other tips for parents to get them involved in the kitchen or to engage with food in a positive way, other than just eating? What about picky eaters

Kids enjoy being part of the process. Involve them in the simplest of things, and you will see a difference.

  • Baby steps. First, letting them touch and feel ingredients as part of sensory play at the age of 1.

  • Introduce them to flavours individually, and not mashed up.

  • Let them have a say in what vegetable is bought for the day’s dinner at the market. Kids feel proud about it and hence express delight when they see it on their plate.

  • Choose one meal a day that they can prepare. Even if it is a simple snack or a smoothie.

  • Aren’t we all picky about our food? How sweet/salty/spicy/pungent we like our chicken or our desserts? Don’t we all have favourite flavours and some things we never want to eat again? Why wouldn’t children be any different? Let them choose what they love. The ones they reject, find alternative sources of similar vitamins. Eg: Milk is not the only source of calcium. They can get the same nutrition from spinach, broccoli, almonds, or good ol’ yogurt.

Do you incorporate other learning opportunities for your kids (and other children) when cooking with them?

That’s what is amazing about food. It gives you opportunities to do a lot more than just share recipes. You learn where food comes from through our gardening sessions. You learn which leaves are edible. You learn shapes with the various cookie cutters. You learn chemistry when liquid batter becomes solid cake, fractions from when you divide measurements amongst the students, and so on.  There is also a lot of love and charm in food as well. Story sessions about superheroes who get their power from walnuts. The tale of the breadmaker who puts emotions into the dough he kneads. We teach just about everything possible in our classes. From subjects taught at school, to subjects that ought to be taught at school like gender roles, and cleaning up after yourselves, fire safety, and first aid.

Can you give us one tip for balancing entrepreneurship with parenthood? What is a day in a life of you like?

Prioritise. It isn’t easy, and it requires some discipline and practice, but that is the only way you can balance all your interests without feeling guilty or without having to sacrifice anything.

Future plans and workshops

Currently we are running a series of workshops at Atta Galatta every Sunday which combines recipes and stories in a super fun workshop. You can follow the schedule of our regular classes on our Facebook page. We conduct classes at various schools as part of their after school programme.
We plan a few events, especially around the summer, and we hope to have our own centre this year.

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