Subha J Rao takes notes as children plan, prepare and execute dishes at events in the city

Mannav V. Surana loves experimenting with food. “I mix and match fruits to come up with a lovely juice to beat the afternoon heat,” he says. “Aunty, I also make juice for my mother,” he smiles, shyly. Mannav, 11, is taking part in a cooking class for children. Along with him is five-year-old Krishha. “I like to cook,” she lisps, using her plastic knife to neatly spread butter on bread. Training them is chef Madhu Wadhwa, known for her baked delights.

“What does pre-heating an oven mean?” pipes up a serious voice from one corner. Madhu indulgently smiles before replying to the little girl, all of six or seven.

Hundred and twenty children, from ages three to 15, wearing aprons stitched to size, were part of L’il Chefs@ Madhu’s Kitchen, organised by Coimbatore North Ladies Circle 11. The idea was to get kids interested in cooking. Proceeds from the event will go to fund the charity projects of the group.

A fortnight ago, in a similar setting, parents cooked with their children at ‘Feast of Flavours’ organised by a school. The idea was to get children to bond with parents in the kitchen, and to teach them to contribute to the cooking process. The eager kids, boys and girls, ran to wash and peel vegetables, rinse vessels and help garnish cooked dishes. “Aunty, can I snip the kothamalli?” “Can I run the mixer?” — a band of ready helpers offered their services. When the dishes were finally laid out, the kids ran around to get name slips ready. The pride on their faces said it all.

The idea, says Aishwarya Rao, director, academics and administration, Vivekalaya, was to get children to experience the joy of contributing to a meal, and to not look at food as something that is “cooked and served by someone else”.

At Madhu’s workshop, they asked grown-up questions. “Aunty, where can I get dark chocolate?”, “How do I whip cream?” Madhu says it is evident these kids are not new to cooking. “They are well versed with cooking terms.”

The children, split in two batches, cooked about seven recipes, assembling four of them on their individual work tables. They made a smiley sandwich, a jam tart, a Chinese bhel and tacos, all by themselves.

The number of food shows on television is attributed as one of the reasons why kids have fallen in love with cooking. “The current lifestyle has exposed them to many tastes. This, added with the increase in the number of working parents, has resulted in children wanting to be independent. They want to chip in at home,” she says.

How different is it to teach children and adults? “Not much,” says Madhu. “But, yes, there are two things. Kids get restless quickly. You need to know how to get them to settle down. And, they hate to just take notes. They’d rather be there up with you on the stage wanting to do every little thing you are doing,” she smiles.

Aishwarya next plans to get children involved in a slow food movement at school and home. Memories are made in the kitchen, she says. We want our children to experience the joy of bonding with their parents in that important space.