I taught teens how to cook 14w


"And now we're going to EMULSIFY. Can everyone here say E-MUL-SI-FY?" The children dutifully repeated me.
It was a 'Parent and Me' cooking class at PCC here in Seattle for 4-5 year olds, roughly 10 years ago.

"We're going to squeeze a little lemon juice and dijon mustard." One of the parents gave me a look like "no, no mustard for my kid!" I ignored her pleading glances and squirted some into her kids container and gave her a look back that said "zip it." Her kid kept stirring and didn't complain but the parent remained tense.

"As we pour the oil into the mixture of lemon, garlic, mustard, and honey, we're going to whisk whisk whisk it all together so it will E-MUL-SI-FY. Very good class!!!" The kids looked excitedly at their parents. 

The parents looked at me as if I was nuts. I saw two moms glance at each other like "yeah, this teacher thinks MY kid will eat something with mustard and garlic. HA!"

"Ok, kids, this is VERY, VERY important. You're going to dip your cucumber into your mixture and then decide if it needs more lemon, garlic, oil, lemon or honey! I know you're all going to say more honey, but I want you to REALLY think about what it needs."

I took the kids very seriously.

They took me very seriously back.

Little 4 and 5 year olds dipped their cucumber into their dressing, tasted, paused. A few raised their hands: "more lemon please!" "More oil please!" "I need salt," one kid says deadpan. 

The parents looked at me in shock. "I I I can't believe her palate...I can't believe she could identify what it needed."

I just smiled and kept on squirting ingredients based on whatever the kids asked for.

I am used to being doubted.

When I decided to host a teen cooking camp in the summer of 2004 (??) In New York City when I ran the Culinary Arts program at the JCC in Manhattan, EVERYONE told me I was out of my mind. 

"No way it will run," they insisted, "Why would teens want to cook?" they rolled their eyes at me.

I was still new at the job so I was a bit nervous. But I'd been teaching teens and kids how to cook for several years back in Seattle at that point in my career.

I knew they loved it. They loved the creativity. They loved how I gave them techniques, then let them create their own unique dishes. They exalted in their autonomy.

If the class didn't run, it was summer so I wouldn't lose profit. It was a no-risk endeavor.

The first year, we sold out with a waiting list. Florence Fabricant helped by sharing it in the New York Times. (Thank you Florence!!) The next year, I had two sold-out sessions. By 2011, I started offering my own camps and co-hosting with a colleague.

When the registration numbers were low a few weeks before the camp, my colleague panicked and bailed on me, taking her kitchen with her. I tried to warn her that parents wait until the last minute to sign up their teens. 

It was only when the kids were sitting around being lazy in the summer that the parents got serious about finding them something to do.

I found my own kitchen (thank you Sarah Frank!!! for saving my ass!) and ran the camp myself. 

Sold out every time.

It is easy to doubt.

It is even easier to make fun of people with new ideas.

It is the hardest of all to believe when nobody else believes.

That's what I love about teens.

So few believe in them, that when they come across people that finally do, they realize how truly extraordinary they are.

The girl in this photo is named Ruby. If she looks familiar to you it's because she was on Sesame Street with me!! 

When she showed up in my teen cooking class at Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) class five years after Sesame Street (this must have been 2013 when I had 3 cancers growing in me) - I didn't realize it was her! She was so grown up and poised! 

RUBBBBBYYYYYY!!!!!! One of my favorite students!!! Back in my kitchen!!

Not only was she still into cooking, she'd work at a kids cooking camp the summer before at age 14.

The ripple effect we can have. I taught her. She taught small kids.

Teens. They are so powerful. They are so capable.

Not sure why anyone doubts them. Especially the right wing idiots. Hahahaaa...

Good. They will keep underestimating these kids. 

It will just make it that much more interesting when these kids take over the world.

I can't fucking wait.