“The Young Chef: Recipes and Techniques for Kids Who Love to Cook” by Mark Ainsworth
Culinary Institute of America, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2016, 191 pages, Grades 9-12.
Eating is one of the basic needs of all people. Different cultures have developed unique foods and customs for dining. Processed foods are relatively recent in American cuisine and many of the earlier foods were what are frequently called “health foods” today. These former foods, such as home-baked bread, had a density and flavor that is often lacking in store-bought bread.
In the 1950s the TV dinner made its beginning in the country. This sped up the process of cooking and made life simpler to some extent. But, as is often the case, making things easier does not make them better.
Today we are seeing a rebirth in home-prepared cooking and baking. Children’s cooking shows are available on the television. As this interest has grown, so has the need for excellent cookbooks to teach children and teenagers the joys and benefits of home cooked meals. Mark Ainsworth, a chef for the Culinary Institute of America, has produced such a book. The name of this inviting cookbook is “The Young Chef: Recipes and Techniques for Kids Who Love to Cook.”
We start out with a description of the basics of cooking. First and foremost, Ainsworth stresses the need for careful safety when preparing food. This section includes instructions about keeping foods clean, knowing to separate uncooked food from prepared food, the need to fully cook food and how to serve food at the correct temperature.
Next he tells the young chefs the proper cooking utensils such as pots, baking dishes and skillets. A thorough description is given about types of knives and the proper method to cut and slice food products.
After these important learning steps, the author then gives numerous recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here we see young students preparing various omelets, pancakes and blueberry muffins. Important notes on the side of the page encourage the erstwhile beginners to “think like a chef.”
Ainsworth gives important tips to the youthful cooks on how to improve and improvise with recipes. The photographs are so inviting that you may put the book down and head out to the kitchen to try out the recipes. An example of this can be found on page 137 with the attractive picture of oven-roasted potatoes.
The layout of this book is perfect for students in high school. The recipes aren’t too complicated but look inviting. They are a pleasant invitation to take up the craft of cooking and to begin preparing delightful meals for their families.
Many of the recipes are geared toward teenagers and their taste choices. The warm cheesy sauce described on page 141 is a good example. Of course what the children like, their parents usually like as well. So though this book is written for teenagers, many adults may decide to read it when their children are out of the house.
So if you want to give your high school children a great hobby to learn, this is the book for them. Who knows, maybe you will find that your child is the next Julia Child. As she joyfully said: “Bon Appetit.”