15 December 2014, by Tan Li Lin
I absolutely love watching Masterchef Junior! Have you caught it yet? Featuring Gordon Ramsey and little home-cooks aged 8 to 12, it offers a dosage of inspiration while delivering a kick in (your) butt!
Contestants of the cooking competition reality show – as Gordon likes to say – “might be small in size but pack a punch!” (He usually uses this on chillies though).
The kids are challenged to cook restaurant-quality dishes. This means pink-centered steaks, perfect fried eggs, seafood, pies, 3-tiered cakes and even cooking in real restaurants! All under the pressure to think fast, think creative and act with precision. What impresses me is their attitude to learn at this level (and fail at this level too), the encouragement they give each other, their ability to think fast, taste subtleties and deliver really amazing-looking dishes. Their recent challenge to whip up a Cream Pie had me salivating on the spot and reaching for Youtube to learn how to do it myself.
I am lucky to have parents who can deliver magic in the kitchen. Dad cooks on inspiration and churns out dishes without any recipes up his sleeve; Mom has spoilt us with freshly-baked chocolate-chip cookies, pineapple tarts, egg tarts, cupcakes, muffins… She even baked my freaking awesome wedding cake!
You know you nailed it when kids can’t keep their little fingers away
I couldn’t tell for sure how this exposure helped in my development as a child, up until only recently – although I do recall how proud I was selling out Mom’s chocolate-chip cookies at my school fair, and how impressed I was that Dad could (out-of-the-blue) make Chinese Yam Pudding with Pumpkin (my fav!). I think more than anything, I respected my parents for having capabilities I could watch and learn from. Needless to say, that impact resulted in my belief that I too can cook up a storm in the kitchen (although now it’s still looking more storm). More specifically, that I can – with my own hands – create something to feed others.
In recent years, I’ve increased intensity in baking and cooking. I am starting to appreciate home-made food because (1) you know what goes into the food (2) it is the cheaper, fresher and cleaner option. Plus, cooking/baking tunes your senses, making you more sensitive to what tastes good, and what’s good for your body. It increases confidence, sophisticates your thinking and senses, and hones your ability in creation. It also reminds one of the origin, effort and energy (from the farmers to the cook) that goes into producing food that feds people. It is humbling.
Only because I’ve recently become more aware of the good that comes out of “kitchen-exercise”, I’ve been exposing Coco (my 3 year old niece) to baking and cooking. I believe the take-away of such experiences fester in a kid’s psyche and matures with them as they develop. The youngest contestant on MasterChef Junior proudly exclaims that she started cooking when she was 2! The outcome? She’s beat hundreds of wannabes and is now in the top 5 of Season 2. Imagine her confidence moving ahead in life knowing she’s good at one thing by the time she’s 10?! I only got that recently at 30 when I got my Master certification in coaching!
So now, Coco helps with the baking:
Helping with the sifting of the flour
Following instructions intelligently when I said, “make sure the berries cover the bottom of the cup.”
“Claire!!!! NOOOOOO!!!!!! Go away!!!”
Carefully spooning batter into baking cups, while Claire is relegated to using eye power.
Claire trying her cute fat hands at baking too
Coco has since progressed to mixing ingredients (my last muffins came out rubbery from her over-mixing….). Also, now when we are cooking, we’d show her what’s going on in the wok and how her favorite Macaroni is prepared.
Claire in the meantime….. mixes imaginary ingredients in her ‘choup‘ (soup) to the sounds of “tsh tsh tsh!!!”
Heart melt, seriously. Soon Claire, soon.
Lin Tan is an Entrepreneur and an Executive Coach who dedicates more time to making society a better place over making babies (for now). Follow her blog on ilovechildren.sg/blog and journey with her as she embarks on all things ‘life after 30′.