“Kids have their own tastes, so when we cook together we let them customize the recipes whenever possible,” says Debra Ponzek, author of The Family Kitchen (Clarkson Potter, 2006), a cookbook with recipes that parents and children enjoy preparing together.
Ponzek, a mother of three, twice earned three-star status from the New York Times during her stint as executive chef at Manhattan’s Montrachet. When she left full-time restaurant work, she and her husband, Greg Addonizio, opened Aux Delices, a specialty food business. Now, they have three gourmet take-out food shops in and around Greenwich, Conn. They also have a production kitchen and bake shop where 22 kids at a time participate in themed cooking classes, such as Tapas for Kids and Let’s Cook Asian.
As the mother of Remy, 11, Cole, 10, and Gray, 7, Ponzek started cooking projects around the island in her home kitchen with small groups of their friends. “Kids love cooking with their peers, and you’d be surprised how many more things they try with their friends cooking beside them,” she says.
For the home kitchen, Ponzek recommends small groups so that “each child has enough work space.” She reminds parents that even older children need to take turns at the hot stove for safety reasons. Age appropriate, hands-on recipes are ideal; even little ones can tear leaves off basil and pull grapes off a stem. She suggests that parents consider a child’s personal interest and ability so that cooking is always a positive experience. Some children will want to tackle ethnic meals or artsy cake decorating; others simply enjoy making, rolling and topping a pizza. She adds, “But kids of all ages love to make the Chocolate Flowerpot Cakes.”
By Irvina Lew, a food writer in Bay Shore, N.Y. Recipes adapted from The Family Kitchen: Easy and Delicious Recipes for Parents and Kids to Make and Enjoy Together by Debra Ponzek (©2006 Clarkson Potter Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.)