Good Food Blog
The young onesPosted at 3:45PM, 11 June 2010 by Emily Boyce - Sub-editor, bbcgoodfood.com
Yesterday, the average age in Good Food's test kitchen fell by twenty years. In place of our cookery team were six budding chefs, aged between 11 and 13, finalists in the Guild of Food Writers' annual CookIt! competition, judged by grown-up-kids Stefan Gates and Valentine Warner, along with Good Food's Sarah Cook.
When I was 13, the most advanced my cooking got was experimenting with things-on-toast
When I was 13, the most advanced my cooking got was choosing my own pizza toppings, concocting exotic sandwich fillings and experimenting with things-on-toast. Consider, in contrast, some of the recipe titles on the finalists' menus: Ballotine of pheasant with braised red cabbage, spiced carrot purée and a potato foam, from 13-year-old Robbie; Seared duck breast with chocolate chilli sauce, by Freya, also 13; Tuna steak served with pea purée and vegetable crème fraîche, from 13-year-old Carla; Banana and cinnamon soufflé with sticky toffee sauce and pistachio cream, by 11-year-old Elliot. They wouldn't sound out of place on the menu at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant.
Thirteen-year-old Anamay's delicately spiced lamb chops suggested an Atul Kochhar in the making, while 12-year-old Rex's mackerel cooked in sea water, which he'd swum out to collect, clearly struck a chord with outdoors-loving Valentine Warner.
With just an hour and a half to cook two courses in an unfamiliar kitchen, surrounded by judges and photographers, if it was me it wouldn't have been just the onions sweating. But each of the finalists calmly got on with the job (they'd obviously learned practice makes perfect), swiftly peeling celeriac and blitzing herbs with stick blenders, and turning out really impressive food - you can get your hands on the recipes in the October issue of Good Food magazine.
TV programmes like Junior MasterChef show kids to be just as passionate and confident in the kitchen as the grown-ups. The fluency of the junior contestants in the language of the adult MasterChef series ('This means everything to me', 'It's been a journey'), and food vocabulary in general, suggests they've grown up watching cookery programmes, which fill the schedules like never before.
Do you think kids are becoming better cooks, and if so, is it down to an education via food programmes? Have you always been a keen cook, or did it come later in life?