How our best-loved chefs got started in the kitchen

TV chefs from Mary Berry to Jamie Oliver tell Kathryn Custance how they learned to cook - and why they're teaching their children.

Mary Berry and grandson Louis

Mary Berry

‘The first time I cooked was in domestic science at school. I didn’t cook at home – it was wartime and ingredients were rationed. With my children, I’d always invite their friends around to cook too, making pizzas, buns, butterfly cakes and chocolate crispies.

‘Now I cook with my grandchildren. My daughter Annabel’s sons, Louis, eight, and Hobie, six, have little non-stick frying pans at my house to make omelettes; we break the eggs in a jug, so they can grip the handle while they beat them.

Their sister Atalanta, two, loves making jelly. Abby and Grace, my son Thomas’s 11-year-old girls, like making cakes. It’s very educational – weighing ingredients, and reading and following a recipe.’

Mary returns to BBC Two this summer with a new series of the Great British Bake Off

Jamie OliverJamie Oliver

‘I was helping out in the kitchen at my parents’ Essex pub, The Cricketers, as soon as I could. My dad put me on the veg section – I was peeling first, then later chopping when I was safe with knives. One of my earliest memories was when Dad came back from the fish market and we’d have races with the lobsters before they ended up in the pot.

‘These days, my kids love cooking, especially the two older girls. We’re always making bread and cakes together, and they now do all the salad dressings.’
 

Michel Roux Jr and daughterMichel Roux Jr

‘From a young age, I would help prepare vegetables and do any other kitchen chores. One of my early memories is preparing whitebait for my grandfather to fry.

‘My wife and I brought up Emily, who is now 22 and a trained chef, very much in the French way. She started cooking at a very young age and bossing us about in the kitchen, too!

‘On special occasions, she would bring breakfast in bed of pancakes and homemade fruit compote. As she was growing up, we would cook together and criticise each other’s food, which is very much the French family way!’

Michel will be back judging the next series of MasterChef: The Professionals later this year

Monica GalettiMonica Galetti

Samoa, where I was born, is a very family-centred culture; as a child, I would be in the kitchen with my family – cousins, aunties, uncles – all cooking together. I’ve always involved my six-year-old daughter, Anais, in deciding what we’re going to cook. It makes her more interested and adventurous in what she eats.

‘Her favourite thing is muffins. She also likes peeling veg – even onions – and chopping garlic. I’ve made her aware of the dangers in the kitchen, to be careful near hot pans and with sharp knives.’

Monica will be setting challenges in MasterChef: The Professionals, on BBC Two later this year

Stephan GatesStefan Gates

‘My childhood was very much in the classic Seventies food vibe – margarine on sliced white, economy burgers from the freezer. It was awful! I didn’t really start cooking until I went to university, where I arrived with just a kettle and a sandwich toaster.

‘I didn’t want my daughters to grow up with the same distance from food that I did, so both Daisy, 10, and Poppy, eight, already have pretty good knife skills. They’re involved with day-to-day cooking, like making a spice mix and rubbing it into a chicken to roast.’

Incredible Edibles presenter Stefan has a new series, Disaster Chefs, starting soon on CBBC.

Rachel AllenRachel Allen

‘I started baking with my mum as soon as I was big enough to stand on a chair. My sister and I would line up our teddies against the wall while we made peppermint creams and
pretend we were TV cooks just like Delia.

‘I’ve cooked with my children since they were very little. If she had her way, Scarlet, four, would make buns every day. Lucca, 11, enjoys cooking steak just right, and Joshua, 13, likes to fillet and cook the mackerel he has caught. It’s important to teach children to cook. It only takes 30 minutes a week to give them basic skills that will set them up for life.’

Rachel is filming a new series for the Good Food Channel’s autumn schedule

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