Frogs in my knife kit!

For years after I became a chef I never thought twice about keeping my knives anywhere other than my knife bag or my kitchen drawer.  Why would I right?  My pomeranian puppy sure wasn’t interested in them.   Man Poe had his own “man knives” so my mind was at ease!  It wasn’t until little Poetitoe #1 came into my life that I started thinking about knife safety in my kitchen.  One day when I was traveling to a competition out of town, I went to open my knife bag and found a special surprise!  Next to my dough scraper and ice cream scoop was a little bag of rubber frogs.  At first I was a little riffed that my son had been in my bag!   But, then I laughed and decided to keep the little colorful accents.  From then on those frogs became a gentle reminder that my son was just as interested in my tools as I was.  It also reminded me that I had better keep the “sharp” tools out of his reach!  I still have those goofy little rubber frogs.  I have transferred them as I have my career direction from my “chef” knife bag to my “food styling” case.  They make me laugh every time I see them and who knows………..maybe they’ll be the inspiration for my memoir someday!

Of course I love having “kids in my kitchen”.   With all the activity I have in my life, cooking with my kids gives me great pleasure and in some ways completes me!  Ha!  If I’m not cooking for one of my bed and breakfast guests or feeding my brood of three then I’m testing a recipe or catering for a friend.  My kitchen never gets a break!   There is the rare occasion that I have a therapeutic day of just “Chef Poe” time to myself.   More often than not though I have my mommy/teacher hat on and three little sous chefs under my feet.

Having kids in your kitchen can be very enjoyable and create life-long memories.  It also helps to establish their view of food and encourages them to try new flavors and textures.  Children learn through sensory and tactile experiences, so having your little or big ones in the kitchen can set the tone for their diets as adults.  It’s also a great place to incorporate math, science and art into their learning times.

When it comes to having “kids in the kitchen” there are several safety factors to consider as parents.  Safety is important anytime in the kitchen but when kids are involved it goes from code green to code red.  My kids are still really little so being in the kitchen means listening and obeying.  I have a couple of hard and fast rules I live by for providing a safe kid-friendly environment in your home kitchen.

1.)  Obedience or you’re fired!
2.)  SHARP and HOT!
3.)  Ask before you touch!

The terminology alone is pretty self-explanatory but I’ll elaborate briefly for fun.

The first rule sets the tone for “kitchen time” in general.  When my former culinary students would mess up on their food, I would jokingly “fire” them.  It was my way of reminding them that whereas I couldn’t really “fire” them, that the mistake was noted and we should try to improve next time.   My kids love to cook, however if they don’t have their listening ears and obedient hats on…….they get fired.   Then they have to settle for watching from a distance.

The second rule comes from the restaurant world.  When you are in a professional kitchen you have words you shout out to your teammates like “HOT” or “BEHIND YOU” to let them know of potential dangers.  I teach my kids those words very early.  I want them to understand that the kitchen is a busy and possibly dangerous place.  But, with the right communication we can all have fun and be safe too!

The third and final rule covers everything else.  It’s all about patience right?  My little ones always have their own idea of what they want to do in the kitchen.  They are very decisive and opinionated when it comes to cooking…… I wonder where they get it?  The hardest part though is not squishing their excitement for food and cooking.   I encourage them to ask questions and raise their hand before taking action.  It helps them realize they can have fun and follow direction while helping mommy be successful too!

Cooking with your kids or grand-kids can be some of the best time you will ever spend as a family.  My best memories from childhood were made with my mom, dad and grandmothers in the kitchen.  It was those precious smells, tastes, sounds and experiences that inspired me to become a chef.  Cook with your kids this week and help create their “Life Recipe”!

My Top Ten Kid-Friendly Kitchen Tools

  1. Butter Knife (General all-purpose tool for dough work and basic cutting)
  2. Plastic Salad Knives (To let kids practice what a real knife will feel like)
  3. Ice Cream Scoop (For cookies or to practice batter placement with)
  4. Off-set Spatula (Helps kids learn how to spread evenly and great for decorating)
  5. Melon Scoop or Baller (Fruit work or to help them clean vegetable seeds)
  6. Bench Scraper or Bakers Dough Scraper (To do simple cuts or clean up kid kitchen messes)
  7. Fun Colorful Spatulas and Whisks (Keep it interesting with colors and shapes)
  8. Cookie Cutters and Biscuit Cutters (Simple, creative way to keep them involved)
  9. Measuring Cups and Spoons (I let my babies play with these to keep them occupied and then I make my bigger kids do their math calculations when we cook!)
  10. Rubber or Wooden Pastry Brushes (Egg wash, water, butter and more…….. They let your kids feel like culinary artists)

My Favorite Cooking with Kids Websites:

Safety Suggestions for “Kids in the Kitchen”

  • Always keep sharp knives out of the reach of children.  (I lock my “big girl” knives away for safe keeping)
  • Keep their tools down low or within reach and they will leave your’s alone :)
  •  I like to start with hand washing and finish with hand washing……. have your kids sing “You are my sunshine” while washing!
  • To prevent food poisoning wait for food to be cooked before sampling it and always use a spoon when you do taste.
  • Always keep kids at the level of activity.  Use a stool if necessary.
  • Use cooking tools that will not break (plastic or stainless-steel)

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