In the bustling kitchen of FIG Restaurant, Executive Chef Jason Prendergast is used to hearing things like “yes, chef” amid the sounds of sizzling pans and chopping knives. At home, however, “why” and “how” are much more common refrains from his sous chefs — his children Aden, 9, and Adisen, 6.
Like many of us, Prendergast has been spending more time than usual in his kitchen at home, and he’s been using this time to foster his kids’ cooking curiosities. And while there’s certainly extra patience required (even for a professional chef), it’s also been the perfect opportunity to teach them more about what happens between farm and table.
“It’s different, because you’re taking your time and explaining it to the kids, versus at work [the cooks] understand your method and cooking techniques,” he says. “But now that we’re not in so much of a rush, it’s more relaxing — [we’re not] coming home from work at night and trying to get the kids to do their homework and get them in the bath.”
The chance to slow down, mix up dinnertime routines, and enjoy the simple pleasures of cooking together has been a silver lining for Prendergast during this time, as well as for Fairmont Miramar Food & Beverage Director Linda Fusco, who’s been getting together with Prendergast for work. “I just really enjoy being around kids [especially] when it comes to cooking, and I especially enjoy watching chef with them because I get to see a whole different side of him,” she says.
Cooking with kids also encourages you to keep things simple and “focus on the basics of just creating beautiful food,” adds Fusco — whether you’re a professional chef or not.
Take this Italian-inspired, meatless Monday menu of garlic bread, pasta Pomodoro, and Italian soda “mocktails,” for example. The pair came up with it specifically to cook with kids, and each recipe is deliciously uncomplicated and chock-full of fresh, local flavors. Using simple, whole ingredients also offers the opportunity to start conversations about where food comes from, which both Prendergast and Fusco agree is an important part of teaching kids about cooking. (In fact, Prendergast has even been having his kids help with their backyard summer garden, and he’d normally bring his kids to the Santa Monica Downtown Farmers Market to meet the growers and ask questions.)
In the kitchen, you can encourage kids to help out with basic cooking tasks like stirring, rinsing, and seasoning — and throughout the process, you’ll probably see their own chef personalities come out. For example, “Aden prefers making beverages and puréeing stuff in the blender, and Adi enjoys the simple act of just hanging out in the kitchen and doing videos of daddy,” says Prendergast.
Ready to try it for yourself? Invite your kids to put on their imaginary chef’s hats — and not-so-imaginary aprons — for an evening of learning and connecting in the kitchen, and watch the recipes come together below.
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