Saturday, January 1, 2011

Tips for Cooking with Youth

If you plan on cooking with a group of youth, here are a few basic tips to help ensure success.

Be Prepared
  • Make sure that you have all your ingredients, recipes, equipment, and plan thought out and ready to go.

  • If there are many ingredients to measure, it is a good idea to have multiple sets of measuring cups and spoons so that more than one person can measure at a time. 

  • For organization and tone setting, it is best to set up the equipment and ingredients before the youth arrive so that everything is smooth and ready to use. For example, if you are splitting into small groups, have a bowl or bag of ingredients and cooking equipment already separated for each group. Be sure to let the students do the measuring, but it is important to have the ingredients organized and ready to go.

  • Before cooking, make sure that everyone washes his or her hands with soap and all cooking surfaces are wiped down with soap and water. 
  • Make sure that all open cuts on the hands and arms are covered and that long hair is tied back.
  • Working with knives requires the youth to be fully attentive to what they are chopping. Encourage everyone to keep their eyes on what they are cutting.
  • Demonstrate knife safety techniques: Curl your fingers under so they are away from the knife. Cutting away from yourself. If you are cutting something round, be sure to cut it in half and place the flat side down so it is not able to roll while you are cutting.
  • Always make sure there is only one person per cutting board, and space between each cutting board.
  • Do not let anyone walk with knives. Have a bin on the table to collect dirty knives. Wash them all at once and carry them to the sink in the bin.

Keep everyone engaged and active
This is one of the most important tips for success. The more tasks there are to do, the more engaged youth will be.
  • If you are cooking with a large group, break into smaller groups of no more than eight participants. Each group can make the same recipe, or they can make a component of a larger meal. 
  • Be creative with finding tasks! For example, add more fruits and vegetables to chop up than the recipe calls for. Cut an onion or potato in half so that two people have onion or potato-chopping jobs. Give someone a job as the recipe reader, and another person a stirring job. As a person finishes their chopping task, ask them to help someone else who has more chopping to do, or start cleaning-up. As a facilitator, your job is to make sure that everyone is safe and engaged in a task.  

Set the Tone
  • Let participants know that you hope they will try new things, but that they will not be required to eat anything, and they will never have to finish anything they don't like. Many youth, when given this freedom, feel less apprehensive about trying new foods.

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