Meet Cricket Azima, founder and owner of The Creative Kitchen. ChopChop was lucky enough to chat with Cricket about all the ways she’s involved in teaching kids to cook and be healthy. If you’re in the area be sure to visit her at The Kids Food Festival March 2-3 in New York City.
ChopChop: What is the Creative Kitchen?
The Creative Kitchen teaches children about food and how to cook in a fun, safe and educational manner. My goal is to inspire children to express themselves creatively through cooking and the arts.
CC: What is your interest in food?
My interest is in both food and kids, actually. I have always loved to cook and eat... and work with kids! I was at a crossroad in my career, trying to decide between becoming a chef or an elementary school teacher, when it hit me – I can do both! Now, I teach elementary aged children about food, my favorite topic – talk about having your cake and eating it, too!
CC: Tell us about the first Kids Food Festival and how it got started.
The Kids Food Festival was a natural extension of The Creative Kitchen. The Creative Kitchen teaches kids how to make balanced food choices through fun and flavorful activities, while The Kids Food Festival efforts follow this mission just on a much larger scale.
CC: What is the goal of the Kids Food Festival?
We want to promote and establish wholesome lifelong habits, while working to avert childhood obesity. The goal is to generate increased demand for wholesome and balanced options of food-related products through education, sampling, and exposure. After the first festival, we donated a percentage of our proceeds to Share Our Strength. This year, we’re excited to have a donation made from Cooking Light to their charity partner FoodCorp!
CC: Will there be more Kids Food Festivals that we should look out for?
Our next Kid’s Food Festival, in partnership with Cooking Light and in collaboration with the James Beard Foundation, is March 2nd and 3rd at Citipond at Bryant Park in NYC! Festival admission is free and parents can purchase tickets to hands-on cooking classes on our website. We’re hitting the road in the near future, so keep an eye on the website, Facebook, and Twitter for more locations.
CC: What is different about cooking for kids and adults, or is it the same?
At one point in my career, during the same day, I was teaching two-year olds in a mommy-and-me class, and 22 year olds at NYU. Often, I taught the same content to both age groups...the difference was simply the manner in which I communicated.
CC: What kinds of foods do you find kids most willing to cook and eat?
Most any food can be exciting to kids if presented correctly. The challenge is exposure. Children typically don’t like foods they don’t know. But, once a child becomes familiar with a food, he or she is much more comfortable with and open-minded to eating it.
CC: Did you cook when you were a kid? If so, did you have a "signature dish?"
My mother was not much of a cook, unless opening a can of tuna is considered cooking! I think her aversion to cooking directly fed my desire to be a good cook, plus, I was sick and tired of canned tuna. I will add though, that her good taste in food when we dined in restaurants directly impacted my love for the culinary arts.
CC: Can you tell us about a time you didn’t think you would like a food, but you tried it and ended up liking it?
One of my favorite anecdotes from my career is about a Dad who went to pick up his child after one of The Creative Kitchen’s cooking classes and was shocked to hear that his child loved the eggplant in the dish. “You made something with eggplant?” he asked, with a squished nose. I sent them home with the recipe and the next time I saw them the father told me that after making the recipe with his family, he now LOVES eggplant! I think that is a true testament to the power being open minded about trying new foods!
CC: What food brings back childhood memories
My fondest childhood memories surround the kitchen. I remember taking cooking classes at age 5 at a small gourmet store in Kansas City. Believe it or not, I actually prepare some of those same recipes today- Stone Soup and Navajo Fried Bread are both regular menu items in my home and classroom. Without question- of all the classes I have attended over the years—my food and cooking educational experiences are the most unforgettable.
To learn more about the Kids Food Festival visit http://kidsfoodfestival.com/