"Chef Sigatapu said the focus will be on whipping up tasty items with the ingredients, vegetables and fruits using kitchen equipment that is available in upper middle class homes."
By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Chennai, July 6 - For the past couple of Sundays, groups of children have found that cooking could actually be child's play under expert supervision at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel. The programme will be a continuing one, said a top official.

The hotel, which set the trend here of holding cooking classes for women a couple of years ago, has now started to teach kids the art of cooking sans the flames.

In these days of fast/junk foods and multiple screens (television, mobile phones, tablets, computers) to distract them, there is every possibility that children may be seeing vegetables only as pictures and not in their kitchens. We want children to enjoy cooking, hotel general manager Prakash Jayadevan told IANS.

However, cooking in a way has become a life skill these days, especially for Indian men, and teaching them at a young age has many long-term benefits, Jayadevan, an expert chef before he switched over to the management side.

Even though cooking and flames are two sides of the same coin, young children can safely be taught the art of whipping up healthy dishes without flames, executive chef Sridhar Sigatapu told IANS.

According to him, children not only find it fun to cook and serve their dishes to their parents but they also make new friends.

The flameless cooking class starts with the children donning white Gandhi caps, thin green plastic aprons and gloves.

For making wraps, sandwiches and other items one need not use flame, Sigatapu said.

Printed recipes of the dishes that are to be made that day are also handed out to the children.

With his small-talk and simple questions Sigatapu makes the nearly one-hour session very interactive.

However, he does not forget to signal the health benefits of the ingredients like fruits, nuts and others.

Pizza need not be a junk food if made with wheat and veggies. It is better to use honey instead of sugar. As for using a knife, cut vegetables away from you, he tells the children.

And to the parents, he suggests that sprinkling black salt on cut fruits makes them taste great while squeezing a little lemon on papaya makes it interesting.

Children may not like to take dry fruits. It is better to mix dry fruits/nuts with milk shakes and smoothies, Sigatapu said.

Similarly, for those who do not take curd/yoghurt, smoothies with a couple of spoons of curd can be an option, said a parent who was present at the class.

I liked the two sessions that I attended. I will be trying out at home what I learnt here, G.Yuvanica, a seventh standard student in a school here, told IANS.

The session was nice. I learnt to make a vegetarian and non-vegetarian wrap, Neha Rao, a seventh standard student in a Bangalore school, said.

We came here for the weekend. We heard about the session. Neha helps me out in the kitchen and in the evenings she makes her dishes on her own, her mother, Bharathi Rao, told IANS.

While children loved the cooking sessions, their parents did express some concern.

Firstly the cost - Rs.1,000 plus taxes per class - is a bit on the higher side for the number of dishes that were taught. Further, the accompanying parent also has to spend for his food, Yuvanica's mother G. Shoba told IANS.

With most of the parents facing the problem of their kids bringing back the lunchbox fully or partly empty, she said: It will be great if the chef teaches some simple and interesting recipes for the school lunch box.

Responding, Jayadevan said: The feedback is good. We are planning to come out with a package rate. As for the number of items taught, we may look at sharing the recipes for two more dishes.

Chef Sigatapu said the focus will be on whipping up tasty items with the ingredients, vegetables and fruits using kitchen equipment that is available in upper middle class homes.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at [email protected])


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