What is the point of trying to teach a four-year-old how to cook?
This was the question my husband asked me as I raced out the door to take Hector to his first cooking lesson on Tuesday.
I texted him the answer five minutes after the class had started: a photograph of his son in an apron, totally transfixed by the small bottle of olive oil on the table in front of him.
All FIVE boys in the group had their own bottle, and they were captivated by what their teacher, Rosie, was saying about it.
And then they had a brilliant time bashing the life out of bunches of dried herbs with wooden spoons, and stuffing them into the bottles. “You might not want to put too many herbs in…” Rosie suggested tentatively.
But the boys bashed and stuffed and bashed and stuffed until all the herbs had gone. It’s going to be potent stuff…
Then it was time to start making gnocchi. “I’m hungry…” moaned Hector.
“Well lets crack on – then you can have your tea,” replied Rosie.
And he stopped moaning and stood patiently by the table, waiting for the next instruction. I almost fell off my chair.
This is why a cookery class at 4pm is a genius idea. The children were famished.
They’d come straight from school or nursery and were fully invested in the idea of making their own tea. “It’s great to teach them from an early age about healthy eating and where food comes from,” Rosie explains.
“When you put them in charge, they’re much more inclined to taste new ingredients they have never dared try.”
I wondered how she was going to keep them going, nil by mouth, for another 45 minutes but I needn’t have worried. She’s a complete pro.
Before starting Cook with Rosie, her cookery school in Battersea and Shepherds Bush, she worked for Wahaca and taught at Leiths.
She’s a brilliant teacher, bossy enough to keep children in check with a captivating way of talking about ingredients and engaging them by asking them to smell and describe them.
Her kitchen was a scene of focused industry. The boys stood at their stations, whisking, stirring and pushing dough through a sieve. Then they rolled it into a long sausage – they found this really funny, of course – before cutting it into pieces.
As they worked, they struck up one of those wonderful absent-minded conversations you only have when you’re doing something like cooking or painting in a group.
They talked about what they liked to eat, their siblings and then Hector suddenly came up with “Did you know that Jesus was nailed to the cross?” I covered my eyes but the other boys simply nodded their heads and carried on with their work.
Before long they were sitting at the table, wolfing down their own home cooked gnocchi with pesto and tomato in complete silence.
“What about pudding?” Hector asked, after he’d licked clean his bowl.
Needless to say, he will be back for the next class, although I’ll drop him and run… he doesn’t want mummy cramping his style.
Rosie runs weekly classes for children aged four-and-over during term time, as well as one-off courses for nannies and parents.
Hector couldn’t wait to tell his father that he cooked his own supper. “Great, you can cook for us now,” my husband replied.
No way. The thought of Hector crashing around my kitchen sends a shiver down my spine.
Much better that he does it in someone else’s kitchen, with a teacher he listens to.
- For more information about Cook with Rosie see her website