TORONTO — Winning “MasterChef Junior” was a huge thrill for Logan Guleff. But the 13-year-old is also immensely proud that he’s inspired kids in many countries to cook.
The blond bowtie-wearing cooking sensation won the second season of the U.S. culinary competition series at age 11.
Kids between eight and 13 are tasked with preparing restaurant-quality dishes that are assessed by professional chefs, including Gordon Ramsay — his favourite judge, says Logan.
“It’s really important for kids to get into the kitchen and cook,” says Logan during a recent visit to Toronto.
“It really gives them a great skill that they’ll have all of their life.”
Logan, who hails from Memphis, Tenn., suggests kids can start cooking at an early age with adult supervision. When he was two, he made coffee in a drip pot. He graduated to pigs in a blanket, then learned to use recipes and eventually started creating his own recipes.
“Even if it’s cutting the pepper, peeling the potato, there’s always a task out there for you to do,” he says.
“For parents out there, if you really want to get kids into the kitchen, you really need to let them make a mess and that really helps the creative process.”
Toronto-based registered dietitian Cara Rosenbloom started her children — daughter Kasey, now 8, and son Aubrey, 4 — on simple tasks when they were about 2 1/2.
“When your children are preschool age or can follow the tasks that require a little bit of instruction they’re ready to cook too,” she says, adding it can actually save time in the long run because parents can concentrate on other components of the meal while the kids work.
“So you can start young with child-friendly tasks — ripping, pouring, stirring, measuring … and as they get older you can teach them knife skills, you can teach them how to use things like a spatula in a frying pan or a blender with adult supervision. And soon they will be cooking your dinner.”
Give them a say in what goes into their school lunch and let them help pack it. Use lunch boxes with different containers so you remember to pack some fruit, vegetables and proteins into each one.
Look through magazines with recipes, cookbooks and websites for cooking inspiration. For children who don’t read yet, there are cookbooks such as “Picture Cook” by Katie Shelly (2013) that use drawings to illustrate ingredients and recipe steps.
A recipe is a great building block to build your own repertoire, says Logan, who has developed a line of spices and rubs and loves experimenting at home.
One day he wanted to tackle lollipops, so he searched on the Internet and YouTube to learn how.
“Then I started messing with them to make all these wacky flavours. I did yuzu (a citrus fruit), malt vinegar, just crazy flavours… That was a fun day.”
Some were winners while others were less than stellar, he admits.
“A complete failure was I tried to make lime candy one time. I was positive that I was going to make this delicious lime candy. I had such a failure in the kitchen that day. Then you come in the next day and you try again. Usually it comes out better the next day.”
Logan has created a series of videos and tips available at www.getkidscooking.ca. Families can submit photos of their food for a chance to win one of three $10,000 cash prizes for RESPs.