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Kids in the Kitchen

Some say cooking is outpacing youth sports in popularity. Fox’s MasterChef Junior premieres its fifth season this fall. FYI’s Man vs. Child: Chef Showdown is on its second season.
Kids in the Kitchen

Some say cooking is outpacing youth sports in popularity. Fox’s MasterChef Junior premieres its fifth season this fall. FYI’s Man vs. Child: Chef Showdown is on its second season. The Food Network has nearly a half-dozen culinary kid contest including Kids BBQ Championship, which launched in May. Then, you have YouTube personality Rosanna Pansino and her nerdy-themed baking show Nerdy Nummies—27 million views strong—where she bakes creations resembling characters and objects from video games, TV shows, anime/manga, and more. But it doesn’t stop there. Social media and summer camps are also ushering food-crazed kids into the kitchen.

Less than six months ago, Deepa Shankar launched Brownies and Balloons, cooking parties for kids that she hosts at your home. Parties range from playdates and birthday parties to themed cooking camps. “You provide the kitchen. We provide the rest!” touts her Facebook page. “I have a passion for food, and with my experience in teaching kids, I wanted to start a business that would get kids excited about cooking and learning about where their food comes from,” Deepa told Plano Profile. “In a day and age where there is so much processed food around us, I try and stick to simple and fresh ingredients and transform them into yummy eats, all in a fun, party environment.”

Deepa worked as a culinary instructor for three years and also at a montessori school for two years before launching Brownies and Balloons. When she’s not busy planning parties or cooking camps, she stays active with her 3 1/2-year-old boy, Dhruv. She says they love cooking in the kitchen together. “He’s usually up on his step stool helping cut veggies with his kid-safe pizza cutter, or kneading dough for homemade pizza, mixing waffle batter for waffles…those are some of his favorite activities. He also loves to sprinkle cheese on everything,” she laughed.

So what does a typical Brownies and Balloons party look like? Each one has a theme. Say it’s Italian, the menu will call for homemade pizza and fruit skewers. The kids, clad in their aprons, wash their hands and take a spot around the work area. “We start out my learning how to measure flour accurately, learn about the ingredients that go into the dough and the job of each ingredient, followed by mixing it to create the dough,” explains Deepa. “Once the dough has risen, we carefully knead the dough to make individual-sized pizzas, then add the toppings. Once the pizzas are in the oven, kids make their fruit skewers and then proceed to decorating chef hats that they can keep. When the pizzas are done, everyone gathers around the dining table and digs in!”

We interviewed three kid chefs who have participated in Brownies and Balloons to find out more about what inspires their creations.

Rahmeen Malik, 10

rahmeen-malik-10 child chef cooking eggs
Rahmeen Malik, 10

What’s your favorite thing to make in the kitchen?
Omelettes. I put onions, parsley, Mexican-mixed cheese and sometimes tomatoes in them.

What else do you like to make?
Well, we just made some Asian noodles and we made the sauce from scratch with soy sauce and lime and sesame. That was really fun.

Is there a special ingredient that you find is important in most of your dishes?
Parsley. My dad and his family is from Pakistan and usually asks for veggies and I know he always wants parsley. My mom was born here but she and I cook a lot of Pakistani recipes: curries, grilled chicken and a lot of different rice dishes.

Is there anything in the kitchen you don’t like to make?
No! [Shakes head]

Do you have any advice for other kids who may want to try cooking?
Well, don’t be scared. Be yourself, and always try something new.

What other activities do you enjoy doing?
I like music a lot. I like singing. But the June camp was my first cooking camp and cooking is my main focus right now.

What did you make at camp?
Ms. Deepa taught us how to make kheer and my dad loves kheer. It’s a Pakistani food; it’s like dessert, similar to a rice pudding. It was good!

You’re the oldest of three kids. Do your sisters help you in the kitchen?
Zoya is 8 and Amaani is 2. Amanni just likes to watch me and my other sister, Zoya, goes to the cooking classes with me. She enjoys it, too.

Canaan Magness, 9

canaan-magness-9 boy showing cookies on a cookie sheet
Canaan Magness, 9

What’s your favorite thing to make in the kitchen?

What else do you like to cook or bake?
Eggs, bacon, waffles, mashed potatoes, tacos, burritos, pizza. I also like to make after-school snacks for me and my brother, Asher. I can make a good parfait.

Do you have any other hobbies?
I’m a basketball player. I play on an elite team called Pro Skills. We’re team 2025, the year we graduate. I like football and soccer, too, and I like to work out.

If mom’s in the kitchen making dinner and asks you to help, is there anything you don’t like to do?
Clean the dishes. [He laughs.] Not really. If she asks me to help, I’ll help.

Do you think you might become a chef one day?
Yes, if I don’t make it to college on a basketball scholarship or if I don’t make it to the NBA after college, then I want to be a chef.

Do you have any secret sauces or secret ingredients that you’d share with us?
[Looks over at mom and grins] Tapatio, the hot sauce.

And what do you put that in?
It’s a secret! My mom even bought a shirt for me that says “Awesome Sauce” and it shows a tapatio.

What’s your favorite food to eat? Not cook but eat?
Tater tots.

Is there a food you don’t like to eat?
I don’t like potatoes.

But you like tater tots?
I don’t like baked potatoes.

I’m weird. I also like ketchup on my mac-n-cheese.

Sofina Chishti, 7

Sofina-chishti-7 child chef holding a cupcake
Sofina Chishti, 7

What’s your favorite thing to make in the kitchen?
Cupcakes. I really like to crack the eggs.

Are cupcakes your favorite thing to eat?

What else do you like to make in the kitchen?
I like to cook buttered noodles.

Is there another dessert you’d like to learn how to make?
I’d like to learn how to make Oreos.

Do you help mom or dad a lot in the kitchen?
Yes. For my birthday, I got a new apron with my name on it.

Is there anything you don’t like to make in the kitchen?
Avocados—blah! I don’t like to cut or eat them.

Do you have a secret sauce or ingredient that you like to put in your cupcakes?
Well, the icing is important. I put sprinkles on my icing, but my secret is a marshmallow in the center of the cupcake.

What else do you like to do for fun?
I’m on my way to cheerleading and tumbling right now. I also like to sing.

Do you have any siblings that help you?
I have a 3-year-old brother Elyas who helps a little bit, and then I also have a 1-year-old sister named Zara.

To host your own party, check out Brownies and Balloons via Facebook or email Deepa at [email protected].