I consider myself something of a connoisseur when it comes to tricks and tactics for fussy eaters and one of the most enjoyable methods that keeps coming up is to involve your picky eater in the food preparation process.
This ethos is at the core of Peter Sheppard’s Foodie School as he notes that educating kids about food at an early age will garner the best results as that is when they are the most curious and open to learning. Dad to two girls and an award-winning chef, Peter has launched a brand new YouTube series which sees him enlist the culinary assistance of two local kids each episode to prepare meals like Chicken Wellington, fish and chips, Cannelloni Alfredo with peas and bacon and Chocolate pudding with homemade honeycomb ice cream!
Each 3-minute episode of Foodie School breaks down a different recipe with some fun, kid-friendly adlibs, references and editing thrown in for good measure! Safety when cooking is also highlighted but in an accessible way that will speak to Peter’s intended young audience.
Serving up a tasty tutorial on ingredients, flavours and cooking techniques, Foodie School sits on the perfect platform for modern kids who are all about YouTube and its array of content. Watch episode one now.
We caught up with Peter to find out a little more about his own journey with food, how he cooked up the idea for Foodie School and his tips for getting kids to broaden their gastronomic repertoire.
TLH: did you always want to be a chef?
PS: I was brought up in a household where sharing the family meal was a key part of our bonding time. Food and cooking were more than just about meals - it was about the “ceremony” of getting together as a family. I was always interested in the kitchen and the first dish I remember cooking was a tomato hollowed out and filled with an egg which we then baked.
TLH: what was your journey to working with food?
PS: When I was 12, I entered a national cooking competition for 12 - 18-year olds and won the first three rounds, coming 3rd in the final. One of the requirements for the application was to say who you would like to cook for and why. I chose Raymond Blanc, chef of Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons which was a 2 Michelin starred restaurant near Oxford in England where we lived. Rather than him coming to our place, he invited me to have lunch at the restaurant and work in the kitchen. I was hooked. Later that year, I emigrated to Australia with my family and life got in the way. In 1998, I went travelling through Europe and wrote to Raymond asking if I could return and work for a few weeks. From there, there was no going back, I worked with Blanc for four years before starting out on my own.
TLH: how did you come up with the concept for Foodie School?
PS: I have always loved teaching kids about food. I’ve volunteered at many schools in my local area of Wollongong and hosted regular cooking schools for both adults and kids over the past 15 years. I’m doing a series at Campbelltown Catholic Club for high school students at the moment that will culminate in a dinner that they prepare.
TLH: are your kids good eaters or are/were they fussy?
PS: My kids eat anything and everything now. When my eldest was very little I remember her taking a spoonful of mashed up chicken pasta and, after some time of working it around her mouth, she stuck out her tongue which had a tiny piece of onion on it. If you give kids good food, they learn to trust you and will try anything.
TLH: do your kids enjoy cooking with you?
PS: They do, with their favourites being sushi and gnocchi. My youngest was the trial cook and taster for all the Foodie School recipes.
TLH: how do you think Foodie School will help fussy eaters alter their attitude towards what’s on their plate?
PS: The more involved kids are with something, the more they enjoy it, whether it’s food or anything else. Some of the kids on Foodie School came in saying they didn’t like fish or hated zucchini and so forth. All the kids ate what they made though and loved it.
TLH: what was your favourite childhood dish?
PS: I’ve always loved duck and Chinese food in general. Maybe for Series 2….
TLH: what simple things can parents do within their weekly routine to inspire their kids to engage more positively with the food they eat?
PS: I can’t speak for everyone but if kids are involved in food preparation and the meal-time is quality family time, they want to be involved. Texture seems to play an even bigger part for kids than adults. They love crispy and shy away from soggy foods which is why chips, nuggets and fish fingers are always a winner, and soggy vegetables are not. Cooking broccoli less so it has a crunchy texture and serving carrots and celery raw makes healthy food more appealing.
TLH: do you have any advice for young aspiring chefs?
PS: Go for it! A part-time job washing dishes is a great start. Work hard, turn up on time and bring a cheerful attitude. It’s not an easy job but the rewards are there.
TLH: what exciting things can we expect from Foodie School in the coming months?
PS: There are three more episodes featuring more great dishes. A pasta, a soup with corn bread and a chocolate dessert to top it all off!
For more information, visit www.foodieschool.com.au