Is Your Child the Next Great Chef?

Mario Batali, Cooking, Child, Kid

Don't worry, I'm not trying to put pressure on you! I'm a firm believer that people find their own passions. In fact, my mother would be the first to say that being a chef was the last occupation she would've ever pushed me towards for the simple fact that she has never enjoyed cooking. But she also was very encouraging when it became clear that I loved being in the kitchen, even if it meant that I spent more time in her mother's kitchen than in ours. 

Scroll to the bottom for some famous chefs who started early!

Unlike our home, my Grandmother Helga treated her house like a mini food factory--she made everything from scratch so her pantry was always filled with homemade jams made from berries she grew in her front yard, pickles and bread. (I can argue Helga was the original hipster.)

As I write in Yes, Chef: "It took me exactly seven minutes to cut across the nature preserve that abutted our property, speed down the road on the other side, and make it up the long driveway to my grandparents' house. I dumped the bike at the foot of their steps, took the stairs two at a time, and walked as fast as I could to Mormor's kitchen. She'd look at me standing there out of breath and say, 'Ah, there you are. Come. I have a job for you.' She would pull out a stool and set me to string rhubarb or shell peas or pluck a chicken. I was only too happy to have Mormor to myself."

I credit my grandmother for teaching me to love and respect food. She taught me how to waste nothing, to make sure I used every bit of the chicken and boil the bones till no flavor could be extracted from them. Being in the kitchen with her also exposed me to preserving process and tradition--she shared stories from a family I wasn't born into but was innately mine. Cooking for my father and uncle, I learned a different kind of lesson. "Marcus, if you don't cook, we don't eat," my father would joke. They were already allowing me to help with the boats when we went out fishing, but by preparing the entire dinner for them, I was eager to show I was a big man.

Children want to mimic adults. They notice when you choose to prepare fresh vegetables over calling in another pizza pie for dinner. They will see that food made with love and care outweighs going through the drive-through window. Time spent at the dining table and in the kitchen, you can talk to your children while teaching them how to take pride in making dishes with their own hands. If they're age appropriate, give them lessons on how to handle a knife or what sautéing means--these require adult supervision but they'll want to be careful and show that you can trust them. Incorporating healthy eating early on becomes engrained in these sponge-like minds, so choose to cook with whole grains and less fat when you can. Introduce your children to diverse flavors and textures and open up their palates.

I learned at a young age what chasing flavors meant and I've been doing that my whole life. As an ode to Helga, her Swedish meatball recipeis a permanent dish on the Red Rooster menu. But I'm not the only one...many of my chef friends started their culinary careers as kids and I've got the proof. I'll be sending out a photo of some of your favorite celeb chefs when they were in diapers (hint: one of them got into some bizarre foods early on) every day starting today on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Google+. Guess who the chef is by using @MarcusCooks and #YesChef for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of "Yes, Chef".

Want to help someone become the next great chef? Support C-Cap here.

This post originally appeared on

How to Cook a Steak

meat, steak, how to, tips Everyone loves comfort food and also classic comfort foods. When you think of something that makes you happy, a warm smile should come over your face. And typically for me, a perfectly cooked steak brings on a smile. Whether your preferred cooking method is searing, broiling or grilling, a perfectly cooked steak is always the centerpiece of the table. With these 3 steps, your next steak will be restaurant worthy all within the comforts of your dinner table. 

MEAT 101 : 

No matter the cut of meat that you adore whether it be hanger steak, porterhouse, or a petit filet, there are little short cuts that can make for a great steak. You want your steak to be as fresh as possible and you must allow your steak to come to room temperature before cooking. This helps the steak to cook evenly. We all like salt and pepper but salting your steak too early before cooking will result in a dry steak. The longer the salt sits on the steak the more water the salt will draw out even before cooking, so season your steak with salt and pepper right before cooking. Another key note when cooking a great steak is the marbling. Marbling are the lines of fat throughout the steak, that add flavor to your meat. It's essential that your steak has a good amount of marbling.

Your Weapon of Choice: 

Cooking your steak your desired way will help you enjoy your meal more. Broiling, searing or grilling are all great ways to cook your steak. Cast iron skillets, a grill or grill pan, or a large skillet that can withstand high amounts of heat will help get that deep brown sear. Flipping your steak only once will help with even cooking, and do not flip your steak with a fork. Puncturing the steak while cooking releases the juices prematurely and can lead to a dry steak.

steak, sear, tips, how to

Your Finished Product: 

Once your steak is cooked how you prefer, the last few important minutes of the process before eating has arrived. As you select your desired temperature (rare, medium rare, medium or well done) touching the steak is the common way to detect doneness. Indentation that bounces back is a key sign that your steak is NOT well done. Do not cut into your steak to check for doneness while cooking. Cutting releases the juices and makes your steak tough and dry. If your steak is too undercooked, you can always keep cooking it. You can not undo a overcooked steak. Allow your steak to rest for 10 minutes, preferably on a wire cooking rack before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute back through out the steak. This is a vital step in cooking the perfect steak. Resting helps the steak stay juicy and flavorful.

Christopher Stewart is a classically trained chef graduating from The Culinary Institute of America and working in several NYC restaurants. The former executive chef continues her culinary journey by trying her hand at food writing, working as a editorial intern for

For more How To's:

How to Test your Meat and Steak

How to Fry an Egg

How to Make Fresh Pasta

How to Spice Up a Vegetarian Dish


VIDEO: Yes, Chef B-Sides

MS Sign With the paperback version of "Yes, Chef" coming out on May 21st, I've been thinking a lot about the book tour that took me all around the country. At the time I could barely think ahead more than one day as we plane'd, train'd and automobile'd back, forth and back again. But as we prep for Part II of the tour for the paperback version, it's been fun to think about all the adventures I had with my team who was on the road with me. So much fun, in fact, we did a video about it. Check it out.

Yes Chef B Sides 1 from Marcus Samuelsson on Vimeo.

Producer: Farrah Shaikh Editor: Greg Lamotta

Friday Try-day: Everyone's a Little Bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day

My brother’s birthday just so happens to also be St. Patrick’s Day. There isn’t a year that goes by where his cakes, parties, and gifts, are always green, Irish themed, and more often than not, a little out of hand. Despite my family obligation to celebrate this day every year, it seems to be that many people, Irish or not, birthday or not, take the opportunity to dress in green, eat pub fare, drink Guinness or whiskey or both, and celebrate the opportunity to really, well, celebrate. When it comes down to it, everyone seems to be a little bit Irish when March 17th rolls around.

Named St. Patrick’s Day after an Irish priest, it is meant to be a day of feasting and celebration of all things Irish. In preparing for Sundays hours of “feastivities”, try one of these mainstays of the Irish diet or dishes that can be enhanced with a little Irish love.


Irish brown soda bread: A traditional Irish gem that, unlike yeast-rising breads, doesn’t take forever to make. Instead you can enjoy this delicious quick bread with soup or stew in no time!

Guinness-battered fish and chips: The beer acts as a yeast activator for the gluten in the flour and gives the crust that extra light, yet crunchy exterior texture.

Turkey, sweet potato stew: Try adding Guinness to stews like this one in order to create more depth, flavor, and richness to the body of the broth.

Love whiskey and chocolate? Try the combination in this chocolate-whiskey cake. Adding a spirit gives the cake a great, moist texture, and the toasted caramel notes of the whiskey compliment the chocolate exquisitely.

Or maybe you're more of the Guinness and vanilla type? Try this Guinness and vanilla float!

This fancy rendition of Irish colecannon on uses Kale for the cabbage component, and has a tangy twist with the addition of creamy goat cheese.

Shepard’s pie: originally a peasant dish, made with tasty ground lamb, vegetables and topped with a buttery mashed potato crust, is the perfect comfort food to keep you going all day Sunday.

Sage as a flavoring agent: Sage is a popular Irish herb, and compliments several different foods and flavors.

Try it in these dishes:

Milk and sage braised pork tenderloin

White bean, sage, and roasted garlic spread

Sage stuffed pork chops with apple sauce

Ham bone soup

Chicken livers and rigatoni

It's even delightful when added to cocktails like this Sláinte whiskey-based cocktail.

There’s no doubt that any one of these delicious Irish inspired dishes will keep you warm, full and fueled for wherever March 17th may take you.




Malaika: An Interview with Grammy-Award Winner Angélique Kidjo

Anyone who meets Angélique Kidjo quickly get a sense of this Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter’s tremendous journey, one that transported her from her native Benin and around the globe in a flurry of amazing music and inspiring activism. Although in the midst of recording a new album and writing her first book, Angélique was gracious enough to take the time to speak to us here at about her incredible story and even greater love of food and cooking.

Jeannette Park: Music and food are obviously two very important factors in your life. What do you see as the intersection between the two?

Angélique Kidjo: Both for me are quite the same. With food, when you have good ingredients you can take it wherever your want. The same is with song; if you have inspiration, you can take it wherever you want. It comes down to balance. It can’t be too salty, too spicy; it all has to have balance. You have to balance everything in life.

JP: What inspired you to start writing this book?

AK: Everything started with the death of my father in 2008. I did not want to lose the memory of the good times I spent with my father and everything he had allowed us to achieve through education and an open mind. I wanted to write my memories of being an African little girl raised in a poor family in a poor country, then eventually coming to New York. If you’re dreams are not big enough, then it's not worth talking about it.

JP: What were you’re dreams when you were younger?

AK: As a little girl, my dream was just to be happy. I grew up in a family of ten siblings, we didn’t have much but there was always singing, music, laughter, good food, sports, story telling. There’s this vision of poverty, but one may not have money, but is still rich spiritually and culturally. My mother always said you might not have food in your house, but you don’t have to go out and yell it to the world. Deal what your issues yourself. Hardship lets you engage with the world in an incredibly real way.

JP: There are a lot of recipes in your book, but what recipe or dish holds the most meaning for you?

AK: All recipes are meaningful for me. Why do I write an up-tempo beat, why do I write slow? I can’t tell you. I can’t just choose one recipe or food because each day is different and each day I am changing.  

JP: If you don’t have a favorite, do you have a broader philosophy on cooking and eating that you follow?

AK: In Benin vegetables are wonderful, but when I went you Europe they tasted so bland, like plastic or paper. I didn’t like that. Everything has to be a pleasure, for the eyes, for its taste, as a smell. Eating is about all your senses. The way you present your food stimulates your appetite. A good meal gives you the strength to continue the day; it’s a balance between body and mind. When I’m on tour, eating is difficult and stressful, so when I get home all I want to do is cook; I make sure I always have my vegetables.

JP: What are some of the typical dishes from Benin that you think more people should know about?

AK: I am from the southern part of Benin, which is next to the sea and there are lots of lakes and rivers. My ancestors are fishermen and so I eat a lot of fish. Also there is a lot of chicken. In Benin we called it bicycle chicken, because the skin is really firm; it just needs a little salt and pepper and it has a delicious taste.

I also eat lots of spinach; there are 11 different kinds of spinach back home. There are healing spinaches that you can also find in Cameroon that are used in hospitals to help people who can’t eat solid foods. They are bitter, but have a good balance; they clean the moth and clean the throat.

I also eat a lot of grilled foods. Near my house [in Benin], there are lots of Tuareg, who are nomads, and they bring their cows with them. There’s this dish that’s skewer of beef, with dry hot pepper, mixed with salt and pepper, and grilled. It’s lean and it’s absolutely wonderful.

JP: You’ve already lodged some complaints about European foods, but did you have a favorite dish from the time you spent living in Paris?

AK: I love crepes, because you can mix things, put things together. I also really liked the cakes; I really like sweet.

JP: You performed at some incredible venues and with some incredible musicians [multiple Nobel Peace Prize concerts and at the World Cup in South Africa to name a few]. Is there a performance that is most memorable or meaningful for you?

AK: There are so many of them. The most memorable one was when my mom pushed me on stage when I was six years old. I had the feeling that my heart was falling on my feet. The whole place started laughing so I started singing so I could get out of there. Everyone got really silent when I when singing and then there was a standing ovation. I just ran off stage when it was over. My mom said to go back and bow, but I didn’t want to go back.

JP: From the time you’ve spent living in New York, do you have a favorite restaurant here?

AK: My restaurant is my house. [laughs] I really like spicy food. I really like Thai food because you can mix it all up. My mother used to get mad at me for that. I always wanted to just say, “You cook, I eat and the way I eat is my interest.” There’s a Thai restaurant by my house in Park Slope called Watana that I always order from if I get back too late from touring. But I always try to cook as much as I can. Food is storytelling, it brings me back to my own story and my own travels and I really love that.  

JP: We’re coming to the end, so we thought a question about your last supper would be fitting. What would be your last meal and who would you share it with?

AK: That’s a good question. I would spend my last meal with my family and my best friends. I would have my mom cook; she’s the one who taught me how to cook and once I started learning I got hooked. With ten children she really knew how to make ingredients go far and everything was always delicious.

We would like to give a big thank you to Angélique Kidjo for taking the time out to talk to us. The talented singer-songwriter will soon be heading out on tour in Australia as part of Sing the Truth, a series of performances honoring female singer songwriters from the 20th century.