If You Liked It You Shoulda Put A Padlock On It

Top Mini Chef


Hey! Let's talk about Ezra's cooking camp, all of a sudden! Because I am literally going to explode all over the place if I don't get some of this cuteness out of my system.


So a couple weeks ago, Ezra started a once-weekly "Mini Chefs" class at our YMCA, for three- and four-year-olds. I admit we didn't even know exactly what we were signing him up for, other than OH EM GEE CHEFS THAT ARE MINI. It was $50 for six weeks and sounded adorable. Sold! We'll just go ahead and assume it's not a Hell's Kitchen reboot for the Disney Channel, or something.

I admit I was a teensy bit disappointed at the lack of little kid-sized aprons or chef's hats, and it's a drop-off class so I haven't gotten any good photos of Ezra in full mini-cheffing action. However, 1) IT'S A DROP-OFF CLASS WHUT WHUT, and 2) holy crap, Ezra is having the time of his life there.

Every day, he begs and begs to go to cooking class. There are tears, when I must tell him that alas, not today. At pick-up, while most of the other children have wandered off to read books or play with other stuff in the classroom, Ezra is still shadowing the teacher, helping her clean up and put things away. "Where dis go? Where dis go? I helping!" 

Last week they made yogurt with fresh fruit. And while Ezra really is a very good eater, yogurt has always been one of the few things he really doesn't like. Until...well, last week. He was so proud of his blackberry yogurt that he ate the whole thing. 

A few nights ago, I -- on the advice of his regular preschool teacher -- handed him a "real" knife and asked him to help me with dinner. (The Montessori theory is that dull knives will simply lead to frustration with the task, and that it's best to teach children to use and respect sharp objects from the start, blah de bloop blah.) And then I stood behind him and watched that child CORRECT HIS KNIFE GRIP before carefully and meticulously chopping up some cauliflower florets. 

My three-year-old has better knife skills than I do, officially. He would CRUSH me in a mise-en-place challenge.


He's completely cooking-obsessed. Every day he stages elaborate picnics and birthday parties, involving every single piece of play food he owns. (And oh, but he owns a lot.) Yesterday he climbed on our bed and made me giant "sandwiches" out of the pillows. 

He wants to taste EVERYTHING. Vegetables, meats, fish, even the individual herbs and spices I pull out for dinner. Any toddler-regression into Beige Foods is over with, and it's AMAZING. I took him grocery shopping at Whole Foods on Sunday and it was like...well, like a kid in a candy store, only with artichokes and bell peppers.

The class also covers basic nutrition, including the four food groups, so everything is all "Apples are a fruit! Carrots are a vegetable!" And (my personal heart-squee favorite) "Cookies are in the GRAINS GROUP!"

Grains group. Shut up, mini chef! SHUT UP BEFORE I EAT YOUR FACE OFF. 

To celebrate his YMCA rock-star-ness, I took him to the bookstore and bought him a kids' cookbook so we could have "extra" cooking camp days at home. 

I'm now reading recipes to him as bedtime stories. I...am not making any of this up. 


I remember once, a loooooong time ago, standing outside a restaurant with Noah, who was in full-sensory-freak-out mode. Another mother came by with her daughter and said some sympathetic, well-meaning things. She was really very nice about it.

I said something vague, "Like, yeah, he's having a hard time today." She assumed it was food related, like the restaurant had the audacity to serve grilled cheese on weird bread, or something. She started talking about her daughter and food and how I should buy this kids' cookbook because it totally changed their life, once they starting making food together. 

"If they make it, they eat it!" she gushed. "Now her favorite food is SUSHI!"

I can't remember what I said -- I know I was polite, at least, and not "BITCH YOU DON'T KNOW MY LIFE," or anything horrid like that. But I do remember thinking how nice that must be, for it to be that simple.

Because OF COURSE I'd tried to get Noah involved in the kitchen. OF COURSE I'd read that same advice about asking picky eaters to cook and prepare meals and tried it on many, multiple occasions. His occupational therapist even provided us with fun recipe cards and we subscribed to a preschooler magazine that included kid-friendly cooking projects. Macaroni-and-cheese muffins, Noah! Doesn't that sound...um...interesting?

Noah reacted to my requests and offers the same way he reacted to so many things, both innocent and genuinely unpleasant: NO, NOT EVEN, YOUR JEDI MIND TRICKS DO NOT WORK ON ME.

The memory of this encounter flooded back to me while Ezra and I stood in line at the bookstore, getting ready to pay for his cookbook. Pretend Soup. The very book she mentioned. Huh.


Dinnertime remains frustrating for Noah, perhaps even more so lately, since Ezra's little culinary explosion has pushed me out of my lazy Let's Just Not Make Dinner Such A Hassle habits. I've been making more of a concentrated effort to put more variety on the table, AND to give them exactly what we eat, instead of endless dumbed-down versions of pasta with hidden veggies in the sauce. Noah's definitely trying more new foods on a regular basis, as a result, but he sure isn't happy about it. And isn't afraid to let me know exactly how terrible he thinks this whole business is. And how mean I am. And etc. 

Over the weekend I caved, however, to his endless pleas for some macaroni and cheese with NO WEIRD STUFF IN IT. (Though little does he know that I haven't served up mac-n-cheese -- boxed or otherwise -- without a generous heaping of pureed cauliflower, white beans or squash in it for YEARS, ha HA.) I grabbed the Annie's and looked around for the pot. Noah had it. 

"I want to help," he said. 

And he did. 

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That's fantastic. Good on you mate! My kids will eat a variety now and they did go through the beige phase, but they are still a pain in restaurants. What are those small pots for the seeds? Rolled up paper or something fancy?


Perfect Soup! We just read that a week or so ago. So cute. I have the pickiest 4yo eater. She really only eats dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets, mcdonalds, kid cuisine popcorn chicken, grilled cheese and kid cuisine spaghetti. That is ALL. I've resorted to Pediasure to keep her balanced. I'm going to look into a cooking class for her, maybe for both girls. Thank you.


@lolismum Crap, I don't know exactly what they're called. Little soil pod things for seedlings. Jason gets them every year at a local nursery. Currently in our basement under a greenhouse light, sprouting away, so whatever they are, they work very well.



Ha! When I saw those first couple of seed-planting pictures I thought, "Holy shit, she made a CRAP-TON of chocolate doughnuts".


Oh my gosh I just want to fall out of my chair and die from the awesomeness. THE AWESOMENESS. Noah looks so excited to be planting those seeds. I got my little boy the Kinderkitchen set from Kuhn Rikon for Christmas and he loves to get his "mouse" measuring cups and "fish" spoons out to help me.


Love this!!! How adorable are they :) I can not wait until my son is three so he can go to a drop off class (waaaaahhhhh jealous!). I am so excited for you all and for little Ezra!


I thought chocolate doughnuts too, lol!


Holy sweet sassy molassy that is the cutest thing I've ever read. If I could be guaranteed that my kid would want to cook, I would go have one IMMEDIATELY CUTENESS CAN'T.

To Kiss the Cook

Freezing my eggs now. Out of sheer optimism. This was a seriously wonderful respite from the day.


How adorable! That sounds like an awesome class for Ezra.

My 3 yo eats most anything that's not a green vegetable (although I tricked him last night with panko-crusted zucchini that we told him were french fries!) or non-boiled eggs. He will happily help me cook scrambled eggs, but wants nothing to do with them on his plate. I'll have to check out that book.


How adorable! And that bit at the end? You are saying there's hope yet, right? Because mine loves to help, but still won't eat it. It's all beige all the time. *sigh*

bethany actually

This whole post made me so happy, but the very last part made me tear up. As someone who's been reading your blog since Noah was a baby and who has been rooting for him (and for you guys!) all that while, I love it when you share these tiny victories. I'm proud of Noah, and proud of YOU and Jason for being so fierce in your love and determination to help him become the best kid he can be. (I mean, you obviously do that for all your kids, but...you know what I mean.)


Way to go, Ezra!! I love that you guys are starting a garden too.


Can you send Ezra over to cook for me? Blackberry yogurt would be a nice change to the boring meals we've been having recently. :)


Zah: the mini chef! I love this. What a fun thing for him to do! I want to squeeze his cute litte chef self.
Tot helps me cook too, though I haven't handed him any knife - "real" or otherwise.
I am with Noah, I like my mac and cheese without any weird stuff in it!


what a great class for Ezra, and so cute to see a younger brothers influence on Noah. All good things.


Your story feels so familiar! My 10yo still turns away anything that looks like a veggie. Only when we "help" will he eat.. And the thought alone of having to peel or cut veggies scares him enormously.. Only exception is making meatballs with onion. Then he is willing to cut the onion and roll the bals.. You made me laugh again today. Thanks


My 2-year-old sleeps with 2 Ina Garten cookbooks. When she asks me to draw with her, she wants me to draw soup. She cooks food for her stuffed animals daily, and at the zoo this morning, she explained to the keeper that penguins liked soup and sandwiches (which is what her stuffed penguin gets every morning). I can't wait until she can take a class like Ezra's. Sounds awesome!


I love the idea of kids cooking class! I once tried to have my nephews help me make french toast and their mother quickly pulled me aside and said that it was just easier for everyone if the boys didn't help in the kitchen. I kind of dislike that attitude because I feel like kids will do better at mealtimes if they understand and help in the cooking process. Also, Amy, you totally need to seek out a kids "toque" for the boys. I think the inter-webs might explode from the cuteness.


They're peat pellets - they come flat and you soaked them in water, right?

I learned to ride my bike because my younger sister was and I wasn't going to let her do it first. I think I beat her by 3 hours. silliness.


This is so awesome. My boys love to cook, too. I love how completely earnest little boys are (and maybe little girls, too, but I don't have experience with those).

Kim W.

We love Pretend Soup!


My girls are older, but they did a Y cooking camp for two weeks a couple years ago and adored it. I consider myself lucky never having had to battle on the food front. While we've never eaten exotic foods (I am so not going to tell you what I consider exotic), the girls have always simply eaten what we're having. Sure, there are things they dislike (that I still make because I'm bigger than them), but for the most part, I serve it, they eat it. And sometimes they help. The boy is going to give us a run for our money, though. Currently, if broccoli ain't offered, he don't wants nunna that shit. Also, ketchup.

Husband: Can we have some cabbage, salad, something besides broccoli?
Me: Sure. But I'm still making him broccoli.
Husband: What are you, his broccoli bitch?
Me: Yes. Yes I am. I'ma make a damn name tag now.

I love when you mention Noah overcoming. And I fail to see how you would expect us to survive were you to even consider posting a picture of Ezra in a fucking mini chef aprons or hat. Have you that much insurance, to pay for my cute-induced loss of sight?


"(Though little does he know that I haven't served up mac-n-cheese -- boxed or otherwise -- without a generous heaping of pureed cauliflower, white beans or squash in it for YEARS, ha HA.)"

This aside made me laugh so hard. I also started imagining how the conversation will go when teenaged Noah tries Annie's sans stuff-in-the-sauce. Oh the white lies that parents tell their children...


Real soup, pretend soup, same result... fun mess!


Such an awesome post. Perhaps the boys would enjoy a copy of Stone Soup as well? This is the version I remember from childhood, but there are tons of others out there: http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-media/product-gallery/B0006RK7WI/ref=cm_ciu_pdp_images_1?ie=UTF8&index=1

Lynda M O

Young chefs--love them... had the neighbor come over and ask the four year old, "What order do we put the boneless chicken into the egg-flour-egg-crumb magic coating" to make everyone's favorite "Whack a Chicken". Four year old puffed up with pride and exudes cooking confidence as she enters her teen years.


ADORABLE. This is making me want to go get J some food-related books. Maybe (MAYBE?!) that will help wrench him from his insane train obsession. I curse the day Smitten Kitchen mentioned the Subway book, which I thought would be fun and now I read it every single g-d night.

Anyway, very very sweet. Also, I totally made whole wheat mac and cheese with squash AND pureed broccoli in it today, and it is the BOMB.


Ahhh I think my heart exploded with both happiness and love for these incredible children you are raising!


What a great post! My son is only two but he gets very excited to help in the kitchen when he can. I've already found a little mini-chef course for him to take when he gets a bit older. He's always in charge of stirring the dry ingredients when I bake. So far, it hasn't helped on the food front; he still is picky but I have hopes!


Um, why is no one bringing up how aMAZing a pillow-sized sandwich sounds? Its like heaven.


Oh Ez... I love him in the most noncreepy internet way possible. I think more videos are necessary. ;) The last one about the christmas tree and not needing a nap had me in tears laughing.

Thank you for making having three boys not-so-scary. ;)


So super adorable.

How cute if he actually becomes a chef, to have these photos when he's an adult!!!!

I love pics of myself holding grownup books and papers and reading them (even upside down, when really small) and photos of my sister, the surfer, frolicking in the waves with her little bathing suit that said SURF! on it when she was two :-) Just planning ahead!


Man is this cute!! Speaking as the mom of a now 18-year-old son, I treasure all his weird little obsessive interests that blossomed and then flamed out as he discovered something new to fixate on. My personal favorite? A total obsession with everything having to do with the Titanic (when he was like 5). So random.


First, awesome.

Second, if you take requests, I'd be ALL OVER a post about some of your family's dinner favorites. You don't have to post entire recipes or anything, but I'd just love some new ideas.

Suzy Q

Yay for the mini chef! And for chocolate donuts that turn into edible plants.


Do you have a Young Chefs Academy up there? My daughter took many cooking classes there when she was younger (and they have chef's aprons and toques--adorable). My daughter is 14 now and still loves to bake. She will occasionally deign to make us dinner, which is an AWESOME help to a full-time working-outside-the-house mom who is frequently OUT of ideas for dinner.


I swear, some days, I come and read and it's like you are experiencing very similar things with your on the spectrum and his very different younger brother.

My younger son, at 12, is a culinary pro. He took cooking classes (at Young Chef's Academy, because our Y is too redneck for the classes Ezra has). It was a great experience for all of us.

Right before I read your post, I opened an email from our Young Chef's location (now 30 miles away, unfortunately) and they've got so many classes for Ezra's age group. Check it out, because it sounds like E will LOVE an hour and a half of cooking each week. :)


Another book Ez might like is "How Are You Peeling? Foods With Moods."


You and Ezra should check out the book Bee Bim Bop by Linda Sue Park! The kid and her mom make Bee Bim Bop and then the family eats it together! And there is a recipe at the end for the dish. I bet he would love it!

Holly fromn 300 Pounds Down

This makes me want to go enroll my kids in the YMCA for a cooking class. I never even thought of it before but it sounds really awesome. Maybe if I had done that when they were younger they'd be cooking all the meals by now!


ooooo, my boys want Pretend Soup as a bedtime "story" too. Do you have herbs in your garden? This afternoon, my 3-year-old stuffed himself full of freshly-sprouted-in-the-unseasonably-warm-weather chives and sorrel. (My six-year-old just played with worms).


I seriously ADORE reading this blog! I've been reading it for the past several months but have never commented.. why the mood is striking me now, I do not quite know.. anyhow, sending very positive energy your way :) Also I've spread the word to family members and friends :)


So much cuteness I almost can't stand it!

My 6-yr old, picky eater but LURVES to help int he kitchen, and in fact there are tears regualrly if I "forget" to ask him to help. He'll do anything - even wash dishes!!

Anyway... he watches Howdini cake decorating videos on YouTube for fun. Since the tender age of 4, he's known what a crumb coat is, the difference in usage for small and large spatulas, and that it's easier to cut the cake for shaping if it's been in the refrigerator for an hour beforehand. :-)


just to show you how food-driven MY brain is... i saw the top four bottom (make sense?) pics and thought mmmmmmm... little tiny chocolate donuts... mmmmm... then i continuted to scroll and saw SEED PACKETS. buuzzzz kiiilll... lol!


Great post. I am strongly tempted to buy Pretend Soup, and if I do I will definitely buy through your link.

It was kind of ironic that the ad below your post was the old golden arches! Reminder to McD's - your adbots should be searching for keywords related to "OMG so busy," and not happy-good food.


Love this! My little one helps out every day in the kitchen after I read how vastly this practice helps in development, brainwise and otherwise. At 4 she's gotten enough skill to actually be of use! Here's the article with facts amazing enough to convince me to pull up a stool for her "How Cooking Advances Learning" http://www.culinate.com/articles/features/a_childs_place_is_in_the_kitchen

Jessica C

Thank you for this great post but not so much for making me cry at my desk this morning. Professional crying! But seriously, I am completely enthralled by your son's new passion. I love to cook so here's hoping my 2 year old will get there one day!


My 4 year old Emily loves to cook too. Both my girls get so excited going to a local orchard/market to pick out fruit and veggies for the week - you would think I was taking them to a toy store. Last week they were begging me to buy them red peppers :)


someone please explain the peat pellets I want to grow some cool stuff this year. !!!! looks like so much fun.


My 11 year old has no sensory issues (that i'm aware of) and has ALWAYS been picky. But then, so am I. I'm with you, though, in that I've never made the kids separate meals. I will do things like split up the foods in a shephard's pie, but I won't make him noodles while we eat something else.


And here I am feeling like each of my meals takes too much time and mini chef is loving every second of it. Now if I can just get my infant to open her mouth and quit spitting her food all over my face.




What a sweet having-kids-is-the-bomb post. Love.


Love that!!!!!


so much squeeing happened here today, around the whole office, over ezra and noah and the chocolate donuts (though there were collective "oh"s as well when we realized they were seedlings). adorable. all of it.


Love this post, ordering this book now for my 5 year old and 11 year old picky eaters. Where did you get your recipes from to include all the pureed veggies and such into mac and cheese?


OMG, it's things like this that make me want to have kids. I keep buying things for my friends' kids and niece and nephew that remind me of my own childhood. So I had a gardening book that my aunt got for me - it was meant for kids and so I keep trying to find something similar for my niece. I also had an A-Z cookbook (a different recipe that began with each letter of the alphabet), I don't necessarily remember making many recipes from it, but it did convince my mom to let me help with cooking. And finally, I had a glow-in-the-dark constellations book - the stars that glowed were the ones that made the constellation so you could take the book out in the dark and look for said constellations. I loved that book.

Good luck with the cooking! pretty soon they'll be cooking you dinner instead of the other way around.


Hi! I've been a very very longtime reader, since Noah was born, and I'm SO proud and full of love to read things like this. I'm sorry my comments are far and few between, but you'll find I really tend to put input in for the important things. Like kitchen paint colors.

This, however. This is important. SO important that you and your kids get the book "Everybody Cooks Rice" out from the library. Don't get it on kindle because the pictures never come out right on kindles and the pictures are AWESOME. The book celebrates diversity and friends and food (and those are the best things!). It also includes recipes for all different kinds of rice dishes- all of the stories are sweet and all of the recipes are delicious. I know because my niece has begged and begged (and of course I acquiesced) to make lots of different kinds of rice. Seriously- it's one of the good ones :)

Angela N

Oh man, he is sooo cute! If he ends up being a real chef some day, these pictures will be SO AWESOME! It's posts like these that make me want to have a baby RIGHT NOW. Can I skip the screaming newborn stage and go straight to the Mini Chef stage? :-)


This post just made me so happy. So, so happy.


This? Was a fabulous post. I'm happy for you guys. You sound happy and the boys are, as usual, adorable.

The Florida Standard

Great post. I really like it.


I bought this book mid-way through reading this yesterday. (and then came back and finished up.) Amazon is amazing and delivered it before lunch today. My almost 3 y/o and I read it cover to cover before nap. He loved it! Another great recommendation!


Oh, please make your YMCA call mine and tell them to offer this class! I have a daughter, just a couple of weeks younger than Ezra, who would LOVE this!


"...But I do remember thinking how nice that must be, for it to be that simple." OH MY GOD YES. I just found your blog, and much of what you share about Noah reminds me so much of my middle daughter. She doesn't have sensory issues or ADHD, but she very much falls into the spirited/high needs/difficult/generally-a-pain-in-the-ass category. She's improved as she has grown older. She's three now, and we're considering preschool in the fall, and I'm getting ready to shit a brick I'm so nervous about it.

Anyways, just wanted to let you know that your memory outside the restaurant hit home for me, and for that I thank you.


Hmmm...maybe if I enroll my son in a cooking class he, too, will eat things he's never eaten before. Like, pizza, pasta, sandwiches, chicken nuggets, hot dogs...etc... Maybe...Worth a try, huh?

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