Kids in the Kitchen
The Southern Food & Beverage Museum teaches an important life skill
Living in one of the most famous food cities in the world, we all strive to expose our kids to the tastes that make us famous – even if all they really want to eat is standard kid fare like hot dogs, burgers and fries. The Southern Food & Beverage Museum has a dynamic program that aims to get kids out of their food ruts by putting them in the kitchen.
SoFab’s Kids in the Kitchen series is a twice monthly event (one on Saturday and one on Sunday) where kids come together to cook a different dish, get to know each other and gain some basic culinary skills. The program was the brain child of Jennie Merril, the museum’s Director of Education, who joined SoFab in 2014 to direct their summer camp, but quickly transitioned to growing their children’s programs throughout the year.
“I think this is a great opportunity for kids in this age group, and also really great for kids that have an interest in cooking,” says Merril. The classes are aimed at kids between the ages of 7 and 11 with a maximum of about 20 kids per class. As SoFab is the largest museum within the National Food & Beverage Foundation, they’re looking to bring this idea to other museums in the foundation, and they’ve created a few “Masterclass” events for 11 to 13-year-olds. As Merrill notes, there isn’t a huge amount of programming for the city’s “tween” population, and this program is a great opportunity to gain a life skill that will carry into adulthood.
One of the more successful “Kids in the Kitchen” has been a Southern Cupcake event. While desserts are often kids’ favorite things to make, Merrill also tries to push them a little bit by bringing in more exotic dishes and ingredients like she did in March, when she had them make sushi and crab rangoon. April’s first event is all about grilling steak (and vegetables), and Merrill says kids’ favorite things to do in the kitchen – besides bake – are grilling and frying, which can be done by kids as young as 7 safely and effectively with a little bit of preparation and careful instruction.
While the events are carefully planned, Merrill also tries to give them as much agency and independence as she can. She often asks students at the end of each event what types of things they want to cook at future ones. She also encourages parents to not stick around for the events – mostly because space doesn’t permit, but also because it gives the kids a sense of great pride to make something on their own and have a product at the end to show for it (and to show to Mom and Dad).
The second event in April is making personal pizzas, and kids can choose classic and well as more exotic ingredients, which they’re more likely to do when they’re making smaller pies. Although there are no “Kids in the Kitchen” during the summer because of SoFab’s summer camp, Merrill is clear that they’re excited to grow the program and have learned so much in the time that they have been doing them.
“This type of program isn’t as prevalent for something that’s a cornerstone of our cultural foundation,” she says. There is no doubt, however, that SoFab’s efforts to preserve and document food culture is also taking an important – and tasty – step in outreach and education.
Just the Facts …
Kids in the Kitchen April Events:
Grilling Steak! (and veggies)
Sunday, April 7; 9:30-11 a.m.
Saturday, April 13; 10-11:30 a.m.
Location: Southern Food & Beverage Museum; 1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
Tickets: $20 ($15 for SoFab members); can be purchased online
More Information: NatFab.org/kids-in-the-kitchen