A welcome new offering has emerged in our community in the form of a mentorship and cooking class program, specifically designed for youth and young adults aged 14- 21 years old who want to progress their skills in the kitchen and become capable, confident and self-sufficient home cooks before they leave home.
“Many children are growing up and entering adulthood without adequate cooking skills” says Claire Fuller who is the owner and passion behind the hugely successful, Sticky Rice Cooking School.
I have 2 older teenage kids now and I have become very acutely aware over the last few years, that their peer groups and friends simply can’t cook very much! I have had my eyes very much opened to the fact, that being able to cook well or even adequately, by the time you are in your 20s, is rare these days.
The reality is, that most kids by 16 years old, can cook a pasta dish comfortably themselves, but most would struggle with knife skills and wouldn’t know where to start to cook cauliflower, eggplant or leeks, make a white sauce or distinguish between fast and slow cook cuts of meat. Many would just be guessing if asked to operate the settings on an oven and cooking a tasty, nutritious meal for 6 people would be at best daunting and more likely, a full blown kitchen disaster.
‘’Counter top’’ cooking (cooking using counter top machines such as air fryers, microwaves, toasty machines, pie makers, rice cooker etc) has become a way of cooking that many young people heavily rely on to survive in the kitchen. The average technical cooking skill level of a 16-20 year old however, is more likely equal to boiling pasta until al dente and then stirring through a jar of fancy pesto or pasta sauce from the supermarket shelf. Lunch is most likely something from the freezer, toasty machine, microwave or air fryer and a cooked breakfast is likely to consist of a supermarket pancake mix or at best scrambled eggs on toast.
With this basic level of skill, most young people could feel quite accomplished at being able to ”feed” themselves, however its not really good enough says Claire, when you consider the whole range of foods that they can’t cook. Its not really good enough either, that with these minimal skills, these same teenagers, will most likely be in charge of cooking to feed their own families for a good 20 years and then being faced with teaching their own kids how to ”cook”!
So what went wrong-
Well most things usually start off ok, with a fun interest by both kids and parents in the kitchen together until the age of about 10, but the reality is, that’s just not enough and by the time kids are late teenagers, they are unlikely to have had much more input or get any further instruction on cooking from home or school. They have often not chosen food subjects at school, the cupcake kids parties have long gone and parents have well and truly given them the key to the door and are often not home for meals together let along cooking together.
So they end up at 16 and all they have is the basics – how to cook pasta, eggs and cupcakes and that’s where the learning stops. Fast forward 10 years and they finally find themselves with partners, eating takeaway and delivered meals at great expense and disappointment to their budget and health, not to mention their lack of adventure in the kitchen and their deprived taste buds.
Parents strive to teach our kids many things throughout school years, to ensure our kids have endless possibilities in life. But have we ever really thought about sentencing our youth to a lifetime of boring food, high food bills, poor nutrition and lack of social enjoyment just because they can’t really cook and no one is prepared to teach them?
How many of them will decide to take themselves off and get some cooking classes in their 30s and 40s? Some of them for sure, but certainly not the majority. The reality is that they will make do with the skills they have. They will find ways of pimping up that jar of sauce or packet of noodles and some may get creative with a bag of chips and use them as breadcrumbs as seen on TIKTOK. But what about the rest and what about all the other 90% of forgotten foods?
When you consider that making pasta with a jar of supermarket sauce might be as good as they get in the kitchen at 40, its really quite a concern and somewhat of a lost opportunity especially for the next generation of kids, whose parents can’t actually cook either.
Claire is a woman on a mission and following in her mother’s footsteps (who also taught young new mothers how to cook for their families back in the 60s), she is taking on a community challenge and offering to turn this around by running private cooking classes that teach the next level of skills in the kitchen to 14-21 year olds.
“With a few technical lessons, their repertoire for cooking and ability to eat well and for the rest of their lives will expand indefinitely”
This program is not about the next Junior masterchef kids- they clearly don’t need help- so they won’t be making snow eggs or crockenbush after school but, if they want to learn how to make a great fresh tomato sauce, then they could use it for garlic and herbed pasta for dinner, use it to make cacciatore baked chicken for Sunday lunch and make nutritionally rich Mexican beans for their breakfast burrito.
On offer will be recipe classes for family favorites like bolognaise sauce for pasta and lasagna, international favourites like Greek Moussaka, beef stifado, slow cooked Moroccan or Indian spiced lamb and the program will cover how to make your basics like marinades, dips, white sauce, fritters, quiche, pie filling etc. There will be family favourite dessert classes too, so no more shop bought meringues, mud cake or lemon curd cheesecakes and of course being Mrs Sticky Rice, lots of Asian is always going to be optional.
Claire’s promise is that there are so many variations on recipes that just open up instantly, once you master the key lessons and cooking techniques. Couple this with learning your ABC of spices and signature cultural ingredients and within weeks these young pasta cooks will be replicating the whole range of international foods that they crave or only buy by the jar or packet.
So what is being offered.
Claire has a full time role as Managing director of Sticky Rice Cooking School but will find time to take on a few private students after school hours and in school holidays and get them competent in the kitchen.
Already she had been asked to help with preparations for year 12 practical SACE assignments in cookery and by young adult school leavers who just want more independent and adventurous cooking skills. She has been requested by many friends to teach kids who just have a passion and desire to learn how to cook meals for themselves, because their families have parents who can’t or won’t cook.
“I’ll be happy to help- they just need a bit of input- they need to be shown how to do things- and then they will fly says Claire.”
For more information on costs, vacancies, and times available you can email Claire directly at email@example.com