March 5, 2014 | Short Order

Cricket Azima Gets Kids Cooking at The Creative Kitchen

by Elizabeth Nelson

          One thing I hate about Facebook is that it brings me face-to-face with my parental inadequacy. The other night a friend posted that her 12-year-old daughter had prepared dinner for the whole family: tomato-basil soup, homemade soft pretzels and apple cobbler.


          I’d need to pop a Xanax before letting my child loose in the kitchen. Besides the danger of knives and open flames, I know I’d be left with a disastrous mess, having also failed to teach her to efficiently clean up after herself.


          But when I got the chance to attend a kids’ cooking class with my 8-year-old at the Kids Food Festival in Bryant Park last weekend, I put my doubts aside and jumped on it. Cricket Azima, founder of The Creative Kitchen, offers classes designed to teach kids basic cooking skills and help them make healthy food choices. I signed us up for “Fresh, Flavorful & Fun Salsa,” dreaming of the savory treats my daughter would toss together for us on our next Taco Tuesday.


          When we got there, squinting in the bright sun streaming through the James Beard Foundation’s “Future Foodies Pavilion,” my daughter was dismayed to see tables crowded with toddlers.


          “Are you sure this is for kids my age?” she grumped.


          “This is going to be fun! Who cares if you’re the oldest kid here? Put on your gloves!”


          When Cricket bounced out, radiant in a tomato-red dress, the kids were captivated and stopped fiddling with their food-handling gloves. “Touch your nose if you can hear me!” she trilled. My daughter gave me a look. I rolled my eyes. So maybe this was geared to the younger set. Who cares? I was ready to eat some salsa, carefully prepared by my offspring.



          Making salsa involves lots of chopping—maybe not the best choice for small, uncoordinated hands. You can’t exactly hand a toddler a Wüsthof. The mangos and strawberries weren’t so hard to cut with a plastic knife, but the cucumbers and red peppers were a challenge.


          My little trooper sawed away at all of them, plus tomatoes and kiwi, then dumped it all into a Ziploc bag with a spoonful of cannellini beans and corn, a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper. Directed by Cricket, she squeezed a lime into the bag and plucked some cilantro leaves to toss in. Then she got to seal up the bag and shake it up—the best part.




          Well, maybe the second-best part. The best was sampling her hard work—and it was delicious. I like a sweet salsa. My daughter thought it should be spicier and declared that she prefers Trader Joe’s salsa.


          I told her she can put whatever she wants in the next batch. I might even let her use a real knife. And I’m definitely posting the results on Facebook. Now, to teach her how to make a margarita . . .


The Creative Kitchen,, 718-406-7506