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WITH THE KIDS

That pumpkin ravioli is so easy a child could make it (and did)

December 06, 2007|Alex Chun

As chef Gusteau in Pixar's "Ratatouille" says, "Anyone can cook!" And no one agrees with that more than 26-year-old Samantha Saffir. Two years ago, Saffir began specializing in teaching children how to cook when she learned how fascinated kids were by TV cooking shows.

"It's incredible -- even 4-year-olds are able to rattle off the names of their favorite celebrity chefs," says the Santa Monica-based Saffir. "Kids are now begging to be taught how to cook."

Demand for children's cooking lessons has increased to the point that last summer Saffir put her career as a middle-school teacher on hold to devote her full energies to Kitchen Kid, a business she developed last year that brings her culinary classroom to her clients' homes.

For each client, Saffir develops a customized teaching menu that takes into consideration the children's needs; including likes, dislikes and food allergies. She also brings all the cookware, fresh fruits and vegetables from the local farmers markets and, best of all, she cleans up when she's done.

"It's like having a private chef but for kids," says Andrea Rossi, who recently arranged a harvest-themed class for her 11-year-old daughter and a friend in their Santa Monica home. "It was a really sophisticated menu -- they made a butternut squash and apple soup, and the pumpkin ravioli was to die for."

As the Rossi menu makes clear, Saffir's classes are not about decorating cookies. Rather, they're about empowering children to learn about a whole meal, eat nutritiously and do a job well. "It's amazing to see a 7-year-old girl wanting to bring out the nice china, light candles and serve her parents," she says.

Saffir's students range in age from 3 to 15. For the older kids, the classes are a learning process that includes a bit of math (measuring), science (the properties of foods), geography (where the food came from) and teamwork.

For the younger kids, the experience is more about emphasizing the senses -- smell, taste and especially touch. Among the 4-year-old set, Saffir says the turkey meatloaf is a particular favorite. "The dish requires mixing with the hands, and the consistency is not unlike wet Play-Doh -- mushy and gooey, just the way the kids like it," she says.

-- Alex Chun

theguide@latimes.com

--

KITCHEN KID

WHERE: Citywide

WHEN: By appointment

PRICE: Classes start at $50; birthday parties start at $400.

INFO: (310) 450-3462; www.kitchenkid.com

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