Q&A with Cricket Azima, Founder


Q&A with Cricket Azima, Founder

Q: What is the Kids Food Festival?

A: The Kids Food Festival, is a series of 2-day festivals presented by The Creative Kitchen. The weekend of events is a celebration to educate children on how to make balanced food choices, in effort to aid in the prevention of childhood obesity through fun-filled family activities. Events include cooking classes programmed with the James Beard Foundation, live entertainment, the Balanced Plate Scavenger Hunt for kids with goody bag prizes, food samples, huge giveaways, and more!

Q: What is The Creative Kitchen?

A: The Creative Kitchen teaches children about food and how to cook in a fun, safe, and educational manner. The philosophies behind The Creative Kitchen came about when I was in school. While writing my master's thesis, entitled "Children's Cooking Classes: An Alternative Method to Enhance Learning," I confirmed that children retain more educational content of a lesson when using all of their senses and of course, when having fun in the meanwhile! Our exciting services include cooking classes, private and group lessons, culinary publishing, recipe and curriculum development, food and restaurant public relations and consulting, and special events!

Targeting families with children ages two and older, the company focuses on teaching, writing, producing creative content, and consulting to present educational content through food-related activities. Our exciting services include cooking classes, private and group lessons, culinary publishing, recipe and curriculum development, food and restaurant public relations and consulting, and special events!

Our largest event is the Kids Food Festival, in partnership with Cooking Light and in collaboration with the James Beard Foundation.

Q: What inspired you to start working with kids?

A: I have always loved to cook and eat and work with kids! I was at a crossroad in my career, trying to decide between becoming a chef or an elementary school teacher, when it hit me - I can do both! Now, I teach elementary aged children about food, my favorite topic talk about having your cake and eating it, too!

Q: Why do you think it's important for children to learn about food?

A: If children learn balanced eating habits early, they are more likely to keep these habits as adults and pass them on to their children. Given that childhood obesity is an epidemic in the U.S., teaching kids how to cook and make balanced food choices (and teaching their parents as well!) can go a long way.

Q. How do you feel kids cooking classes and food education can help fight childhood obesity?

A. Children are often nervous to try new food and ingredients. But, when they actively participate in the preparation of a recipe and become comfortable with the ingredients, the food is no longer foreign, and they are much more likely to eat it.

Children are not going to choose healthier options unless they know what the options are and what they taste like. And, I think it is my responsibility - as well as that of parents - to introduce children to these healthier options, which is what we do through the Kids Food Festival.

Q: What is one tip you have for getting kids to eat more balanced meals?

A: Don't force kids to eat certain foods - no one likes being forced to eat something! Instead, give your child a choice but still set boundaries. For example, ask your child if he'd prefer carrots or broccoli for dinner, and go with what he chooses! As a parent, you know that you're excited and satisfied with either of those presented vegetables, so everybody wins!

Q: Do you find that getting kids to cook opens their minds to trying new things?

A: If a child is only offered chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese, then, of course that's what he or she will want and prefer. If we engage kids in the cooking process using new and healthy foods, they're more likely to be open to try new things. The food absolutely has to be of interest to kids. So - start by making it fun by introducing peas or spinach into that mac and cheese and you're off to a great start!

Q: Do you think children have the power to change the taste/food habits of their parents?

A: Yes, definitely! One father went to pick up his child after one of The Creative Kitchen's cooking classes and was surprised to hear his child likes eggplant. The father asked me, while squishing his nose, "You made something with eggplant?" I sent them home with the recipe and the next time I saw them the father told me that, at age 40, he now likes eggplant!

Q: What sort of response have you had to the KFF?

A: The response has been overwhelmingly positive! The success of the event was evident during the January 2012 Kids Food Festival. Throughout the weekend, we saw children bouncing enthusiastically from exhibitors to cooking classes, excited to learn about foods, sample new products, and discover how to structure a balanced meal through the scavenger hunt. Parents were happy to see their children having fun AND learning, while they were also being exposed to new healthful family foods. The chefs and performers truly enjoyed themselves during the programming. And, the exhibitors were thrilled about the exposure to the targeted, enthusiastic families!

This fall's festival on March 2nd and 3rd, at Citi Pond at Bryant Park will attract even more future foodies and cooks in the kitchen! We're also excited to hit the road in the near future! To see what's cooking and check up on future locations, please visit the website for detailed information: www.kidsfoodfestival.com.