• Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

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Interview With Florence Rebattet – Founder Of En Cuisine Cooking School

En Cuisine (3)

How did your love of food and cooking start?

I guess you could say it’s a family thing. During Summer holidays I used to spend weeks at my Italian Grandma’s home and cooking was our daily activity. I still love to remember how long our spaghetti was and that she always let me lick the spoon! To add flavour to our meals, we used to go to the garden and pick the necessary aromatic herbs. We also had plenty of strawberries that we would pick in the morning before it became too hot.

My grandpa was a big fan of restaurants, so he used to take me with him when I was young. I still remember learning how to eat frog’s legs with a knife and a fork.

In addition, my uncle was a very good chef with his own restaurant in Dax and received plenty of distinctions for his food. I loved going over there and seeing the craziness of running a restaurant especially a Michelin Star one. He gave me plenty of tips to improve my recipes.

Because of the memories I have of creating and enjoying food with my family, my dream is to recreate some of that with my son and all the kids who come along to En Cuisine Cooking School.

What prompted you to start En Cuisine Cooking School?

I have always been passionate about cooking and never understood why parents keep educating their children’s pallets with sweet dishes instead of healthy food. After moving to London with my son over a decade ago, I looked for a healthy cooking club but could not find one anywhere. I started helping out at his nursery teaching healthy cooking and it became clear there was no-one else offering cookery classes that taught about healthy and seasonal food. So, I left my job in HR, trained as a chef and then set up En Cuisine Cooking School.

Why children’s classes and not adults?

While Children’s cookery classes is a very niche market, which required even more effort than a normal cooking school to get off the ground, I chose it because I love challenges and I love working with children. They have absolutely no filters. They like you or they don’t. They like your food or they don’t. They are simply straightforward. You need to be a very good chef to give them the motivation to experiment with food plus you have to be a good entertainer. You can’t hide behind your kitchen or big explanations about a recipe to impress them. They will eat or not what you have cooked with them. It is that simple.

What do you offer at En Cuisine?

We offer several options to parents so their children can take part in lessons. During school holidays we have holiday “camps” where children can attend either of the two kitchens in Belgravia. Camps are split into two age groups and the menus they prepare and cook are tailored to their age. Kids can be booked in for a full week or for individual days.

We also do parties for children to enjoy with their friends. Our popular MasterChef parties are aimed at older kids (8-15) and typically involves a cooking competition in which the children are divided into teams and given a set of ingredients and a theme to work with. They must then come up with a creative and tasty dish that they present to a panel of judges: our chefs and the parents hosting.

Alternatively, there is the Afternoon Tea Party, Sushi Party, Pasta or Biscuits Party and, if none of those quite hit the spot, we offer bespoke packages, too.

We also offer private classes at the child’s home. We provide everything needed and leave the kitchen spotless. This is essentially a more personalised cooking experience which allows for a more tailored and customised experience, based on the specific needs and interests of your child.

School clubs are another popular option in nurseries, primary and secondary schools, including lunch cooking clubs, after school clubs and afternoon clubs for nurseries.

So, there are plenty of options for children to learn to enjoy healthy cooking. The only things that’s off the menu is highly-processed or very sugary food.

What advice would you offer parents of fussy eaters?

Keep trying! It can take a long time for a child to like a certain kind of food but don’t give up. I have read a lot of studies on this, but my experience is what has really taught me. It took my son five years before he started eating avocado. After all, it doesn’t smell of anything and has a strange texture, but he got there in the end.

If a child is not keen to try a particular food, try presenting it in different forms. This works particularly well for children who claim not to like vegetables, as most veggies can be prepared and presented in different ways. The courgette is a great example. Plain boiled courgettes are pretty uninspiring, but you can try so many options; fried courgette, grated courgette, courgette in tomato sauce, courgette puree, steamed courgettes with aromatic herbs, even chocolate and courgette cake.

What are the biggest mistakes parents make when cooking with children?

Transferring their fears of the kitchen to their children. I get it, having your babies in the vicinity of so many dangers is scary! But the worst thing parents can do is let their fears rub off on them. They need to learn and to be reassured so they learn how to do things in the safest way possible.

Hobs and ovens and the risk of burns is a good example, Parents, please don’t put your children off going anywhere near them for fear of a burn. Instead, explain how to know if your particular hob is hot and how hot it might be (this will vary depending on whether you use gas, electric, induction, etc.) Likewise with ovens, don’t default to “don’t open the oven, it’s hot!” Instead, teach them to open the oven from the side so they don’t get steam in their face, make sure they know how to use oven gloves and protect their arms when putting things in and taking things out of ovens.

I know it’s counter-intuitive to let your child hurt themselves, but cuts and burns are part of cooking and should be dealt with in a calm way when they do occur. It is part of the learning process and they need to understand how to deal with accidents in the kitchen.

What does the future hold for En Cuisine?

As I cook with increasing numbers of children, I learn more every day and I recently realised that it is not only children that need help to develop an interest in healthy cooking. I realised that there are young people going to university or leaving home having always been fed by someone else.  They have never had to feed themselves. I could see these youngsters living on takeaways (if they can afford them) and rubbish, cheap convenience food so I have recently expanded the age groups that I teach and now run classes for up to 18-year-olds. In fact, my forthcoming holiday camps includes classes for teens between 13 and 18 to teach them how to prepare and cook fresh fish. I have recently rebranded to reflect this and am hoping I can send a few more teenagers out into life able to prepare and cook themselves good quality, healthy seasonal food for many years to come.

What’s your favourite success story?

If I had to choose, I guess it’s from a few months ago. I actually cried when I received an email from the therapist of an autistic child who had been cooking with me for two years. The email was to tell me how much of a positive impact I have had on his therapy. She explained to me that since he joined the cooking camps, he has become more independent in his daily tasks and discovered new flavours of foods. In fact, he is even willing to try different types of food that don’t have to contain sugar and that are not a specific colour. That email was one of the best rewards I have received in over a decade of working with kids.

ABOUT FLORENCE REBATTET

Florence founded En Cuisine Cooking School  in 2014. Passionate about food and cooking since her childhood, Florence decided to build her own cooking school designed for children and teenagers. For her, it is fundamental to see the new generations cooking from scratch with seasonal ingredients. In 2023, Florence proudly, became, a Disciple d’Escoffier in London, and reached the semi-finals of Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars on BBC1 (season 2). Full of energy, Florence has a unique style of teaching which children find as irresistible as the food they make.

Website: www.encuisinecookingschool.com

Instagram: @encuisinecookingschool

By mac