Food is the Great Connector, After All

It’s fall, and pumpkin spice is making its way into our meals and kitchens—a familiar marker that means the holiday season is soon upon us. As we gear up for the holidays and the new year, we decided to sit down with our founder, Kelly Montoya, for a little Q & A about why we do what we do.

What is one of your favorite memories of being in the kitchen as a child yourself?

My grandmother was a master hostess. She used to cook every Sunday (and all holidays) for her very large Italian family. I have amazing memories of her with a martini in one hand and a big wooden spoon in the other. Homemade pasta was strewn from the chairs as it dried. Everyone would get dressed up, and mealtime was a celebration of family. She’d let me make the salad and dressing, and I loved this task because it made me feel capable and included. I was five.

One Sunday after dinner, I grabbed the big, white salad bowl (made of glass) that always adorned the table at the end of the meal. My intent was to carry it to the kitchen counter for clean-up. Despite all the “be carefuls” heard from several adults in the room, I picked up the bowl, wobbled toward the sink, and fell to the floor, breaking the glass. I got four stitches in my hand that day, but my resilience was bolstered.

What inspired the creation of Little Sous?

The connection I have to my childhood are the memories that were created around food and family. I can still smell the baked bread, the tomato sauce simmering, and the anise cookies that lined the dessert table. Those memories have made up a part of my identity, one I genuinely treasure. Pre-pandemic, busy parents learned to master efficiency like no generation before us has had to do. Cooking with my daughter started as just that—I needed to maximize a small window of time, to make sure that I had quality time with her (while also getting dinner on the table.) When she was 9 months old I put a spatula in her hand and gave her a bowl of flour. She would talk and cook along (and dump a lot of it on the floor!) A few years into it, I realized just how much we had connected in the process, and how cooking had contributed to her own identity, her connection to her palate and to ingredients, her patience, resilience and independence. Cooking had sparked her creativity, her confidence, and her connection to the broader world around her.  What we’ve set out to do is to make this ancient practice accessible to modern families. We’ve created a plug and play kit that will get dinner on the table while educating kids about STEAM and culture, supporting their social and emotional development all through the lens of food.

What’s different about how you approach teaching kids to cook?

We understand the barriers to being in the kitchen with kids: time, inspiration, and safety. We’re teaching kids to cook, sure, but we’re also in the trenches as parents, looking to inspire fun and togetherness for families everywhere.

We focus on fundamental techniques and food knowledge, using immersive and improvisational approaches to our activities and recipes. In other words, we want kids to learn to be their own cooks. We want them to connect what they learn to who they intrinsically are. Developing palates require patience and understanding—it can be challenging, but if you can acknowledge as a family that it really is a journey, kids are more likely to come along for the ride. Involving them in decision making gives them a voice at the table and makes them feel seen and heard at any age.

The core lessons that we provide each month are designed to empower kids to be more confident in the kitchen. Our recipes aim beyond what would be expected of “kid-friendly” food. We believe kids are highly capable. We also believe that introducing them to new cultures through food fosters compassion and empathy.

At the end of a long day, know that cooking with kids doesn’t have to be complicated. Inviting them into the process can be as simple as letting them choose a pasta shape, or allowing them to shake the salad dressing in a mason jar. To music, of course.

Subscribe to the Little Sous Kitchen Academy and get themed monthly cooking lessons delivered straight to your door! 

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