Do you have a kid who loves a good baking session? Who really wants to use your chef’s knife? A young person in your life who is addicted to MasterChef Junior, and who uses words like “umami” in regular conversation? There are so many terrific gifts to encourage the fledgling cooks in our lives. Here is a selection of ideas, and hopefully there is something in here for your budding Samin Nosrat or Bobby Flay.
Best Gifts for Young Chefs
An all-inclusive (well, no, not the ingredients themselves) cooking kit is often a great catalyst for getting kids into the kitchen.
Handstand Kitchen makes a slew of them, including a Rainbows & Unicorns Ultimate Baking set, complete with cookies cutters, unicorn shaped cupcake tray, spatula, frosting bag with three tips and a recipe leaflet and sticker sheet. There are lots more to choose from like an Out of This World space-themed Baking kit, a 17-piece Intro to Baking kit, and several matching adult and child apron sets.
Curious Chef makes lots of kits, including a more universal 17-piece measure and prep set with prep bowls, measuring cups and spoons and a timer.
Made for Me
Made for Me has kits that focus on topics, such as a Beginner’s Pasta and Pizza Making Set for Kids, as well as a macaron set, a sushi set, and a pancake party set.
Want to give a gift that keep on giving? Subscriptions are so much fun, with something to look forward to after the holidays are over.
Each month, a new Raddish (think Rad Dish) kit arrives at your door filled with enticing recipes, tools and fun activities that incorporate science, math, geography, language arts, nutrition and more. Comida Argentina and Family Date Night are two examples of the boxes’ themes. The kits are designed by teachers and chefs for kids ages 4 to 14, and each monthly thematic Raddish kit includes 3 glossy illustrated recipe guides, a cool cooking tool (such as a garlic mincer or a kitchen timer), and other materials like online activities, shopping lists, and an iron-on badge.
This subscription is from the admired folks at America’s Test Kitchen, and is also thematic, and every month, kids ages 5 and up receive a box filled with family friendly recipes, engaging hands-on activities and experiments, and a variety of extras from DIY board games to tortilla warmers to special sprinkles. Themes range from ingredients (eg, cheese) to techniques (eg, cake decorating) to a particular cuisine. Projects take from 15 minutes to a few hours, and the kits are designed to inspire kids to lead the way in the kitchen, involving parents as much as they want (or need, depending on age).
If you know a kid who is already on their way in the kitchen, and is craving some more far flung ingredients and flavors to play with, this is an amazing gift. Up to four times a year Zingermans’ (a famous specialty food store out of Ann Arbor, MI) will send the recipient a big box of eight to ten interesting and on-trend food surprises.
A box might contain Maffe, a peanut simmer sauce from West Africa, Lisbon lemon marmalade, Tamarind Date Sauce inspired by Somalian cuisine, and a bag of Afghan Roasted and Salted Bamyan Sweet Baby Apricot Kernels for snacking or garnishing. A collection of writing on the foods’ history and culture plus recipes for their use are included with each delivery.
A new smart kitchen tool is very exciting, and at times even empowering.
An immersion blender is a great tool for a slightly older kid cook, as it can be used to blend things like soups and sauces right in the pot. Immersion blenders also save transferring hot liquids into a regular blender or food processor, so they can be a safer way to puree things. Breville makes an All In One Immersion Blender that also transforms into a food processor with a variety of blades, so as the kid gets more skilled in the kitchen they can take on different levels of kitchen chopping.
Ice Cream Maker
Talk about a home run gift! An ice cream maker is just plain fun. Cuisinart makes one in a variety of colors, with a 1 ½ quart capacity, and the ability to get to a frozen treat in less than ½ hour. Let your kid set his or her inner Ben or Jerry or Jeni loose and come up with some creative flavors! Maybe enhance this gift it with some awesome sprinkles/jimmies.
Even if the junior chef in your life lives in a place where outdoor gardening is not an option, what a miraculous thing for them to be able to grow some of their own food, and then cook with it. Indoor gardening kits like the Smart Garden, which comes in different sizes and allows you to grow herbs, tomatoes, and salads greens, or AeroGarden, which also comes in a few versions. Or try the Back to the Roots mushroom growing kit!
Not just any pie pan, a pie pan in the shape of Pi! Perfect for anyone who self-identifies as a math geek, and just a fun baking gift. From Pi People.
Giving a kid his or her own cutting board makes them feel as though they’ve arrived. One nice place to shop is Unicef.com, where you can support their child advocacy work by ordering one of many lovely hand-carved cutting boards. Choose a teakwood cutting board such as one called “Dinner Party” from Bali, or the “Great Meal” board from Thailand.
Or, memorialize a family recipe for a child on a cutting board. Carver’s Ridge lets you send in a recipe, choose a font, choose a board size, and have your grandmother’s gingersnap recipe engraved into a fully functional work board.
It’s quite a lot of fun to play around with a single ingredient in many forms, and kids will be curious to see the differences between varieties.
Jacobsen Salt Co. makes a number of assortments of salt, such as a sourced 8-vial set with salts from places as far flung as Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt to French Sel Gris Salt to Bolivian Rose Salt. Or try an assort of flavored salts, all featuring salt crystals from Oregon, and seasoned with ingredients like lemon zest, black garlic, and ghost chilis.
Olive Oil and Vinegar
The world of olive oil and the world of vinegar are both vast and they are truly fun ingredients to play around with. For starters, you can make new and different salad dressings all week long. O-Med, a small company from Grenada, makes a slew of wonderful of olive oil and vinegars. Choices include smoked olive oil, yuzu olive oil, olive oil from Arbequina olives. Encourage the kids to mix and match those with cabernet vinegar, rose vinegar, and cava vinegar. Your family’s vinaigrettes will never be the same.
Bee Raw Honey has beautiful assorts of honeys ranging in flavors from floral and sweet, to buttery to “barnyard.” The honey comes from states ranging from Maine to Washington, each from a different flower source, and they help support artisanal beekeepers.
This is one of the coolest thing you can get a budding chef. A knife that’s safe for little fingers, and that they can call their own. My son had one during the under-10 years that made him feel like a pro.
Curious Chef makes great nylon serrated knifes with ergonomic handles for small hands and a very blunt tip. Kuhn Rikon Kinderkitchn Essential Set contains two knives, one serrated, one not, and a set of scissors for cutting herbs and vegetables. Everything is child-friendly, designed in cute animal shapes, and made of stainless steel. Made for Me makes a beginner’s chef knife that’s designed in the mode of a traditional chef’s knife, with hollow edge depressions and a wide open blade sheath for storage.
Lots of kid-friendly cookbooks and food books out there! For ages little bitty to young adult. Here are a few to check out this holiday season:
From America’s Test Kitchen, The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs and the brand new The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs. All recipes kid-tested, kid approved. The little chef hat symbols let you know how much experience is needed for each recipe, 1 hat being for young beginners, 3 for more advanced kid chefs.
Award-winning 29-year old executive chef Kwame Onwuachi was born on Long Island, and then raised in New York City, Nigeria and Louisiana. He started cooking at a very young age under his mother’s direction, and tells an intense story of moving his way through kitchens gritty and elite, rising to many challenges along the way. This is a memoir centering on the experience of being a minority in the culinary world, and finally locking in his place in the sphere of fine dining, on his terms.
For more advanced readers, this is a collection of pieces and essays from 25 writers chosen by cook, teacher and author Samin Nosrat (Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat). Through the lens of food writing topics as diverse as the queer history of tapas, a day in the life of a restaurant inspector, and a deep dive into beans. A lovely gift for someone who might like to think about food and cooking in a bigger way.