In a nation where people eat out about five times a week on average, cooking is becoming a lost art.
Carey Angerer wants to change that. She is dedicated to getting people excited about food and cooking, and she believes in starting it young.
Angerer launched Little Monsters Culinary in late 2017, months after she and her family moved to Healdsburg. As a self-taught chef and self-proclaimed “Food Network Trainee,” she uses her creativity to teach children ages 4-12 about cooking and new foods.
She said teaching kids to cook ensures they develop skills they need and will never regret.
“I’m working to change her relationship with food and her fears about cooking,” said Angerer, 35.
She offers a variety of cooking classes for children, including home and public school students, students in after-school programs and Boy Scout troop students, and birthday packages. It also organizes field trips to give parents the opportunity to take part.
On July 7, she wants to take the children to Sonoma Chocolatiers in Sevastopol.
She averages about 10 to 12 children per class, and fees start at $35. She typically teaches commercial cooking classes at Tayman Park in Healdsburg as well as at Windsor Grange. She also uses school kitchens throughout Sonoma County.
In classes, students can learn how to make chicken fajitas with creamy avocado sauce, bacon and cheese burgers, macaroni and cheese, soups, and other delicious dishes. Her most popular classes are those that teach children to make sweets, including cookies and chocolate.
When making sweets, Angerer encourages children to pay attention to how much sugar is in the recipe and how substitutions work.
For example, she let them taste the differences in whipped cream when it’s unsweetened, sweetened with sugar, or sweetened with frozen mango. She lets them know that ingredients can taste different depending on the dish, and they learn to try new things in class.
“(It) opens their eyes and their taste buds,” said Angerer.
Angerer grew up eating home-cooked meals. Their mother didn’t believe in fast food or sugary cereals, so she made them their meals every day. Sitting at the table to eat was a must for the family.
When they were about 18 months old, Angerer introduced her children, Sierra (6) and Summer (3), to cooking. So imagine her surprise when one day one of her older daughter’s friends declared, “My mother doesn’t cook.”
“I started to wonder if people would pay me to teach their kids to cook,” said Angerer, who has a degree in business marketing from San Francisco State University and worked at a modeling agency before moving to Healdsburg.
When her oldest was ready to go to school, she took the plunge and started Little Monsters Culinary.
Through her courses, Angerer wants to encourage families to spend more time together, cooking and sharing meals, and less time in front of a TV or computer screen.
Monica Smith enrolled her 6-year-old son Wyatt in the cooking classes about a year ago.
“Wyatt just loves her classes. He loves being in the kitchen,” said Smith, whose husband Paul Smith is a chef at Ramey Wine Cellars.
“He even leaves if he doesn’t like the ingredients,” she said of her son, “because he likes the process.”
Smith said her son is now more willing to try new foods. Angerer is fun and encouraging for children, she added.
When reluctant students see others enjoying the food they just prepared, Angerer says they will often opt to take a bite.
She said one of the most important lessons she teaches her students is not to say, “I don’t like that” or “That’s gross.” She teaches them to say it’s not a favorite food instead.
“We don’t give a damn about anyone’s goodies,” she tells the children.
Following recipes and measurements helps children develop their reading, math and science skills. You will also learn basic hygiene, including washing hands and cleaning up at the end of class.
Her younger students typically enjoy the more tactile classes, which involve rolling and pressing crusts. The older children like to cook soup with a professional blender and a hand mixer.
“It’s okay to mess with me,” Angerer said. “Cooking is about making people happy.”
You can reach Towns correspondent Ann Carranza at firstname.lastname@example.org.