Special Feature

On Kids & Cooking

Martin Yan Interview by Kate Heyhoe


Kate: Do you ever teach kids to cook?

Martin: Every year, on Yan Can Cook, we always do at least one show for kids. In fact, we're talking about the possibility of doing a kids cooking show, because, of all the cooking shows, Yan Can Cook has one of the youngest followings. Even in the Yan Can Cook series in China, we have a show for kids. Basically what we do is to teach kids how to take care of themselves, how not to fool around, and for anything dangerous, they should consult their parents. And we show them a few things they can cook at home. In fact, I was joking about Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and saying that it's funny: everywhere you go you see a Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood, but I've never seen a Chinese restaurant in Mr. Roger's neighborhood! (laughter)

In North America, the parents don't encourage the kids to do things on their own as much as in Asia. In Asia, a lot of them are two-income families where the people all work. Even when I was young, I was involved in the kitchen, in cooking. I cooked. My Mom would say 'Why don't you go to the market?' and even when I was a little kid, I learned how to shop and cook when I was very young. And I think that in North America, the kids are not encouraged to do more in the kitchen. For the kids to learn to do more in the kitchen, it's great for the future, it's great for the family. People use the expression "People who cook together stay together," and I think they also learn the value and not to waste, not to be wasteful. And the kids learn to be more disciplined.

They learn not to waste anything. When you buy a chicken, when you buy a bunch of celery, you don't have to throw anything away. Everything can be used. So when kids learn to cook, they also learn not to waste anything, they learn to appreciate things in life, in nature, rather than packaged foods. It's a learning process, an educational process.

Kate: and when they make the food, they eat it!

Martin: Yes, there's a sense of accomplishment. They feel they have made it, but they also feel they have done something that other people can appreciate, so it expands their social spectrum. The have created something that benefits other people. So it's discipline too. They learn from a head of lettuce that they can end up with a nice beautiful salad. From a piece of chicken, they end up with a roast chicken, they can see the change. I think that's very important.


Martin Yan Interview


Visit China page.

This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.

Modified October 2007