Celebrity Chef Gale Gand: “Kids Are Naturals” In The Kitchen

Celebrity Chef Gale Gand: "Kids Are Naturals" In The Kitchen

Looking to add more pizazz to family mealtime? Renowned pastry chef and mother of three, Gale Gand, says the key ingredient is creativity. Gale was the host of the long running series Sweet Dreams, the first ever all-dessert show for Food Network. Also, she’s appeared on Martha Stewart, Oprah, Iron Chef America, Baking With Julia (Child), and judged the 2008 season of Bravo’s hit series Top Chef.

Gale talked to Celebrity Baby Scoop about getting kids involved with the baking/cooking process, simple ways to stay eco-friendly, and her role as a mentor in Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative.

CBS: As a world renowned pastry chef, what’s your best advice to moms who say they’re too busy to make pastry?

GG: “I have a couple pieces of advice. One is, if you feel you’re too busy, get pastry that is already made. If you want to make a pie, it’s perfectly fine to get pre-made pie dough. I think if it gets you in your kitchen and gets your house smelling like an apple pie, go ahead and get some of steps done. If you need to get apples that are already cut, that’s fine too.

The other thing is that a lot of parents want to cook with their kids and they find that kind of daunting. I always tell them my mantra: “Everything is washable.” Don’t be afraid that it’s going to be a mess, because it will be, and it’s OK because you can wash it. So dress for a mess and enjoy what you get out of cooking together with your kids. It’s such a rich experience in so many ways: it’s math, science, nurturing, chemistry, fine motor skills and so on. There’s just so much that kids get out of cooking with their parents that I think it’s worth it in the end.”

CBS: We hear you go into your kids’ schools and teach cooking/baking skills.

GG: “I’m part of Michell Obama’s Let’s Move initiative here in America and I mentor in their schools. Sometimes I go right into their classrooms and make something – like this year we did pumpkin muffins right before Halloween.

I’ve also taught an after-school enrichment class for third, fourth and fifth graders. Every week we’d make something in an hour that we could eat at the end of the class and bring home samples for their parents. Part of it is about teaching kids to have a better relationship with food, and the other part is to raise awareness for the parents so they shop for the things needed for making healthy foods and better choices. It’s so funny because the parents would ask, ‘What do we have to do to take this class?’ The kids are naturals at it and they totally love it.

Recently I did a workshop and taught fourth and fifth graders how to make chocolate chip scones with a little bit of orange glaze on top. Sometimes it’s just survival stuff too. One time I had the kids make chicken noodle soup and it had 16 different vegetables and each kid cut a different one.”

CBS: Do your kids love to cook?

GG: “They all love to cook. My Kindergarteners are 6 so they’re not doing things where heat is involved, but they’re good at measuring and good at mixing and just love seeing things transform into their baked state.”

CBS: Do you think sugar has a bad rep?

GG: “For me, I haven’t seen the kind of generalized reactions that some parents say their kids experience from sugar. My kids have never jumped around after sugar, so I don’t have first-hand experience with that issue. My kids don’t drink soda really, so that’s not an issue. My twins don’t even like it! They drink things like water, juice and milk with their meals.

My kids also don’t eat processed foods, which have a lot of hidden sugar and salt, so they’re not getting sugar from other places. I save it for the real stuff, where it’s an integral part of the dish. For instance, my kids eat vegetables and don’t have to dip them in ranch dressing which has sugar in it. So they’re not really eating that kind of stuff.”

CBS: We hear you use cane sugar in your root beer.

GG: “I switched over to cane sugar about two years ago. It’s refined, but it’s cane versus high fructose corn syrup. Industrial manufacturers use the high fructose corn syrup.”

CBS: Your hubby is an environmentalist. Is it all organic in your house?

GG: “It’s not entirely organic. We pick our battles. We’ve decided to do all-organic milk. We try to pick the top 15 places where it’s most impactful so we pick fruits that have thin skins like strawberries and apples. We actually do bananas too which is more about the environment where they’re grown and what it leaves behind. That’s one that kind of breaks the mold.

But if you looked at our pantry, I’d say a third of it is organic. We’re not hard-core. The honey we have is from the next town over that has bee hives. The maple syrup we use for pancakes is from maple trees around here that local boy scouts made. We’re into buying local stuff.”

CBS: Do you have your own garden and do you compost?

GG: “Yes, we do. We compost and not only do we garden, each of our kids has their own garden! We have something called earth boxes. It’s like a 3-foot frame that you fill. It’s a raised bed that gives fruit the proper drainage. Each child has their own so they can make any kind of garden they want.

So last year my son did a tomato basil salad garden. He grew his basil in there and five different kinds of tomatoes. He also did an eggplant. My daughter on the other hand loves flowers so she’s got various different flowers that she’s growing in her garden. Our other daughter is more into vegetables so she’s got carrots, radishes, snap peas. And everyone wanted sunflowers!”

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Photo credit: Courtesy of Gale Gand

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