Kitchen confidence! How these pre-teens are cooking up delights

Saachi Pasari found her life’s purpose at a friend’s birthday celebration six years ago. The 12-year-old has vivid memories of the baking competition held at the party. “The kids were split into teams, and asked to prepare a dish.” The team with the most delicious treat took home a prize. Pasari doesn’t recall winning, but the cupcakes she made convinced her of one thing. At age six, Pasari wanted to be a baker. The kitchen soon became what the doll house was to little girls. When she wasn’t doing homework or attending ballet class, the Class VI student of Hill Spring International School, would be whisking away brownie and cookie dough. The pandemic made everything more real.

When the lockdown was announced, Pasari found herself with too much time, and too little to do. Fortunately, the school announced a hobby project early on in March. Each child was given a mentor to guide them. Sensing her passion for baking, Pasari’s mentor and teacher, Kanjal Ahuja, suggested that she start a baking page on Instagram, where she could share pictures of her kitchen experiments. Bake My Day (@bake_my_day_by_saachi), soon evolved into a home delivery service, with a delectable menu comprising macarons and a variety of brownies, cakes and tarts. Every new dessert she prepares, now gets added to Pasari’s growing menu, which she enriches by researching food sites and attending online workshops. “I try multiple versions of a dish and come up with my own recipe for it,” she says. Her vegan macarons are a hot-sell (box of six for R550). “I make the macarons either using aquafaba [made of chickpeas] or potato protein. Aquafaba is a replacement for eggs, but doesn’t work well in humid conditions, because it catches moisture easily. So, when it’s humid, and I get an order, I use potato protein with home-made almond powder, and caster and icing sugar,” she says. Her fillings vary from caramel, strawberry, Nutella sea salt, tiramisu to cookie and cream. Since she gets an order almost every day, she spends close to three hours in the kitchen, post school hours. “After baking, I go and chill on the terrace for a while,” she says. That’s when she winds down.

Saachi Pasari, 12, started her page, Bake My Day, on Instagram during the lockdown, and has been taking orders for macarons, brownies and tarts. All the proceeds from the sale go to charity

Where Pasari wishes to join Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, 10-year-old Sai Harish Thakkar of Swami Vivekanand International School in Kandivli dreams of being a YouTube cooking star. “Did you subscribe [to my page] and press the bell icon?” she asks this writer, before the interview. Thakkar is enquiring about her recently launched YouTube page, Cook With Sai. Her mother Trupti says she would crawl into the kitchen when little and learn the names of vegetables and fruits. When Thakkar had grown tall enough to see the kitchen counter, she started making tea and coffee.

In the lockdown, she cooks daily and has found inspiration on YouTube—she is a huge fan of Priyanka Khadse, who runs the popular food vlog, The Terrace Kitchen. “I like making Gujarati channe ki sabzi, rotla, khichri and dahi kadhi,” says Thakkar. A sucker for street food, the little girl has also attempted pav bhaji, Bombay-style sandwich and bread toast, peanut paak and veg hakka noodles during the lockdown.

Now that school has resumed classes with gusto, she posts less frequently. “I don’t get a lot of time between online classes and homework, but I still try and cook something over the weekend, and post a video.” While she currently has just 160 subscribers, Thakkar’s dream is to hit a million followers.

Not every child chef enjoys having a social media presence. Agastya Patel, a Class VI student at Gopi Birla Memorial School, Malabar Hill, has been baking all through the lockdown, but his parents feel it’s too early for him to be on Instagram or YouTube. His mother Deepti, however, shares pictures of the brownies, cookies, pizzas, breads and ice creams that he prepares, on her feed. His role model, she says, was his grandmother who used to spoil him rotten with her cakes.

Arjun Asher, 10, on the other hand, found his icons on television.

Arjun Asher, 10, was inspired to cook after watching MasterChef Australia. He likes innovating and often comes up with his own recipes

“Last year, I got hooked to MasterChef Australia. I knew I wanted to cook like them,” the Class V student says of the contestants. Somewhere, around round the same time, he participated in a cooking competition at his school, JBCN International in Parel, along with his father. That gave him more confidence. So, while most of his friends played it rough on the ground, Asher would spend time trying out dishes in the kitchen. The vegetable he likes working most with is potato. “My family and friends enjoy the cheese-chilli potatoes that I make. I cut the potatoes into thick, round slices, and shallow fry them with butter. For the sauce, I use butter, oil, milk, pepper, salt, cheese, chillies and garlic powder, which I then pour over the fried slices. I like learning by trial and error.” Since the lockdown was announced, Asher has been cooking regularly. “I prefer working on my own, and only take mum’s help, when I have to transfer food from one pan to another, or when I have to turn on the gas.”

The kitchen is not the safest place for kids, and that’s one thing that Deepti dreads, when her son demands to be left alone when baking. Both Deepti and her husband have been working from home since the lockdown began, and she admits it’s been difficult keeping up with Patel, who is constantly switching between the oven and gas stove, to create his next big bake. “He has been baking independently for the last few months. We give him the freedom he needs, but we also need to closely monitor,” she says. Patel’s school friends are fans of his chocolate brownies. “It’s my own recipe. I perfected it after a few attempts,” he says, adding, “My family loves eating and I love feeding. It’s what brings me happiness.” Every week, he has a new grocery list, which his parents say, is never-ending. “I want to become a pastry chef. It’s a lot of work. I want to use the time I have now, to learn as much as I can.”

Agastya Patel, 11, who wishes to become a pastry chef, has been baking independently since the start of the lockdown. He came up with his own chocolate brownie recipe, too

Order from bake my day: @bake_my_day_by_saachi, Instagram

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