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Junior meets chef and author of The Family Kitchen, Rob Kirby

The Cooking With Kids author talks food memories, inspiration and kitchen disasters

Posted: 23 October 2013
by Fiona McKim

The cookbook, released November 7, 2013
Rob, with his "jigsaw family"

Chef and father of a 'jigsaw family" of four, Rob Kirby, is a regular face on BBC cooking shows from Breakfast Time to Saturday Kitchen. His first family cookbook, Cooking With Kids, won Best Charity Cookbook at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, and its follow-up, The Family Kitchen, is released November 7 with a share of profits going towards Great Ormond Street Hospital School.

What inspired you to create The Family Kitchen?

I wanted to get families together cooking and eating together, in a modern, mad time shy world - It’s also for jigsaw families with weekend parents spending quality time together with their children. It started as a very long piece of paper around the hall wall called my mind map. Over the course of the year we jotted down how our family grazed and ate it encompasses the whole 7 days! I truly believe the kitchen is still the engine room of any house.

What are your earliest food memories?

We lived in a London town house with my grandparents upstairs. My grandfather was an amazing gardener - he grew it, she cooked it. Since I was a baby there were smells of beautiful stews, pot roasts, stewed fruit. The smell of jam still takes me back there in an instant.

How can parents encourage a child to get cooking?

Make it fun and the food they love to eat.  Make sure the recipe and cooking take no longer than an hour to hold their interest.

And what’s the best way to cure a fussy eater?

By making food fun. When ours were small we’d cut fruit and veg and leave it dotted around the house, the kids used to graze throughout the day. Also what I call stealthy healthy foods by sneaking healthy veggies into their daily diets. Be patient, don’t go into stand offs over food and find something they really like and then try to make as many dishes around their favourites.

What’s recipe do your family like best in The Family Kitchen?

Wow, big question! I think the whole gift shop chapter on making foodie presents like glitter bomb caramel, rock salt peanut butter fudge, and coconut snice! Was I allowed a chapter?

Were there any disasters in the making of the book?

A few! The trouble was we’d practise on all our friends and neighbours - invite them around for a brunch tasting trial on a Sunday and by the time we’d sampled all the scrummy food  and had a glass or two of fizz it sometimes got a bit cloudy so had to try again the Sunday after!

Tell us about your involvement with Great Ormond Street Hospital School?

Under the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, I go into the school at Great Ormond Street and cook with the children. Its amazing, humbling and a wonderful experience and shows the power of food and how it lifts the children out of there environments for an hour session.  It is truly one of the loveliest parts of being a chef  I am very lucky to be able to play a part  in  the Great Ormond street school experience and have an input into their lives. Cook with kids, my first book, has helped build a beautiful sensory fun bright small garden in this inner London Hospital, Brilliant!

The Family Kitchen by Rob Kirby is released November 7, 2013.


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