Andrea Kapner is the founder of Tiny Turnips Kitchen, New York City’s premier in-home cooking class and culinary experience for kids and their parents. She is a nutritionist, healthy foods chef, children’s cooking instructor, and former picky eater and now an expert on the topic!
What was the vision behind Tiny Turnips Kitchen and how did you start?
Growing up, I was a picky eater and I could count the number of real foods I enjoyed eating on one hand. When I say “real foods,” I mean foods that comes from plants or animals, not ones that comes from a bag, box, or carton. Because I refused to eat a variety of foods, meal time was an absolute struggle, so I sympathize with parents of picky eaters. For me personally, it wasn’t until I began cooking my own meals that I felt the connection to food. When children are served fully prepared foods that they took no part in creating, they aren’t able to explore their own taste preferences in a hands-on, encouraging way. I started Tiny Turnips Kitchen because I believe that when children are part of the process of cooking and preparing their own meals, they are more likely to eat what they have made!
What is a key strategy that you use to make Tiny Turnips Kitchen successful?
One aspect of Tiny Turnips Kitchen that has made it such a success for families is the personal touch that is inherently part of cooking classes for kids. I provide an In-home Culinary Experience and it is very hands-on. I am able to connect with the client from the get go and that leads to successful classes and happy repeat customers. Food is a common language amongst everyone, so when I am meeting parents and children for the first time and discussing their food-related issues, it becomes a very intimate experience. By establishing this connection within the first few minutes of working together, I am then able to really deeply understand the children’s likes, dislikes, and issues with food.
The second aspect that makes Tiny Turnips a hit is my energy! I have a natural, calm energy, but I also bring the fun to every class (ask the kiddos ). When I’m super excited about eating roasted broccoli, my students sense that infectious energy and they get excited too!
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Pick just one favorite? This is such a hard question! I really love when a child or adult says to me, “I didn’t think I was going to like ______, but I really did! Can I have some more? ” It happens all the time and that is I why I do what I do! The joy I get from helping people recognize they can enjoy healthy foods is really gratifying.
What are your present goals for your company? Short-term and long-term?
My short-term goal is to partner with a local farm in order to further engage the kids with the food preparation process and show them where their food physically comes from. I would also love to grow my business to include the Los Angeles market and bring Tiny Turnips Kitchen to the West Coast.
In the long term, I see Tiny Turnips Kitchen as brick and mortar business with a teaching garden and maybe even a few chickens. Goals!!
What are the basic principles behind Tiny Turnips Kitchen?
- All good chefs taste – I always encourage tasting because 9.5 times out of 10, our mini chefs really like that tomato, green bean, cucumber, feta cheese, etc., even if they think they don’t initially. We do a lot of tasting of spices, herbs, oils, and raw veggies. After all, a chef must know what is going into their masterpiece!
- No yucking yums – We keep negative comments to ourselves. If we don’t really like something, we simply say, “It’s not my favorite, or it’s not my cup of tea.”
- Positive peer pressure – I love teaching groups of kids because, more often than not, if one child sees their friend trying a food, they will also want to try it.
- Exploration – I love when the kids explore raw veggies/fruits with their five senses. They smell and touch the food, visually take in the colors, listen to the noises they make as they chew, and taste all of the flavors. This process is not only fun but also important in making healthy food choices.
What’s the “secret sauce” for getting kids to eat more fruits and veggies?
Hire Tiny Turnips Kitchen! However, if I’m not your home state, here are some tips that have helped open the minds and mouths of my mini chefs:
- Get your child involved in the kitchen. It can be as simple as preparing their school lunch or snack or helping with dinner!
- Enjoy family meals at the table together. This sounds simple, but a surprising number of my clients do not eat with their children. The dishes can wait!
- Set a healthy example for your child and have conversations about food choices. I have found this to be a strong and helpful tool because children are like sponges. They listen and take in every word you say or DON’T say. They also mimic your actions. If they see you eating fruits and veggies with positive reactions they most likely react in a positive manner!
- Even if your child tells you 100 times they do not want to eat that piece of food, continue to offer it. For example, if every Tuesday is Taco Tuesday, set up a taco bar with plenty of veggie options. Let your child have control of the toppings. Maybe this week they choose guacamole with tomatoes and tortilla chips and next week they choose shredded lettuce, avocados, and cheese. Little steps!
What’s been one of the best memories of Tiny Turnips Kitchen so far?
Every Friday, I host a Friday night Kids Klub Dinner with a client. She invites anywhere from 5-20 people to her home. I pick a different theme and the kids prepare the dinner for the adults. It is the most fun! Grandparents, babies, friends, neighbors, teachers, babysitters, you name it, everyone is invited! It is a wonderful tradition and we all look forward to it!
What can we expect from Tiny Turnips Kitchen in the future?
Tiny Turnips Kitchen Merch! I have the cutest logo and parents are always asking about the child-friendly knives I use in my classes. Look out for knives, rolling pins, more aprons, chefs hats and other fun stuff!
What’s the one piece of advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you don’t 100% love what you do, it is time to reevaluate. Every day, I wake up happy because I know I am in the place that feels really true to me. This wasn’t always the case. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help and seek out others who are in your profession. Use your resources – there are lots out there! Lastly, stay positive and trust that what you focus on will grow.
You can book Andrea and Tiny Turnips Kitchen for an in-home or special event cooking class for your kids today at www.TinyTurnipsKitchen.com