Hi! I'm new and was looking for advice for my 11 year old.



I have an 11 year old who has decided he wants to be a chef. He told me he loves food and wants to make food others will love. I am not chef material. I make anything that is quick easy and doesn't have anything I don't like...which is everything that is good for flavoring. He is off to a good start anytime we eat out, which is alot, he orders something he hasn't had before or with something he never liked before.

So my question is: At 11 what do you suggest he learns? I let him help with stuff that I do cook and he likes that. He occassionally peels potatoes, helps add ingredients, and stirs the food. Most of what I make comes out of boxes or freezer sections. So I would appreciate any advice onto things that would help him on his way. I mean at 11, he has already decided that he wants to live in Italy and cook. He really likes Italian food, even started eating tomatoes. I would never put tomatoes in anything I cook. So the kid is seriously food challenged. Considering Applesbees is our fancy restraunt.

Please any advice on to what he should be learning, ways to teach him, and kitchen utensils that would be helpful to him cooking. I would greatly appreciate. Thank you.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Math, communications, accounting. Those are good focus points for many careers, but also important for a chef and a good kick in the pants reminder that school is important.

On the cooking side, You can start him on following a recipe, knife skills, increasing and decreasing recipes.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
At this point I'd say just be as encouraging and supportive as possible. He is, after all, 11. How many of us made career decisions at that age?
Joined Jul 21, 2006
Both of my children have expressed an interest in becoming chefs.  The oldest at 16 is a pretty accomplished cook.  She's not very imaginative but is very good at cooking basic foods from scratch.  She can plan menus, knows how much to cook for the four of us, and follows a recipe (mostly for baking) and verbal directions very well. 

My youngest is 10 years old and he is the imaginative cook.  One evening when it was just the two of us, he asked if he could come up with a dinner for us.  I did most of the cooking.  He came up with a  sauce using soy sauce, hoisin, worcestershire, a bit of red wine vinegar, and a little brown sugar that we put over stir fried bites of chicken breasts and ramen noodles (cooked without the spice packet).  It was surprisingly good.  He loves to help his dad make rub for bbq and is all the time "creating" dishes in his mind and discussing them with us.  Some of  his creations do not go well together at all but others sound very good.  He helps a lot when I am cooking and as he gets older, I will allow him to do more on his own.

I am not the type of parent to force anything like this.  I allow them to express interests and work with them on it. I'm not a chef so can't say what is necessary for success in that career track but I am a homecook and I know that the basics were learned at my  mother and grandmother's knee.  Even if my children never put a foot into cooking professionally, I am happy that they are getting the tools they need to prepare foods for themselves and their families in the future.

Last edited:


I am glad he is interested in becoming a chef. And if all he does is spend the next 7 years learning how to cook, then he will make some girl very happy. Besides, I am thinking if nothing else it gives us quality time together cooking and learning. I have two girls older than him and neither one can cook well. One can't even boil water!

I am happy though because this has got him trying things that he would never eat before. He is not afraid to try anything now and has started trying things that he never liked before. My boys picked up my eating habits and I don't like a lot of things.


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
When I was 11 I put four skinny steaks in the toaster oven.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/laser.gif/img/vbsmilies/smilies/surprised.gif

If he likes solving puzzles then cooking is the ultimate problem solving and puzzle making medium.  Everything you buy at the store can be made from scratch.  Start with Pizza.  And yes, even the cheese and pepperoni can be made from scratch!
Last edited:
Joined Feb 8, 2009
At 11 years old, I wanted to be a Firemen, Electrician, shipping clerk, Fishing Boat Captain, Bookie, pool shark, Iron worker, Football player, Baseball pitcher and so on. I became a Chef, starting at age 26 in the food business....................Just work with him in the kitchen, see if it lasts. I worked with my 9 year old making meatballs, spaghetti, garlic bread,meals that she likes. If its between the Wii or cooking, the Wii wins...........Chef Bill,
Last edited:
Joined Apr 3, 2008
At 11 years old I had already cooked thanksgiving dinner twice (my grandma helped me, but it was just me and her) and I was getting upset about pre-made pies so my grandma made me help her grow pumpkins the second year and we made the pie from scratch. I was saying at the time I wanted to be a Pastry Chef...I had a sweet tooth then. As I grew I made the next 5-8 years of thanksgiving dinners the last few by myself. Then I moved out of home and operated heavy equipment and was doing warehousing while I was a part-time baker. Some dreams never die, they just kinda get moved over due to practicality.

Please do not take this too personally but the best thing you can do is eat anything the kid sets in front of you and be nice, no matter how much you hate something.  If the flavor is bad, be nice and explain (nicely) what you think went wrong..ie..too much salt, mayo or whatever. Also the attitude you have towards tomatoes and possibly some other foods will be the greatest detriment to his development as a cook , so keep it to yourself if you can. eat and smile, I do it with my friends and step kids just to encourage thier cooking and try to be nice when I explain that scallops and I don't get along but that pancetta wrapped around them looked so darn good I couldn't resist trying them one more time.

It takes ten compliments to negate one bad critic.

And get the betty crocker and the home and gardens cookbooks, they have all kinds of good recipes that the average household eats and buys and is used to, it's what I started with and I recommend them cause they are stone simple and if you can read they will help you cook better.

send the kid here too, he should read what the grownups are saying about the various aspects of cooking and ask you tons of questions about why we sound angry or adamant about something.

ps. I can't beleive you don't eat tomatoes, you do know that the myth they are poison was disproved back in 1680?
Joined Feb 24, 2009
my goodness you all were very industrious 11 yr olds....when I was 11 I wanted to be 12!
Joined Feb 26, 2007
Hi Pamela,

Sounds as if your 11 year old has a great passion for food - encourage him any way you can.  It's a great way to spend time together, and you may both learn a lot (like enjoying tomatoes /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif).  Great suggestion about the cookbooks Gunnar.  If he's interested this much he will chew (pun intended) his way though them and come up with what will start as,,,,,interesting dishes, but as said above, eat it with a smile and constructive comments.  Sounds like his palate is developing at a rate of knots and he wants to try more.

Sit down and read the recipe books with him, then plan your shopping for the meal around it, and get him to come along.  Ingredient knowledge is very important.  I reckon between the 2 of you, you can both benefit from this, as you say, you head for the boxes and freezer section. Cooking from scratch or near enough will slash your grocery bill quite a bit.  Homemade is always cheaper than eating out.

There are several magazines here in Oz that have kids cookery sections, so see if you can find some there which include something like that.

As he likes Italian, you'll need a big pot for pasta, good size colander, cheese grater, smaller size pot for sauces, good quality frying pan, short paring knife, longer chef's knife, veg. peeler, probably a whisk and a stick blender (like a Bamix) for soups  I'm sure that's not all but it would be a good start.

Good luck to you both /img/vbsmilies/smilies/peace.gif

Joined Aug 29, 2000
This is an amazing, wonderful conversation! I'm going to move it to a forum in which it'll be seen and enjoyed by even more members.

Just for the record: I cooked my first family meal at age 10: broiled chicken (marinated in soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic and oregano), some kind of green veg and baked potatoes. The kitchen was the only place my mom and I got along.
Joined Jan 27, 2010
Wow at a very young age, it's good to know that he's showing interest in a particular thing unlike other kids who would just like to play.

Anyway, you could actually make him your assistant while you're cooking. Like the peeling and stuff, or you could teach him first in preparing the ingredients and stuff like that, the easy ones and not the cooking itself yet. Just encourage him to do whatever he likes to do. Later on he can go into a culinary school and enhance those skills. 

You'll also have great bonding moments at the kitchen! :)
Joined Oct 23, 2008
Great thread, and it does bring back some memories. I was around that age when I really started desiring to help my mom in the kitchen, I enjoyed her showing me things that I could tell she just considered very basic, but to me, even if all I was doing was chopping hamburger up for use in spaghetti, it felt as if I was well on my way to culinary excellence!

My mom was a good teacher, and I was a questioning rug rat for sure, I think between the ages of about 6 and 12 I took maybe 3 or 4 breaths between all the questions I asked, and you all know as soon as I turned 13 I had completed my quest and knew everything!

In all seriousness, I did want to point out that in addition to what everyone here has said, you might consider that if he is truly expressing a desire to be a "professional" rather than just "hey mom I like to cook", then you may not be equipped to create the type of climate he needs to thrive.

When I was young, I took an interest in playing the violin. My dad had bought one so he could learn, and he could play a couple things, but when he would leave for work at night, I would sneak it down from the cupboards, and teach myself to play. One night he took it down, and I asked to see it, and played him mary had a little lamb. He was a bit shocked. He then let me play it, and would play guitar to accompany me. When I reached fourth grade, he learned that the school had a violin program but only for fifth graders. My dad went to the school and talked to the principal, and he made a deal with him. The music department had a bunch of guitars that were in ill repair. He said if they would bring me into the program a year early, he'd fix every guitar they had at no cost. The next week I was leaving class 3 times a week to take part in the fifth graders violin classes.

I brought this up, because in that defining moment in my life, my father was willing to do anything he could to get me exposure in ways that would feed my desire to play. I'm 31 now and I've never stopped playing, music remains a huge part of my life. Sometimes, the best thing you can do as a parent, is enable your child to really reach for the stars. Consider talking to local chefs, or if you attend church, many have semi professional kitchens where they prepare large meals, there are many opportunities to get your little guy some exposure, to help feed his desire to be a chef. Let him enter food contests, get him into any kind of summer programs, etc. In the end, I'm sure his favorite times cooking will still be spent with mom, helping to cook dinner.
Joined Aug 21, 2009
When I was 11 I wanted to be a nurse and then when college age came around I wanted to help special needs kids and adults so I went for my BA in EarlyChildhood Education and did post degree work to qualify me to work with special needs kids.  I always had a passion for food though and even at age 11 I was collecting recipes and borrowing cookbooks from the library and handwriting the recipes I thought would be good.  When I worked at the grouphome everyone loved it when I cooked dinner... most of the staff would switch residents with me so I had the one who was to help with dinner. 

My son wanted to be a chef and own a restaurant for years until he helped me make the meal for his sister's birthday party.  I asked him to roll meatballs and the feeling of the raw meat in his hands completely grossed him out.  I had a hard time eating meat that I had touched raw when I first started cooking as well but I've long since overcome that issue.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Nice tale, Eastshores. And you're kind of proving my point. As parents, our job is to be supportive as possible. But note that despite you're father's wonderful support and encouragement, you did not become a professional fiddle player.

Most kids, at 11, change what they want to be when they grow up about every two days. Today Pamela's son want's to be a chef. Next week it might be a firefighter. The week after that a world-famous sports figure.

That's not only the way thing are, it's the way they should be. The more they are exposed to, the more experiences they have, at that age, the better chance they have of making the right career choice at the appropriate time.

If it should turn out that Pamela's son does, indeed, carve out a career in the culinary world, so much to the good. But if he doesn't? That's just the nature of growing up.
Joined Oct 23, 2008
KY, I agree with you. I will note that I became a software developer, and I have played professionally in a bluegrass band for the last 15 years, I've reached my goals as far as the music is concerned but it will never pay like my day job. I have enjoyed a number of activities in my life, any of which would be a good career, but software is where I ended up. I have something in common with the 11 year old, I spend many days now scheming for ways to change my career to that of a chef! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/bounce.gif
Joined Apr 24, 2010
Great comments in general, so I think the OP has a lot of good advice, but I'll just add in this thought as well: some of the best professional athletes, writers, scientists, and even chefs picked up something at a young age and just ran with it, simply because it's what they liked it in the moment. I'd encourage that. The moment it starts becoming a chore, the moment it's "you should do fill-in-the-blank because it'll help you become a chef some day," is the moment he'll start to dislike it.

As a related note, I started playing piano when I was a kid and ended up having a very off-and-on relationship with it. I'd practice for two years and then I'd get fed up and stop. It's okay if he does that. Don't get down on him about it. On my own, after about a half year (with every time I stopped), I missed piano and came back to it on my own. After you feel enough time has passed, if he's still not asking to get back into cooking, you can give him a gentle reminder. "Hey, I miss your dish-you-really-like, do you want to make that for dinner tonight?" It could work wonders. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif

Either way, the key is to have fun with it, and as you've already pointed out, at least you're spending that time with him and vice versa. Chef or not, who cares. You will have done something amazing together.
Joined Feb 26, 2007

I couldn't agree more.  My son initally wanted to be a police officer, then a fireman, then a cricket player for Australia, and is still making up his mind.  Same with the number of sports he's played.  Tae Kwon Do, basketball, Football, cricket, soccer - now it's full on hockey 6 days a week.  Count up the dollars that all those changes cost!  Guitars have probably cost the most - he wanted drums too but that was a big NO!   And a No to an amp for the guitar.  I grew up with 3 brothers who played guitars with amps at all hours....arrrggh!

But what is life about except trying things, wnd up with a few you really like, then managing to combine them?  Now he is studying business management and wants to run a sports stor - he could probably make it there.

Whereas my daughter has always known what she wants to be - an investigative journalist (once she knew what one was).

Back to topic, my two are 16 and 18, and can cook reasonably well to look after themselves, but show no great passion for it.  But they have enough interest and pretty good palletes (sp?) to identify what's in a meal, incl spices & sauces etc.  I enjoy knowing that they can and I've tried to give them a wide range of cuisines over the years.  Time together in the kitchen is real "quality time". /img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif
Joined Jul 17, 2009
My little brother wants to be a farmer. He is 11. I'm the cook, hes the farmer. He doesn't farm the traditional lettuce, carrots etc. He works with a local farmer who sells herbs, various tomatoes and tons of other plants at the age I started cooking(13, 1 year ago) I had never even heard of. My advice, just support him in what he does. Try not to buy as many frozen dinners, and make dinners with him. If he likes Italy, do a summer project with him where he picks or grows fresh tomatoes, go to a cheese store( not grocery store) and get mozzarella, and have him make his own dough so he can make pizza. Also, he can learn pasta. And if he decides to make something that sounds weird let him try it. Otherwise, he'll lack creativity. As a chef, you have to try stuff that might not work.

Latest posts

Top Bottom