Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed many lives.
For Marietta’s Heloise Ahoure, that meant being home with her daughter, Kensli, who was 1 in March 2020 and is now 3.
Kinsley followed Heloise everywhere, curious about everything she was doing, especially in and around the kitchen. And Kensli wanted it to be kept, always, in part because it’s better to be a part of the action.
“At some point, I was looking for something that would be more convenient for me so I could just get around,” Heloise said.
So I found a chair/hybrid chair that Kensli could safely stand in and was at the perfect height to see from over the counter, look in the sink and see what’s going on at the kitchen level.
As it turns out, Kensli was indulging in it all, and soon he wanted to be a part of the action.
She started by letting Kensli rinse fruits and vegetables. Then she wanted to pour her own cereal and add milk.
“She kept wanting to do more, step by step,” Heloise said. “She wanted to break the egg. She would see me making eggs or pancakes and she wanted to do it herself or do it better. I would stand behind her and hold her hand and use her hand to hold the spoon and turn it.”
Heloise took things slowly, repeated the instructions, Kensli explained the technique to put it into her muscle memory and was very careful to teach her the heat and cold and the dangers around the stove and kitchen.
Soon, Kensli warned Heloise if she was concerned that things might be too hot.
“At some point before I get close to her, she’ll tell me ‘So close, so hot,'” Heloise said.
Heloise believes in the Montessori method of learning, that children learn from hands-on and cooperative play and should be allowed to show their creativity and make their own choices in this play.
So, instead of outlining what Kensli could learn about cooking because of her age, Heloise turned to it.
She couldn’t find Kensli-sized hot pads, so I used winter gloves.
She wanted to know more, so Heloise was trying new recipes and traditional dishes from her home in West Africa, where Heloise lived until moving to the Atlanta area 10 years ago.
Now, Kensli can make everything from breakfast favorites like omelets, crepes, eggs, and pancakes to pasta, shrimp, and a variety of meats that she’s learned to season herself.
“I tell Heloise all the time that she’s the perfect kid,” said Mia Boykins, a family friend who’s known Kinsley since birth. “She cooks, she is completely independent. She does everything. It was very shocking just to see how independent and creative she is as well.”
Boykins said Ahuri is fortunate and fortunate to have an independent child who wants to do everything on her own. Like Kensli and Ahoure, Boykins speak both French and English, so the trio can mix and match the languages they speak together in the kitchen.
“(Ahoure) she didn’t have to lift a finger in the kitchen for nearly so long that it doesn’t make sense,” she said. “(Kensli) literally cries when her mom won’t let her cook.”
Ahoure works with Kensli on numbers and measurement now, and does the measurements in front of Kensli so you can take them all and then have Kensli mix the ingredients.
Ahoure has also made an effort to expand the Kensli cooking palette, connecting it with world-renowned chefs such as Nigerian Pierre Thiam to attend a cooking class to prepare a traditional dish of fonio, an ancient bean used in African cooking.
Ahoure also reached out to Atlanta chef Brianna Riddock on Instagram and set up a tour of Riddock’s Rock Steady Atl. Riddock said she also started cooking at the age of four and said she was obsessed with watching The Food Network instead of cartoons.
“Kensli is special because her color palette and coordination are so advanced for her age,” said Riddock. “She knows her taste and was very surprised by how well developed the taste buds of a child her age.”
Riddock showed Kinsley how to make a coconut cheesecake.
“The base of the cheesecake is coconut milk and cream cheese, while the first layer is whipped cream made with heavy cream and passion fruit puree,” said Riddock. “We made the whipped cream together and it was very coordinated using a blender. The whipped cream tasted of passion fruit and was able to define the sweet and sour flavor profiles.”
Boykins said it was fun to see how quickly Kensli’s cooking was progressing and how sharp she was at keeping an eye on and picking things up.
“(Kensli) is smart and it’s fun,” Boykins said. “She is cute. She loves to swim, she loves to play. Whatever she does, she is really focused. She is a unique kid. She is very smart and she is very attentive. She understands.”