Coco & Martin on the Joys of Teaching Your Children to Cook

Coco & Martin on the Joys of Teaching Your Children to Cook

Coco & Martin on the Joys of Teaching Your Children to Cook

As the Clover Little Big Cook Off turns up on the heat on SABC3....

Coco & Martin on the Joys of Teaching Your Children to Cook

As the Clover Little Big Cook Off turns up on the heat on SABC3 every Sunday, we sat down with celebrity chefs Coco Reinarhz and Martin Kobald to learn what it takes to turn good food into a passion for life


One grew up in Austria, the land of sweet Apple Strudel and hearty Wiener Schnitzel.

The other was born in Burundi, the Central African nation where savoury beans add spice and relish to almost every dish.

In style, personality, and accent, the two of them are as different as, well, the cuisine that reminds them of home sweet home.

But Chef Martin Kobald and Chef Coco Reinarhz do see eye to eye on one very important matter. Food is the taste of life. And good food, cooked and served with passion, care, and flair, makes life all the more tantalising and delectable.

As the celebrity judges on the Clover Little Big Cook Off, the all-in-the-family cooking show airing on SABC3 on Sundays at 4.30pm, Chefs Coco and Martin offer witty and warm-hearted advice to the Little and Big contestants.

But there’s a lot more to the series than the weekly cook off in the heat of the Bauformat kitchen, proudly custom-styled and fitted for Clover by Cordev.

For Chefs Coco and Martin, the show carries a message that they hope will resonate beyond the small screen, and into the hearts, minds, and palates of a nation.

“Cooking is a life-skill,” says Martin, “and it’s great if you can get your kids involved from an early age. It’s a messy process, but you can always clean up afterwards.”

Martin, who grew up in a family of passionate cooks, remembers what messy fun it was to help his grandmother bake her famous Apple Strudel.

He would play a crucial role by helping to pull the dough - no readymade pastry would sully the kitchen - and the taste of the national dessert, fresh from the oven and brushed with cinnamon, was all the more rewarding for his efforts.

As to whether he still bakes Apple Strudel according to his grandmother’s traditional recipe, Martin simply shakes his head: “No. I improved it.” In that case, lesson learned.

Coco, too, was born to be a chef, and he isn’t at all exaggerating when he says that. His mother, a professional chef in a restaurant, went into labour in the kitchen, so his destiny was sealed amidst the clatter of pots and pans and the kaleidoscope of criss-crossing aromas.

“I was created in that noise of a kitchen,” he says. Even so, after the family moved to Belgium, Coco went to university to study engineering, but neither his heart nor his stomach were in it.

So he went back into the kitchen, and began crafting the Afro-fusion cuisine that would become his signature, a testament to his upbringing as a child of two continents.

Just like Martin, Coco would like to see children playing an active role in preparing and cooking food in the family home.

“You have kids these days,” he says, “who think milk comes out a box. They don’t see the link between the cow and the milk. They think tomatoes come out of a tin. We live in a modern world where parents don’t always have the time to teach their children these things.”

In Belgium, many schools now include basic lessons on growing vegetables and cooking on the curriculum, and Coco would love to see that happening in South Africa too.

“It’s very important to get your kids behind the stove and let them cook,” adds Martin. “Don’t just teach them about the joys of cooking. Teach them about the nutritional values of food too.”

Thanks to the popularity of cooking shows on TV, says Martin, more and more children are eager to learn what it takes to be a chef. But it takes more than just the desire to be seen on TV, says Martin, who runs a cooking school as part of his food and beverage consultancy.

“I get phone calls every week, from parents whose children want to become chefs,” he says. “The first question I normally ask, is why? About seven out of 10 says it’s because they want to be on TV. They see it as fun. But the reality of being a chef is very different.”

Try working 18 hours a day, in 40 to 50 degree heat, on your feet, pumping out food, stressed from the pressure and the lack of sleep.

“It’s not a healthy profession at all,” says Martin. And yet, even as a small child, it’s all he ever wanted to do. Well, there was a brief phase where he dreamed of being a pilot, but happily, he saw the light.

As for Coco, he doesn’t see what he does, day after day, night after night, as a job. He doesn’t even see it as a profession. Being a chef, he says, is a way of life, a lifestyle.

And while you can teach anyone the principles and techniques of cooking, the one thing you can’t teach, is the passion.

“Passion is one of those things you can’t buy,” says Coco. “You either have it, or you don’t. And you need it to be a good chef.” The good news is, it can start right in the heart of your home. The kitchen.

On the Clover Little Big Cook Off, that means a state-of-the-art Bauformat kitchen, designed for ease of use, functionality, style, and convenience.

“It’s like a dream,” says Coco. “When you’e busy cooking, you want everything to be exactly where you need it, and you just want everything to work. Bauformat understands that, and they make it happen.”

But the real heart of the kitchen, of course, is the people who cook in it.

For Zuraida Jardine, presenter of the Clover Little Big Cook Off, growing up meant learning how to craft hearty, delicious meals, almost by a process of osmosis, absorbed through the generations.

“I grew up with cooking,” she says. “By the age of 13, I was already cooking meals for my family. If I made a dish well, my mother would say to me, ‘You can get married now!’”

It was from her mother that Zuraida also learned the key a happy home: a full pot of food, for family, friends, and anyone who happened to wander in.

“In my family, if the pot starts getting empty, the cooks start panicking,” says Zuraida. “You have to have a full pot, in case someone comes by. And it’s insulting not to have s second helping.”

It’s all summed up in an Arabic word that she heard often while growing up. Barakah. It means blessings.

When people come into your home, and they share in the food and the warmth and the chatter, that’s barakah.

“The more people in your home, the bigger the blessings,” says Zuraida. And the more people in your home, young and old, who know how to cook a good meal, the more blessed you will be.



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