By Jessica Press
Kelly Myers and 10-year-old Kika Garcia started cooking at home together when Kika was in preschool -- a natural mother-daughter activity, given that Kelly is the executive chef at Portland's acclaimed Xico restaurant.
"It all began with mashed potatoes," says Kelly. "I never pushed cooking, but when Kika was around three, she started using a potato masher and pouring in some of the butter and milk." Fast-forward seven years, and today Kika delights in whipping up pizzas and potato gnocchi. Her next goal: Make a molten chocolate cake. Baking is a great way to stir cooking interest in kids, says Kelly. "They like measuring and stirring," she says. "They like sweets, and you're more likely to have a popular result."
The inside scoop
"The best part of cooking with my mom is trying her recipes before anyone else," says Kika, who has spent many an afternoon by her mom's side, watching the hustle and bustle of the restaurant as Kelly explains how the kitchen operates. Kelly has also taken Kika to help with the family's farm share and taught her to identify ingredients from an early age. "When Kika was about 5, she was playing restaurant on a playdate," Kelly says. "The other mom heard Kika on the pretend phone -- ordering prosciutto."
Cooking has also been an opportunity for Kika to learn that things may not always work out the way you'd hoped -- as in the case of the ricotta pancake recipe she dreamed up a few years ago. "The first time we made them, they were great," she recalls. "The second time, we added way too much flour." Kelly says it wound up being a lesson in recipe development: "To actually be able to replicate a recipe is the challenge." Kelly has also learned from her daughter. "I can be impatient," she admits. "So it was really hard for me, at first, to not just step in and do things myself. Kika taught me to give her lots of opportunities to try. Faster may be the goal at work -- but it's not the goal at home."