COOKING skills among youngsters today are few and far between, since home economics classes that enabled pupils to pick up vital skills were axed at schools a few years ago.
But one lady is making it her mission to teach kids how to bake.
After starting cooking parties for kids five years ago, Janet Cousins now runs Sticky Fingers – parties for children aged five and above in which they learn how to bake cakes, cookies or candy.
It was a passion for cooking and a need to help others that led the mum-of-two to start Sticky Fingers. She said: “I’m constantly doing something, I enjoy helping others. We are recovering a lost generation of people that can’t cook and don’t know how to knock up a decent meal.”
As my own baking skills probably match that of a five-year-old, I thought it only best that Janet showed me what she does best, so I visited her at her Milton home for a lesson.
On the menu? Cupcakes.
“The nicest thing about the parties is that you always come out with a feeling of wellbeing. Some people come away from work feeling down or fed-up, but I never feel that – it’s always uplifting,” Janet tells me.
The 59-year-old, who used to own the Willington Green Deli, which closed last year, moved the wholesale side of the business to her own kitchen and continued to provide a number of food establishments with goods, including Derby Garden Centre and Fresh Basil, in Belper.
As we start to make the cake mixture, she tells me that baking lessons in schools stopped some years ago, and said she was worried that child obesity could become a problem due to a lack of knowledge about food and its contents.
“When they look at the fat content on a chocolate bar they have no idea what it means, whereas if they weigh it out they can see for themselves exactly how much there is.”
Janet started the cooking party format five years ago and is now looking to start a franchise so that she can pass all her knowledge on to somebody else, and they can also run the parties.
Earlier in her career Janet worked as a tutor and programme manager for Derbyshire County Council adult education service, where food hygiene training and family learning cookery were two of her teaching specialities.
“I keep them busy for two hours, and while the cakes are cooling they sing happy birthday and the finale is decorating the cakes they have made,” she said.
The children are given stickers to decorate their chef hats.
“The children have a fab time and usually quite a bit ends up in their mouths while they are making it,” she added.
Janet can fit in as many as three parties in one week, taking all the equipment to customers’ homes, or a venue if there are more than 14 children.
“As far as I’m aware this particular business model is unique. There are other people that do parties, but often we have to go to them and others don’t provide party food,” said Janet.
“It captures the imagination and helps with education because they are measuring, mixing and learning about health and nutrition.”
By this stage we are well into the cupcake making process and it’s just a case of waiting for them to cook so we can decorate them.
Janet tells me about her hopes for the future. Apart from the franchise, she has her sights set on branching out to pre-schools and after-school clubs. She will be doing a baking club at St Wystan’s School, in Repton, for six weeks after the October half-term.
She has also been asked to work with the YMCA in Burton, and next month is holding three bake-offs, one at Milton Village Hall on October 31.
When the cakes have cooled we get down to decorating. This is the bit I’ve been waiting for, and I can see why kids would have such fun at Sticky Fingers parties.
Once the cakes were done, they looked and tasted great – as proved by how quickly they got eaten back at the office.
n More information on Sticky Fingers can be found at stickyfingerscookeryparties.co.uk