You’d think the children of a chef (and not just any chef, but a Top Chef Masters Champion) would by nature be killer cooks. But Floyd Cardoz, chef of New York’s North End Grill, has two teenage sons who don’t necessarily qualify. Peter, a college sophomore, is far more versed in biology, and Justin, like most high school sophomores, would rather play video games.
After Peter phoned home asking what he should make with a handful random ingredients, Floyd realized that he should fix the boys up with a few go-to recipes and techniques. Intrigued by how a chef goes about teaching his sons to cook, we talked our way into Floyd’s home as he coaxed his boys out of bed and into the kitchen. Not that they boys minded too much—as they said, these skills will come in handy when they’re looking to impress some ladies.
Here are Floyd’s tips when showing teenagers the ropes in the kitchen:
Make it a Special Occasion
You don’t need to drag in a writer and photographer, but make the lesson an event rather than just calling the kids over to watch when you’re making any old dinner. It helps them buy into the idea and clear space for it, instead of making it feel like it’s just getting in the way of whatever they’d rather be doing. To drive home the point, Floyd also took the morning off from the restaurant to spend time with his boys.
Pick a (Forgiving) Recipe They Love
It seems obvious that kids are more inclined to cook foods they want to eat, but you’d be surprised at how much parents try to get their kids to “cook healthy.” But really, encouraging them to cook for themselves rather than eat processed food is already a healthy step. So pick recipes that are family favorites.
Floyd walked the boys through Coconut Chicken Curry, a dish he’s been making for decades. Loaded with flavor and a stew-like comfort-food quality that’ll remind kids of home, it’s also very forgiving. The spice cabinet in the Cardoz kitchen is amazingly well stocked and Justin accidentally mixed up a couple of the spices; but no matter, the recipe can accommodate improvisations and inexact measurements.
Let Go and Let Them Cook
If a Top Chef Master can let go, so can you. It's okay if the onions aren’t perfectly diced. Or if someone mistakenly adds turmeric instead of pasilla pepper. Floyd let his kids actually do the cooking and by doing so, it became clear that they boys not only knew much more about cooking than they realized, but that they were retaining the information.
Coconut Chicken Curry
Floyd Cardoz and Sons
Serves: 4-6, with rice
1 whole chicken, about 2 ½ pounds (or 2 ½ pounds of parts)
3¼ teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 whole cloves
½ cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1½ cup diced white onion
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 Serrano peppers, cut in half
1½ tablespoons coriander seeds, ground
1 tablespoon cumin, ground
½ pasilla pepper, ground
½ tablespoon turmeric, ground
1 16 ounce can of crushed canned tomatoes
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1½ teaspoons black pepper, ground
¼ cup water
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 cups squash, large dice
Splash of red wine vinegar or cider vinegar to taste
1 cup cilantro, loosely packed
Skin and cut chicken: Remove the skin from the chicken and cut it up into 12 pieces, keeping the pieces on the bone. (Chef Cardoz saves the skin and uses it to make chicken stock.)
Salt chicken: Season the chicken with 2½ teaspoons of the kosher salt, and let sit for 20 minutes.
Toast whole spices: Meanwhile, coat the bottom of a large pot with canola oil. Over high heat, add the cloves, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves, stirring continuously. Once the spices start to sizzle, reduce heat to medium high and add the diced white onion.
Cook aromatics: Once the onion becomes transparent, about 5-7 minutes, add the ginger, Serrano peppers, and garlic and cook for another 3-4 minutes until very aromatic.
Toast ground spices and add tomatoes: Add turmeric, coriander, cumin, and pasilla pepper. When you can smell them, about 2 minutes, add the crushed tomatoes and the remaining ¾ teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes.
Add chicken: Add chicken, carrots, and black pepper to the pot . Once it comes back to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pot, and let simmer for 5 minutes.
Add coconut milk: Stir in coconut milk, squash, and a splash of red wine vinegar or cider vinegar and about ¼ cup of water. Bring back up to a simmer and cook for another 5 minutes. Check the chicken for doneness—it should be tender but opaque.
Finish and serve: Chop cilantro, stir in, and serve curry with basmati rice.