Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kids' cooking classes at Bar Cento

Belle has family in town this week, and so she made a very rare evening appearance. I wanted to take the family out to the see some of Cleveland, so we decided to meet friends at Bar Cento for their Cheffin’ with Kids. Chef Sawyer has two young kids and so I would guess turning a restaurant over to an army of children was likely a natural extension of his life. The gist of the event is this—every Tuesday from 4:30-8:00, kids can make their own pizzas. (Tip: make a reservation) There is a wooden riser of sorts that aligns with the bar, so that all the younger chefs can step up arrange their toppings on their pizza.

This Cheffin with Kids is a great example of the expression “simply brilliant”. Even the pickiest kid will eat pizza. They do pizza well anyway at Bar Cento, so making many, many pans of pizza for kids to top off is very doable. And, simple does not mean easy or uncomplicated. This event was more than business for the Chef. There was what the chef called “kid’s tomato sauce” and then his regular sauce. He then had 4 cheeses or so. While I can’t express how much I love cheese, Belle’s allergy meant that we didn’t even look at those lovely milk products. Then there were tomatoes, potatoes (“one of chef’s favorites” Sawyer told us), sausage, pepperoni, air-dried beef, olives, olive tapenade, onions. This assortment of pizza toppings really made me feel that for Sawyer this event is as much about being a parent as a chef. The display had items that made the picky eater comfortable like mozzarella and then stretch items like blue cheese. (Also pizza is a great choice for the allergic child--excluding wheat allergies. There is no egg or milk, and if you are choosing toppings, you can really know what your kid is eating.) My husband and I really hope to have a child who loves food as much as we do, and when it comes to developing a palette, practice makes perfect.

We weren’t the only parents who want this for our child, because the event was packed—babies to pre-teens. Belle enjoyed her pizza but mostly enjoyed wandering around the restaurant without abandon. One very tall patron who did not appear to be attending with a child, when accosted by little Belle, looked down at the rampaging mini-gourmand, and warned her, jokingly, that should mind her p’s and q’s or she might become a pizza topping. Of course, the good humor of the other guests was in part due to the strength of the waitstaff. As always, the service at Bar Cento is amazing.
We make pizza at home and she has made her own pizzas-asparagus and soy cheese. But, this was different because it was about being around many families doing the same thing--enjoying good food with their kids. The evening had the feel of saturnalia where the adult had decided to leave the kids to run the place—and as a parent I say this in an absolutely positive way, because how better to show your kids to eat good food than to give them the power to make it themselves.

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