Like many great dishes passionately crafted by celebrated chefs, simplicity can be a secret ingredient for parents when helping their teens or young adults learn how to cook or just navigate their way around a kitchen.
That approach has been tried and tested by Corby-Sue Neumann, both in her home kitchen and most probably in a professional kitchen as well.
Click for video transcription
Welcome to where parents talk. My name is Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is a mom of two. And she is the head of culinary of Hellofresh. Canada. Corby, Sue Newman, thank you so much for joining us.
Lianne Thank you loving being here.
So it’s such an interesting job that you have. Take us through a little bit what is entailed in being head of culinary at Hellofresh, Canada, which we should explain is a global meal delivery kit company, which in 2020, the company actually produced and delivered more than 600 million meals, which is mind boggling. And it operates in over a dozen countries, but take us through a day in the life of your job there?
You know, when you say that number, I, I literally want to just lie down. Because it does feel like we are moving at such a fast pace. I think hellofresh has really proven its business case, which is people want to teach themselves how to cook again. There are a couple of generations that have really missed out on that food language being shared my work. I’m only here because of all the amazing people that I get to work with. And that’s both in our company and external collaborators as well from the farmers, the growers, the makers, the bakers, the logistics people that help us deliver this food experience through a digital platform. And there’s a reason I’m sharing that, you know, I’ve been in the commercial food space for 20 plus years, and the food industry has been known for being literally the last industry to embrace the digital age. So you know, what we’re doing is not saving the world, but we are helping people feed themselves. The people that I work with are incredible recipe developers, who are classically trained chefs, many of whom have worked at some of the best restaurants here across Canada, overseas, new product development, people. So all of those can consumer packaged goods that we buy, there are talented people behind the scenes who are creating those. So they have that background. Some of the people I work with have worked for many years creating recipes, on magazines or for magazines, online, offline, food, media, TV shows, you name it, we’ve done that it’s always about sharing the language of food. And then of course, working with a really dedicated procurement team. Committed to sourcing the best that we can find.
I think it’s really important to start with the background that you provided, because what we also want to talk to you about is how that background and all sort of the process that you go through to produce these meal kits can help support parents who want to teach their kids some basic skills in the kitchen. Now, what are some general tips that you can share with how parents can support their kids in the kitchen?
So all right. As an aside, in my own 20-year history, one of my great loves has been sharing the language of food with children. I ran a food program from 2006 to 2016. across various preschools where I’m from originally, which is Sydney, Australia.
And it really grew out of my own experience as a child of a chef, where I was taken to markets early. You know, in the morning, where I understood, when was the best time to buy Ontario corn, when was the best time to you know, source fish. I already had that I was very lucky. And then once I had my own children, I thought, gosh, I can’t take for granted that what I know they’ll know. They’ll only know if I talk about it. So really, from the moment my children were conscious, any opportunity to talk about ingredients in the kitchen, putting them you know, literally in their little high chair. Here’s an apple, what is it? What’s the color? What does it smell like? What does it taste like? What’s the texture, so you really start from the shopping experience and if you’re someone who uses a meal kit, when that box arrives, you know, one of the things our customers tell us on a regular basis. It’s like receiving a present every week. So when you want to pack groceries however you receive them, there’s a ceremony to it. And that was an opportunity to talk about the ingredients as they start to get a wee bit older and they don’t need to be that old. By the way, craft scissors are such a great utensil for Kids in the Kitchen. So if you’re putting together, let’s say you’re putting together a pastor, and you’ve got some bell pepper craft scissors are actually great for cutting bell peppers. So you can get your little ones engaged really from the get go.
And the other thing I say to parents too, is, sometimes we put our own bias, we bring that into the kitchen. So if you’re someone who doesn’t like mushrooms, and your kids are never going to taste mushrooms, right, if you’re the person responsible for cooking, so I would say having kids is an opportunity for you to even challenge your own food barriers, and incorporate some foods that you wouldn’t have traditionally used. So it’s really just, as I said, the food language comes from your parents. And then when it comes to cooking, that’s the thing where people like, so of course, again, it depends on the age range. when my children were really little, I had a red zone, and they understood that the red zone was for the adults. And it wasn’t that, oh, it’s dangerous. It was this is not for you. That’s what that zone meant. And I was able to delineate with Honestly, I used a couple of red tea towels. So they knew that the stovetop the oven, that was for Mum, it wasn’t for them. But they were able to help with the chef pinch of Italian seasoning, they were to help by using their hands, your best tools in the kitchen to tear some basil, right? There’s lots of ways to really engage your kids. But teenagers, which I’m very fortunate to have.
I’m sure some people like really you are 15 year old and 19 year old are genuinely two of the nicest people I’ve ever known. The fact that I’m a cook, and this is what I’ve done. As for my living, people have always assumed, oh, you mustn’t have any problems. Listen, at the end of a hard day’s work. The last thing I want to do sometimes is cook. Right, which again, with what the appeal was for me with a meal kit, because I thought, oh, once in a while I just I don’t want to have to think about what, what’s for dinner. Anyway, so all I have to say is I’ve had the same challenges as any other parent. But like anything else, you just have to be consistent in your language.
And I think, really, I feel a responsibility as a parent that I wanted for my kids to know that chicken didn’t come in the shape of a nugget. I wanted them to know that pizza didn’t always arrive in a box that someone else had prepared.
So, yeah, those are such important points that you’re making it I mean, I guess at the end of the day is, you know, we’re trying to equip them with a life skill. Yes, you know, some of us are going to enjoy the kitchen more than others, some of us are going to have a natural inclination in the kitchen more than others. But I guess for a lot of people, and I’m talking about parents in this case, it could be that they need to overcome their fear, or lack of comfort in the kitchen in order to then be instructors for their kids. So any thoughts about how to simplify that process?
Okay, so you know, not to state the obvious, but a meal kit is a great way to go because you’ve got the recipe there. You’ve got the pre portioned ingredients, you know, here, here’s what you do from beginning to end. If that’s not for you, you can take the same principles of what we do in a meal kit. So is it going online? Looking, you know, googling talk recipes for? And this is something that that I really encourage people to think about. What takeout food do you like most, because that’s probably a great place to start. When it comes to cooking. I have to say one of the biggest mistakes I think novice cooks make is over complicating something or overstretching, like, Oh, I’m going to invite 10 people over and we’re going to have chocolate souffle for dessert. If you’ve never made souffle, and you’ve never cooked pretend people do it, they’ll be very happy with, you know, a nice pasta that you’ve put together. Right? So So start, start simple.
Pre planning, I think is really important. So you know, we do need to invest some time in figuring out what are we going to eat this week. And so with my kids and it’s different for you know, every home environment, but we literally get together at the end of the week, over the weekend and we just discuss what’s happening this week who’s going to cook watch? What do we feel like eating? You know, obviously once once the ice melted we were back on our barbecue, like every good Canadian
And then we just sort of make that schedule, I know what to buy. I don’t overbuy. And that’s something I would say is really important. I’m a big list person.
And even if it’s just something on your phone, right when you go grocery shopping, like, I really think that’s where the decision happens at the grocery store, doesn’t it. So just go in prepared.
And look, having been a single parent for many years, I’ve always been mindful of the budget. So it’s like, I’m not gonna overspend just because I can’t.
But if I do choose to overspend, it’s because maybe something was on sale, and then I’m, you know, I’m going to buy a little extra.
Well, you brought up so many important points. And I’ve always been a believer personally, that the grocery store experience is such a rich learning opportunity. And I know we’ve been dragging our kids to the grocery store, since they were able to sit upright in that cart, even when they weren’t, they were in their baby seats. But the point is, is that our goal was always to try to teach them, that food doesn’t just automatically miraculously appear in front of their faces at the dinner table, that there’s a process behind it. So when you describe that you sit down with your kids and kind of go over a meal, you know, we do something similar in our house, because it’s got to be an active, participatory experience that, that they’re involved in somehow when they’re young, and they can’t touch knives, it’s taken them to the grocery store as they get you know what I mean? age appropriate. So I totally, totally understand what you’re saying there. Let’s talk a bit about meals on a budget. Now, you alluded to hellofresh kits, and how that can make a difference. But any other any other advice in terms of how to sort of save money while you’re teaching? Again, kids how to navigate the kitchen,
Lianne, I am old enough to remember a time when so even though I’m originally from Australia, and my life has been split between Australia and Canada, I’m old enough to remember a time here in Canada when you couldn’t find corn on the cob 12 months a year, when you couldn’t find nectarines from other parts of the world in February. So I’m not saying that, Oh, isn’t that terrible? What I’m saying is, let’s really do our best to think locally. And to think seasonally.
Because look, the math is pretty simple. If it’s in abundance, it’s going to be cheaper. So right now is the time to be looking at stone fruits.
What else obviously, corn season is now here. And I do look at where ingredients are coming from. And then there’s other things that you can do. So as an example, you know, asparagus is, especially local asparagus, it’s an abundance in between spring and summer. And so I buy in bulk. And then I pickle asparagus, I’ve also chopped them, put them in the freezer, so that in the middle of winter, when asparagus costs an arm and a leg, I’ve got access to that in different ways. So I think that’s something that my kids have grown up seeing to buy ingredients locally when they were in abundance, and then figure out other ways to use them, or prepare them or have them set aside for when they’re not in abundance.
So you talked about your own children, a 19 year old son and a 15 year old daughter. And right away, you know, I’m just going to assume that there’s going to be different types of learning involved in different approaches and to cooking and meal preparation between the boy and the girl and their ages and things like that. Any tips around that Corby-Sue, that you can share in terms of ultimately, again, getting them to feel comfortable in the kitchen so that they want to continue to grow and expand that what they’re able to make?
That’s a great question. And, and I’m just going to be really frank, because it’s not what we’re doing.
My son does not love cooking, and doesn’t have the same confidence that my daughter displayed really early on in the piece. So I just thought of other ways to engage him. So I realized that this might sound trivial, but we joke that my son is front of house. So you know he’ll set the table because we actually do eat dinner together most nights. That’s just always been our custom.
My son will take care of the dishes, he’ll help with easy prep, he’ll help put groceries away. I know that doesn’t sound like much. But when you’re a young adult, and you’ve gone from your parents home where you haven’t had to do anything, that all of a sudden can seem you know a bit much
So siblings, there’s a positive peer pressure that can happen if you don’t have siblings, even friends. So my daughter has actually taught my son some really simple cooking techniques, whether it’s making great soft scrambled eggs, boiling an egg and I, again, you know, when I say this, it’s not to patronize anyone. One cook ingredients are really, I believe the tool. So my son is really great at making a tuna pesto pasta with spinach. Now, doesn’t that sound fabulous to do is cook a pasta. That’s it in salty water. And then when it’s done, he knows how to drain it.
As the pesto adds a ton of tuna, some spinach, sometimes I’ve seen him thrown some more pine nuts a little bit apart, cheese looks like something you’d buy in a restaurant. So it’s really about just working with the threshold of your own child. Right? As I said, My daughter, on the other hand, when she finished grade 10, she hosted a socially distance gathering in our backyard, a barbecue, and there were four courses, right? So it’s really just about leaning into the comfort level. So my son is definitely going to be the one cook ingredient, cook in his own life. And there’s nothing wrong with that. He’s going to set a nice table, know where to put groceries when they arrive home, you know, he’s not going to look at me saying, where does this butter go? Yeah, so even that, I think is a life skill.
You know, and I couldn’t agree with you more, because I think sometimes as parents, we want to start up the finish line and say, Okay, let’s let’s teach him or her how to do X. And it’s like you said, that souffle with 10 people over his guests, and you’re just sweating bullets, right? Whereas if you start small and help them gain that confidence, amazing things could happen down the line.
Absolutely, absolutely. And the thing I keep saying, and it’s the same principles I use in my job, you know, overseeing the culinary team at hellofresh. With meal planning and recipe development, I just always say to my kids, which is the same logic they have with their studies. Just prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare, and then the other p word, practice, practice, practice, practice. And don’t be scared to burn something, don’t be scared to fail. Because I have always said I’ve learned more from my failures and my successes. And really, I encourage first time cooks, novice cooks, people who’ve been cooking forever, I encourage all of us to take that attitude.
I work with someone and his favorite saying is perfect gets in the way of done. And I would really have to agree with that. It’s um, it’s a mantra apply to the cooking experience.
You know, it reminds me hearing you say that it reminds me of a line that I was told many years ago by somebody who was an excellent cook, but not a professional just cooked for her family. And she said, you know, Lianne, if you can read, you can cook. And I remember literally toppling over because I was just so blown away by, by this by this concept. And from that moment forward, I think it was planted in my head is something that I wanted to make sure that my kids were not useless in the kitchen. Well, back to your hard boiled egg example. If that’s the only thing they knew how to do. That was a victory and you just keep kind of building from there. So yeah, and it you know, it’s a it’s a slight, nuanced shift in mindset as a parent and approach, but I think it makes a huge difference.
It does.look honestly that hard boiled egg, but you know, it allowed my son to make his own lunch. I know that sounds crazy. So whether it was the egg sandwich, whether it was the egg and tuna, salad, tuna gets a lot of play, I gotta be honest, but hey, you know, lean into what’s going to make your child your young adult feel engaged, that they’re, they’re feeding themselves, because I do think you know, you said it before, it’s a life skill. And I say this all the time. You don’t need to be a great chef to be a good cook. You know, you don’t need to be a chef to make a great meal. There are so many, you know, unsung heroes in in the home kitchen who have been turning out incredible foods. The other thing, Leanne is flavor makers, you know, just don’t be scared of those. So I know that often clients of mine in the past were scared to use spice plans or individual spaces. So I would say there’s so many great multi-purpose spices or complex spaces, right? Whether It’s Your Montreal steak spice, whether it’s a Southwest seasoning, whether it’s you know, something that you put on the the chicken and put in the oven, you know those one and done flavor makers, they really elevate taste. And I think your friends saying to you that if you can read you can cook is quite great. And my father always said to me, if you can smell, taste, touch, you can cook. And you know, your hands are the best utensils in the kitchen. But really, I know it’s a funny thing to say. And it almost seems obvious. But I’m always amazed when I see people when I’m out, you know whether it’s at a market, or in the grocery store, buying berries, some strawberries, how many people look at the strawberries, but they never smell them. And it’s one of the things about whole ingredients, most of them. If you smell them, they’re going to tell you what they’re going to taste like. Right, so you can buy a strawberry looks picture perfect. But if you smell it, and there’s no strawberry smell, she ain’t gonna taste great. So really use all of your senses. That’s what I would really encourage people to share with their children as well. That’s such a fabulous tip. And so simple, right? I mean, we can we can all do this.
Is there anything else in terms of simplifying, you know, Crash Course cooking in the kitchen with with parents and kids. And I mean, they’re going to have different levels of understanding different approaches, all those kinds of things. But anything else that comes to mind, especially if you’ve got a family that’s under the gun, trying to do this crash course before he or she, their son and daughter leaves the house, for whatever reason.
I would say, sit them down have that conversation. Breakfast is actually one of those meals that is often overlooked.
And that’s that’s an area where a young person teenager can actually gain a lot of confidence in himself. So we won’t beat that poor hard boiled egg anymore. But you know, that’s obviously one of them. There’s things that you can do with oats, lots of the grains today, right. So whether we’re using something like a freekeh, which is a young wheat freak is actually really great as a breakfast alternative. With a little bit of banana, some yogurt, you know, even that
sharing with your teenager, how to take simple Greek yogurt, and stirring through whether it’s a bit of cinnamon or, you know, chopping up an orange, actually ensuring that through Greek yogurt and then putting it on top of an oatmeal. I know it sounds crazy and simple. But that if they can start their day with something that they’ve made, or even if it’s like they have it for lunch, right, because breakfast can for breakfast for dinner, you know, we love breakfast for dinner in my house.
So I would say you know, just figure out I keep saying it the one cook solutions,
I would really want to teach my kids how to cook some grains and some pastors, and then show them how to cut up some vegetables. And if you’re if your teenager is actually still intimidated by using a knife, and a sharp knife is really important, a dull knife. And I’m sure we’ve all heard this about a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife, kitchen scissors are really great.
And I would you know, just as I’m just thinking off the top of my head, my daughter, honestly, when she was eight, I taught her how to make qinhuai. And then we you know, we would put pumpkin seeds for texture. And she would blanch some broccoli and Blanche is just a fancy word for cooking it quickly in a little bit of salted water. And she would take that for herself for lunch. Right? So just really simple techniques. And then when she was feeling like she wanted a bit more flavor, she’d sprinkle over some Middle Eastern inspired seasoning. Right. So there’s, I just I think start simple with that sense.
Now you’ve outlined, you know, budget friendly and budget conscious meal planning. We’ve talked about, you know, inspiring confidence in the kitchen. One last thing though, I did want to ask you was about, you know, being healthy as it relates to what we’re eating. And I think more and more, if nothing else attracts your teen or young adult to the kitchen, perhaps that that might and the idea that we don’t necessarily know what’s in some of the ingredients in the grocery store that’s in the middle aisles as they say. What would you like to say about that piece?
Sorry, the reason I was laughing is because my it’s often turned to me as I’m eating something that is from one of those middle aisles and say you have a taste buds of a five year old. So I’m just going to put it out there. I happen to love those foods, but I recognize that they cannot be all that I eat. Right? So instead of beating ourselves up, what do we do? Right? Because I love snack foods. So one of the other things that I didn’t touch on this, it’s really also teaching your kids the, the weight of food, meaning salt, when when my kids were really little, I had to teach my children Yeah, we we can use a cup of, say, crushed tomatoes to make a sauce. But I’m not going to use a cup of salt. Because of X, Y, and Z flavor, of course, help. So I think that’s important to have those conversations about sugar and salt and how much we use and why we use and why it’s it shouldn’t make up all that we do.
And not to sound too corny, but nature has done a pretty good job. Right now. It’s stone fruit season. grapes, grapes in the freezer, you know, like if your kids are, I’ve got to grazers, that’s what you know, they like to call themselves. So there’s always frozen grapes in the fridge, you know, next to the ice cream. They know the ice creams for like once in a while. But the frozen grapes are every day.
Honestly, something as simple as making sure that you’ve got cut up vegetables. So instead of going for the chips, you’ve got that one of the best things my daughter said that I taught her how to make was oven roasted fries. So they’re just hand cut a little bit of olive oil, a little bit of chopped rosemary and salt. And that’s what she’ll go to when she would like to go have a bag of chips. She’s like, No, I’ll just make my own. And so I think also just being mindful of what we eat. And especially for our kids who are perhaps heading off to college and university, they may not have access to an oven. But when they come home to visit, perhaps it’s an opportunity to like make your own kale chips. I know we’ve all heard it before. But honestly, it’s it’s such an easy simple snack to put together. I would say just really encourage. I don’t I don’t like saying that any food is bad. Right? Where whatever aisle it comes from. We are very informed today and we do know what we should eat more of. And so that’s what I would encourage and even something as simple as a tin of chickpeas, you can turn a tin of chickpeas into a snack. And so you can do that without an oven. You literally could drain that liquid of olive oil, lemon, a little bit of ground cumin, or as we spoke about before, make sure your kids have a couple of spice blends that they like that would inspire them to eat that and sprinkle it over. Or if you do have an oven, throw them in the oven and turn them into crispy chickpeas, nuts and seeds. So I just I just try and always make sure that there are some Whole Foods sitting around the house that don’t need much adulteration. Right. In order for them to be tasty.
Yeah, those are all great tips. Corby-Sue Neumann, by the way, oven roasted chickpeas, huge favorite in our household. I mean, it’s the simplest thing. And we only did this a couple years ago. I’m wondering what I did before that, anyhow, we we love it in our household. Thank you so much for your time. There’s tons and tons of tips and tricks in there. Tasty tips and tricks I should say. We really appreciated your time today.
Thank you, Lianne.
“One cook ingredients are really, I believe, the tool,” says the Head of Culinary at HelloFresh Canada, a leading meal kit delivery service, which operates in over a dozen countries, and according to its website delivered more than 600-million meals, globally, in 2020 alone.
“When it comes to cooking, I have to say one of the biggest mistakes I think novice cooks make is over-complicating something or overstretching,” Neumann told Lianne Castelino during an interview for Where Parents Talk. “Like oh, I’m going to invite 10 people over and we’re going to have chocolate souffle for dessert. If you’ve never made souffle, and you’ve never cooked for 10 people why do it. They’ll be very happy with a nice pasta that you’ve put together. So start simple.”
Neumann who is also a single mom of two teenagers speaks from plenty of experience, through a variety of lived experience.
A product of culinary experts within her family — her father and grandfather were chefs — the Australian-born Neumann began her career closely exposed to every facet of food planning, procuring and preparation.
That transferred into work as a caterer and experience in the commercial food industry leading to her current role at HelloFresh Canada, where, since 2017, she oversees a team of recipe developers, chefs and others who craft plug-and-play recipes transformed into meal kits which are delivered with ingredients, recipe cards and itemized steps to yield tasty finished products.
“In my own 20-year history, one of my great loves has been sharing the language of food with children,” says Neumann, who also ran a food program for 10 years in pre-schools in her native Sydney (Australia).
Her journey has also included sharing her love of food and eating well with her own son, now 19 years old and daughter, 15.
“I feel a responsibility as a parent that I wanted for my kids to know that chicken didn’t come in the shape of a nugget. I wanted them to know that pizza didn’t always arrive in a box that someone else had prepared,” she says.
In her own home, Neumann has had to employ a variety of techniques to help equip her kids with the skills and confidence to navigate their way around a kitchen.
That has not always been a straight road.
“My son does not love cooking, and doesn’t have the same confidence that my daughter displayed really early on in the piece,” she says. “So I just thought of other ways to engage him,” Neumann continues. I realize that this might sound trivial, but we joke that my son is front of house. So he’ll set the table because we actually do eat dinner together most nights. That’s just always been our custom.
“My son will take care of the dishes, he’ll help with easy prep, he’ll help put groceries away. I know that doesn’t sound like much. But when you’re a young adult, and you’ve gone from your parents’ home where you haven’t had to do anything, that, all of a sudden, can seem you know a bit much. My daughter has actually taught my son some really simple cooking techniques, whether it’s making great soft scrambled eggs, boiling an egg. So my son is really great at making a tuna pesto pasta with spinach.”
During her interview with Where Parents Talk, Neumann discusses:
- Simple strategies for parents to teach kids basic meal preparation
- Understanding ingredients and buying in-season
- How meal delivery kits can simplify meal preparation
- Budget-friendly meal planning and prep ideas
- Managing parental food bias
- Tips and tricks to help teens gain confidence in the kitchen
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas
- The magic of spice
- “Fakeout Takeout”
Kid-Approved Meal Plan Your Whole Family Will Love (Courtesy: HelloFresh Canada)
Recipe ideas (video demonstrations)