Award winning chefs' tips on getting kids cooking

Mark Dodson (h)

GBClogo recipeAs part of our Cooking with Kids series we continue to look at the childhood dishes that influenced Great British Chefs’ award winning chefs. We see whether those influences appear in any of the dishes they serve today.

We take another look at how the award winning chefs from Great British Chefs cook with their own children and the food which they loved when they were growing up. 

Mark Dodson was Head Chef at the Michel Roux establishment The Waterside Inn in Bray for 12 years, working his way up from commis chef after eating an exceptional meal there and asking Roux for a job.  Mark and his wife moved from Bray to Devon in 2005 and opened The Masons Arms in Knowstone, Devon and won a Michelin star only six months later. 

His strongest memories are of good home cooked food.  “My mum’s parents had been through World War II, so had a ‘don’t waste’ mentality which really rubbed off onto her and the food that she cooked.  She’s a big fan of offal and I remember tucking into braised heart on Saturday lunchtimes”. 

Mark is one of a family of five and partially thanks to his grandparents “waste not, want not” attitude to food he learnt how to make the most of all ingredients.  “My grandfather made amazing chutneys and pickled onions and this has spilled over into some of my cookery today.  We serve a rhubarb chutney in the pub which is influenced by my grandfather.”

With three daughters of his own, Mark’s keen to pass on his interest in knowing where the ingredients that go into his dishes come from.  “My three girls all have different attitudes to food.  My 13 year old  daughter is very adventurous and will try anything. She really likes spicy food too.  My eldest, who’s 15, is fairly middle of the road.  However, my youngest, who’s 10, is unadventurous.

“She has a barrier to trying certain foods, but can’t get enough of the foods that she loves, so the trick is trying to find those foods.  Sometimes it’s the sauce on food that puts her off, so I serve the sauce separately and let her dip food into it.”

Mark stresses the importance of the family cooking together as way to encouraging children to be more adventurous about the food they eat.

“Cookery is much more recreational or relaxing now than it was in my mum’s day.  So you should make the most of that and make cooking fun.  Children respond to tactile cookery where they can dig in and have fun. Making bread is a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen”.

A final tip from Mark is to dig out that pasta machine! “Many families have a pasta machine, but often it doesn’t see light of day and sits at the back of the cupboard.  Bring it out to the front of your kitchen cupboard and you’ll find children will love making fresh pasta.  It’s got all the things you should be looking for when cooking with children.  It gives them a great opportunity to measure, mix, knead and then have fun using the machine to roll out pasta”.    

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