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Class Teaches 2-Year-Old Kids to Whip Up Gourmet Fare

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | August 30, 2012 6:53am

LONG ISLAND CITY — It’s never too early to start cooking.

Even a 2 year old can do it, says Stacey Ornstein, founder of the Astoria-based Allergic To Salad, a non-profit organization focused on food education.

This Saturday, she will hold a free workshop for 2- and 3-year-olds at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City. The tykes will be making gazpacho using products provided by Queens Greenmarket, which is held there every Saturday.

Then on Sept. 4, Ornstein will hold another class at Brooklyn Grange, a Long Island City rooftop farm, for children ages five to 12, who will whip up batches of Moroccan carrot slaw.

Ornstein, who has been organizing cooking classes for kids since 2007, believes that the more exposure children have to different kinds of food and cooking, the more likely they will "try new things and eat healthy.”

During one of her previous classes with toddlers she made spinach gnocchi, she said. Then with the older children she made wontons and vegetable summer rolls.

“I take regular standard recipes and then take out ingredients that are potentially too spicy or too difficult for children to do,” she said.

And parents won't have much to worry about — the younger children use safe nylon knives to prepare food.

Ornstein uses fresh and organic ingredients as much as possible, but avoids calling foods "healthy.” She jokes that as a child, whenever she had heard that "something was healthy," it was the last thing she wanted to eat.

In fact, her organization got its moniker after one of her students had pretended to have a seizure caused by her alleged allergy to salad.

But as soon as Ornstein told her they would be making "chocolate salad," her allergy was gone.

“I just try to create positive associations with food,” Ornstein, who is also the president of Astoria Community Supported Agriculture, added.

She hopes children participating in her classes will have a different attitude toward food.

“Unfortunately, in our society people work so much that they no longer have time to actually prepare anything," she said. "We have this prepackaged and industrial food that we can microwave and a lot of people forgot even the basic culinary know-how."

Sign up is required to take the cooking classes. For upcoming workshops and to register their kids, parents can go here.