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Celebrity chef Jehangir Mehta gives kids a taste of cooking

Chef Jehangir Mehta, right, promotes healthy eating for

Chef Jehangir Mehta, right, promotes healthy eating for young children at Gastro Kids After School in Manhattan. (Credit: David Buck)

A lesson in the fine art of cooking served up by restaurateur and celebrity chef Jehangir Mehta can whet the kids’ appetite enough to get them into the kitchen and cook up a storm. (They may still not want to do the dishes, mind you.)

Mehta, a contestant on Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef Redemption 2012” and the runner-up at “Next Iron Chef 2009,” has a lot on his plate.

“Passionate about helping kids appreciate good food and eat healthy,” Mehta, a  cookbook author and owner of Graffiti in the East Village and Mehtaphor in TriBeCa, sunk his teeth into another endeavor. Since 2010, he's been teaching private cooking classes for children between ages 4 and 17 at Gastro Kids After School, formerly Candy Camp. The program runs at Mehtaphor. He also works with Whole Foods for a nationwide initiative called Kids Food Adventure with Chef Jehangir.

At Gastro Kids, Mehta likes to keep the cooking “simple but fun. Avocado shrimp wrap, vegetable tarts are just two [dishes they prepare] to name a few. Often we shop together, and I ask the kids to grab one ingredient that they have not eaten before, and then we cook it together. This makes the cooking spontaneous and a lot of fun.” It’s “totally hands on,” he said. “Kids will only take healthy eating to heart if they can have fun doing it. So we start by shopping together, prepping, cooking and plating.”

“Depending on how well they are supervised, kids as young as 3 can begin cooking,”  Mehta said. “I started with pancakes and eggs with my twins when they were 2 1/2, and they started baking with my wife around the same age.”

Mehta’s love for cooking was formed at an early age and some of his dishes are flavored with Indian influences. “My granddad was amazingly knowledgeable about the medical properties of various herbs and ingredients. I found that fascinating. For example if we fell down, granddad gave us turmeric and milk, for turmeric helps prevent blood clots.”

At the cooking camp, Mehta, who hails from Mumbai, said, they “tend to use a good array of Indian spices, but do not particularly cook Indian food. However there are quick and easy recipes we teach the kids like cumin potatoes, or chickpeas that are easy and tasty, and make for a healthy picker upper.”

Although Mehta started out as a pastry chef, he said, he does not have a sweet tooth. “I do enjoy an occasional piece of chocolate or a slice of dessert but I prefer savory to sweet.”

For picky eaters, Mehta suggested “substitution. For example, try a carrot cake instead of boiled carrots.”

Mehta also holds cooking classes at the children’s homes, at party venues, in schools and at other public events. The price starts at $69 per child for a regular class. Email atsuko@mehtaphornyc.com or call 212-542-9440 to make reservations.

For a link to the cooking classes  guide on Long Island, visit: long-island.newsday.com/kids/cooking-classes-for-kids-on-long-island-1.3953944

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