Kids will be the centre of attention as the first Yas Kidz Fest comes to the capital.
Billed as the UAE’s first and largest festival dedicated just for children, the event, hosted from 21st to 23rd February, will comprise one giant outdoor party for youngsters with imaginative play zones, a play town, little chef zone, silent disco, live entertainment, sports and fitness activities and more.
Hosting a series of kids’ cooking classes, MasterChef India winner Nikita Gandhi will be inspiring little chefs to get creative in the kitchen. We catch up with the young chef ahead of the festival to find out more.
At what age did you discover your love for cooking?
Having followed my mother in and around the kitchen since I was a child, walking and playing with bread dough instead of play dough was probably when I discovered I was born to live in the kitchen. To be precise, I started cooking and baking when I was eight years old.
What inspired you take up cooking as a career rather than just a hobby?
I read a quote once: “If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life” – and I believe in it 100%. As a child, I had a keen interest in cooking, and growing up I just knew I wanted to pursue it professionally. I have been fortunate to cross paths with individuals who have relentlessly followed their passion and also inspired me to follow mine.
It’s been almost four years since you won MasterChef India Season 4. What has changed since then?
The title holds so much value; it has helped me gain recognition and trust from people who follow my work and build a strong network of people who regularly attend my cooking classes in Abu Dhabi and also when I host cooking shows abroad. It has also given me the opportunity to develop and consult menus for restaurants, weddings and events, and I hope to run my own restaurant in the future.
How do you innovate in the kitchen?
Sometimes, I dream of food ideas in my sleep, but mostly innovation happens due to lack of availability of certain ingredients in the pantry. I like to challenge myself to cook a dish from the ingredients I already have at my disposal without stepping out to purchase additional ones. Personally, the goal is always to create new and unique dishes that have never been heard of.
Tell us about your participation at Yas Kidz Fest…
I’ll be conducting two workshops at the Little Chef Zone each day. The idea is to get the kids engaged in safe, hands-on cooking activities, without using a stove or an oven. They will learn to make simple, healthy recipes that they can put together by themselves. Mostly, I have conducted cooking sessions for adults, so it is equally as exciting for me to teach and inspire kids about food.
Why do you think it’s important to encourage children to cook?
Home-cooked food is undoubtedly healthier, cleaner and more economical on a daily basis. Children learn what they see – if children are encouraged to cook at home from an early age, they will understand the nutritional value of home-cooked food in comparison to fast food; they will realise how a good diet translates into a strong immune system along with high energy levels and will naturally grow to become conscious adults.
You’ve participated in various big food festivals in the past. What do you love most about these events?
Food festivals bring together chefs from all over the world with the purpose of conducting cooking sessions and hosting inspiring discussions about food. I believe that these festivals provide a platform for not only teaching but also learning from one another. I love that we can connect to the audience over food because even though everyone may not love to cook, people definitely love to eat.
How does it feel to cook live in front of many people?
Cooking in front of a large crowd is probably the one thing that excites me the most. It’s hard to explain the mixed feelings that range from mild anxiety before the show to excitement during the cooking process and lastly a feeling of immense gratitude towards the audience who attend these sessions and encourage me. It is always great to have an equally enthusiastic crowd as it makes the entire experience more memorable.
Yas Kidz Fest is hosted from 21st to 23rd February at du Arena, Yas Island. Free for children under 18, AED 30 for adults. Daily 2pm-9pm. Visit: kidzfest.ae