Father & Son Kitchen Cooking Adventures


“Isaiah’s first words were ‘hot’ and ‘cook’, you know, besides ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa’,” explains my friend, Douglas Keefe, as we claim the last two seats at Seoul Food on a cloudy Friday lunch hour.

For the past few weeks, I’d been seeing pictures of beautifully plated food dishes popping up in my Facebook feed tagged ‘Father Son Cooking Adventures’, all posted by Doug. I was intrigued. I’m not the best at keeping track of how old my friends’ kids are, but I was pretty certain Isaiah was still in diapers. Adventures in cooking with a kid of any age is impressive, but cooking with a toddler is definitely upping the ante. I needed to know more, so I invited Doug for a lunchtime meet-up.

“The adventures really started with him, actually,” Doug says.“Isaiah loves to cook, he takes it very seriously. He’s been cooking for the past six months, since he was about a year old.” I’m not sure if he can read the mild shock on my face.  Going into our interview, I’d simply assumed this was a parent-led initiative, a way for Doug and his wife, Rachel, to introduce healthy food and the importance of homemade meals. It hadn’t occurred to me that a one-year old would be leading the charge.

“You have to be OK with it getting messy,” Doug says with a laugh, when I ask what it’s like cooking with a toddler. “Isaiah is really into it though. He washes the food, puts it in the pot or bowl, shakes the spices, stirs up ingredients. He watches the food on the stove and can even use a spatula now – he calls it ‘the spatch’. His dexterity has gotten a lot better over the past six months, so he can do a lot more than when we started. I started plating the food for Instagram and Facebook pretty recently, but Isaiah also loves plating.”


Surely this adventure must involve some challenges, right?

“The logistics of handling raw meat is probably the biggest challenge so far.  Using a knife can also be problematic, since I don’t want to have him too close for that, but kids are naturally attracted to the things that can cause them the most harm.”

Most father-son cooking adventures happen in the a.m. – weekend mornings tend to be the only time for, erm, leisurely preparing breakfast. Eggs are one of Isaiah’s favourite foods; he refers to them as “gaga.” Before I can ponder the connection between chickens and a pop singer, Doug surmises that “gaga” is likely Isaiah’s derivative of the word “Unga”, which is Hindi for egg (Rachel’s father speaks Hindi).


“His food palate has really increased. He’s not a very picky eater at all. In fact, he’s been helping us expand our food horizons,’ Doug says, just as plates of delicious Asian food are delivered to our table. Diving into a plate of kimchi, I am reminded that my own palate as a child was quite limited due, perhaps, to a lack of exposure to ethnic cuisines, spices, and ‘exotic’ ingredients.

“When I’m coming up with foods for us to cook, health definitely factors in, but mostly it’s about avoiding processed foods like white bread and sugar. We try not to bring those types of foods into the house in the first place,” Doug says.

As we polish off our meals, I learn just how concerned Doug and Rachel are about processed foods. Before Isaiah was eating solid foods, they’d delved into the world of homemade baby food, cooking and pureeing carrots and other fresh vegetables.

Before we part ways, I ask Doug how he envisions fostering Isaiah’s interest in cooking. “I’m letting his interests guide our adventures, so I’m ok if our cooking days don’t last forever, but I do hope to expose him to new types of food, as well as learning more about what where foods come from. Cooking is a great subject to launch in to so many areas of learning – culture, math, history, geography, and science.”

A couple of days after our lunch, another tantalizing picture pops up on my feed. It’s the first non-breakfast dish I’ve seen from the Keefe duo – an amuse bouche salad with beet, blueberry, carrot, sweet pea micro-greens, roasted sunflower seeds, and a balsamic reduction. I give the photo a ‘love’ and secretly hope that one day I’ll get invited over for a dinner prepared by Chef Isaiah, and Sous Chef Doug.


Shannon Courtney

About Shannon Courtney

Shannon is the co-founder of Salty and was its editor-in-chief for the publication's inaugural year. When she’s not writing about food, Shannon's either cooking, eating, talking, or thinking about it. Her food adventures have included milking a Jersey cow in Australia, almost overdosing on maple syrup in Prince Edward County, and studying local food systems in Vermont as part of her Master’s thesis research. Shannon is also a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and strongly believes you CAN make friends with salad.

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