Motivating young adult to cook

I have a 23 year old intern who finds the kitchen scary and intimidating. She did not learn to cook while she was growing up. Her mother did everything, she went to college then her first job meals were included. I really want to giver her some basic skills but if she is scared, can this be overcome ?

  • Posted by: Lisa
  • April 2, 2022


HalfPint April 4, 2022
Some great advice here already. Support is key. Make it an adventure, without judgement. If anything, the best dishes come from mistakes. That mistakes happen to EVERYONE and can be fun and funny too.

Find out what scares her about the kitchen and start from there. For example, knives can be scary. We teach our children that they are dangerous and should be avoided, when we should be teaching them that a knife is your best friend/ally in the kitchen. If treated with respect. Then teach about a good sharp knife and basic knife skills. Respect, not fear.

It's a shame home economics is not taught in school (that's what I've been told). I grew up in the 80's and remember that it was one of the most fun classes. I made pizza from scratch and it was delicious. Which brings me to my next point, teach her to make her favorites. She already knows what it should look, feel, and taste like. Keeping the food in familiar territory can help her be more comfortable and lessen those fears.

Lastly, repetition. The more you do, the easier it gets. Even if it is as simple as boiling water for morning coffee or tea.

Good luck! I don't even know this young person, but I am rather excited for her and wish her the best :)
drbabs April 3, 2022
Just to add to all the really great comments…. If she finds the kitchen scary and intimidating, maybe before trying to teach her, invite her over for a home cooked meal, which you just happen to need some help with. Let her set the table and pour drinks. Give her easy things to do like washing and spinning lettuce for a salad. Show her how to hold a knife and cut without injuring herself. Let her stir gravy or check the temperature of the chicken, something like that. Have nice music on and snacks out, talk to her while you’re cooking, etc., just to get her comfortable with being in the kitchen. Then maybe she'll be ready for some cooking lessons and meal kits,
aargersi April 2, 2022
Weighing in because I have a young woman, same age, that wants to learn to cook. My approach has been to have her over and cook a couple of things with her with zero pressure. I’ll give her a few items to shop for and I get the rest. She takes notes, or not. It’s all in a very casual fun atmosphere.
We’ve done a whole roasted chicken which is a KEY skill. With that, roasted potatoes, sautéed green beans, you get the idea. We have also done chicken thighs on a sheet pan. One night we made queso, guacamole, and pico de gallo, and easy enchiladas.
Next time she wants to do seafood and risotto, so we’ll probably sear a couple of scallops, some shrimp, and make a very simple risotto.
Cooking together makes it easy and I can catch her if she stumbles!
Nancy April 3, 2022
Agree with your methods, aargersi. :)
Was going to suggest similar - provide delicious home cooking and an enjoyable meal, let the person enjoy the occasion and maybe learn bit along the way.
In effect, imitate a good hone upbringing around food or a good small participation cooking class.
But to the original poster, I'd ask you to stop for a bit more reflection.
You want to teach her and help her overcome her fear in the kitchen.
But does she want to learn and to overcome?
Even if yes, but especially if there are strong negative food experiences or associations in her past, I would proceed with caution.
702551 April 2, 2022
First of all, she is not the first person in history to not learn how to cook while growing up. There are plenty of people who live long, happy and productive lives without spending any significant time in the kitchen.

As MMH pointed out, some people find the meal kit services useful. There are enough "simple quick meals" cookbooks to sink an aircraft carrier. There are plenty of classes as well.

But what it really comes down to is this young woman being motivated to learn, to make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes. No one cooks Michelin star meals just starting up, not even the chefs who have Michelin stars.

This is not much different than learning any other skill in life: knitting, Linux system administration, auto repair, woodworking, building Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, whatever.

Some people will gravitate to more structured coursework and curriculum, others might be fine just puttering in the kitchen with random recipes or maybe watching a YouTube video. All great cooks learn the craft of cooking and are able to improvise with what they have.

If she lacks personal motivation to improve herself in this area, it will be very difficult. She *MUST* want to do this.

You don't need to attend Juilliard to be a great musician but for sure you won't be one if you aren't motivated to improve yourself.

It starts with her motivation.
MMH April 2, 2022
I have friends who fit that category. Meal planning, shopping & cooking overwhelmed them. They subscribed to one of those meal planning services only long enough for them to learn a bit. The kits come with every single ingredient. They said they learned to try different dishes & cousines without the need to buy lots of ingredients that they might not ever use again and they learned cooking techniques along the way.
Recommended by Food52