Why are our kids crazy about cooking?

Fascinated by TikTok’s gastronomy and starred chef-influencers, teenagers spend in the kitchen. A new passion that channels their attention, frees their creativity and instills joy and good humor in families.

When her 16-year-old son went on holiday with his girlfriend, Jeanne received a rather unexpected photo as a postcard: a shot of a wok filled with finely chopped pieces of beef, seasoned with cilantro and onion strips. In the legend, this message in the form of a recipe: “Look, this magnificent Tiger crying: beef tenderloin, soy sauce, ginger, parsley, garlic, shallots, coriander. The meat marinated for almost three hours. It’s too good!”

This generation Z will never cease to amaze us. On TikTok, food competes with music and choreography in the plots of our kids, who have made the kitchen the new dance floor. It must be said that the video per second social network exploded at the time of birth. Since then, the hashtag #TikTokfood has collected all the culinary tropes without hierarchies: eight-level burger challenges, healthy recipes, fat and creamy dishes, or even creations by star chefs…

See the kitchen differently

Remember, about ten years ago, the book Simplissime had already converted the parents of these teenagers into housewives. The idea that made the difference then? Offer simple recipes, maximum five ingredients, easy to reproduce. With the acceleration of digitization at the time of confinement, the explosion of lives on social networks, teenagers have started to look at cooking differently.

It must be said that the new ambassadors of taste are, like them, young and connected. In the cracker family, sweet and savory, there are two categories. The “food content creators” are not chefs but federated communities of several million foodies. In two years, Jordan Martelot, alias @seizemay, who knows nothing in the kitchen, has thus won the loyalty of 2.5 million subscribers with his “comfort food”, a very generational synthesis of fat, creamy, but healthy in spite of everything .

“I started making burgers for me and my girlfriend while I recovered”

Jordan Martelot aka @seizemay

As comfortable with digital tools as with kitchen accessories, it changes its formats every two or three months to capture the public and mark its difference. “I had just finished my baccalaureate and entered a language school when everything shut down due to Covid. I started making burgers for my girlfriend and I, filming myself. What was appreciated were these short, no more than forty-five-second, fast-paced formats designed for high school and college students like me. I am Mr. All, I look like them and I speak to them in a language they understand better than their teachers.

50 million views a month

Her typical days would almost resemble those of an over 50 housewife, between shopping and preparing two or three recipes. Except that the cook is a cameraman, editor, entrepreneur from morning to night – he posts a video every day on Instagram and one on TikTok, an hour later – as well as an accountant and commentator after dark. And he generates an audience that rivals traditional media, with 50 million views a month.

Alongside these content creators, a new generation of chef influencers has also conquered the same networks, realizing that these new tools would change their image and fill their restaurants. Thus the 3.2 million subscribers to the TikTok account of the new Nespresso commercial with Jean Dujardin, George Clooney and Camille Cottin, who passed through Ferrandi’s school, find themselves immersed with him in the kitchen. Between a choreographic video and another of bodybuilding, others drool in front of the trompe-l’oeil of the pastry chef Cédric Grolet, and describe with passion and respect the magic of his lemon dessert, the incomparable character of his apple pie, the lightness of the its crescent.

On video, the new Nespresso commercial with Jean Dujardin, George Clooney and Camille Cottin

They like the spectacular and creative side of these chefs, the dramatization of cooking, its scores, its staging. And his works because, like content creators, chefs extend their experience in recipe books, products derived from their business. “It was a siding and it became a passion, says Yann Couvreur, a pastry chef who opened his Parisian brands after a career in the biggest maisons, with transparency. Seeing chefs perform is a beautiful thing, but we must not forget that it is a trade, with as much know-how as a luxury craftsman.

Even before their exposure on social networks, all these chefs were already present in the media space, as former candidates or jurors on TV cooking shows. The best chef, the best pastry chef they also played on this closeness and found their audience. “Teenagers are attracted to the course of these young candidates, the workforce they employ. There is something very concrete in the dramaturgy, deciphers the host of Top chefs and journalist Stéphane Rotenberg. They see them interacting as a team, creating a dish from scratch. This closeness, this reinterpretation of cooking as an everyday art makes identification easier.

Some, like Gustave, have discovered the soul of a chef at the time of their first birth. When everything stopped, when he had to take care of himself, this 17-year-old teenager at the time started making tiramisu and whole trays of small meringues, finding a way to find piping bags, which have become an indispensable asset for him .

Healthy recipes or very gourmet challenges, the #TikTokfood hashtag drives the statistics crazy. davit85 / stock.adobe.com

Transmission, source of inspiration

Others converted even younger. The intra-household transmission still works. There is often a grandmother, a mother, a father hidden behind the kitchen door. Elliott, 15, traces this appetite to the weekly evenings he spent as a child at his grandmother’s house, watching her perched on a small stepladder as she prepared all sorts of dishes. But what is striking is the application these teenagers put into their cooking, their total investment in this activity.

They, who are often described as permanent sappers, struggling to concentrate, speak of it as a meditation session. “I really started when I was 10, continues Elliott, making little croutons, vinaigrettes. For my grandmother’s birthday, I made a cake, making choux pastry, cream. I prefer cooking dessert, it’s more complex and, in the end, it gives a nice visual. But the other day it suddenly hit me, I made a gravy. It doesn’t seem like it, but it takes hours of preparation. It is necessary to simmer several pieces of meat with onions, spices. It’s delicious.”

A positive impact on the atmosphere

In the study of Aline Nativel Id Hammou, a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, many parents and children brought up the topic of cooking during childbirth. “They said it was to relieve boredom, but quickly noticed the positive impact on the atmosphere and sharing within the family. It is a means of relaxation and contentment, like sports. There’s this pride attached to something well done, mixed with a form of empathy. This side “I am capable of doing something”, and above all of letting his close relatives discover it.

The consequences of these changes in behavior on the image of the kitchen itself are manifold. “I could say that we have filled the hotel schools, confides Stéphane Rotenberg. I go there regularly and, each time, the teachers tell us of their students’ pride in saying they are in the CAP kitchen. In the complicated context of “all graduates”, this newfound nobility of the kitchen is all the stronger”. Anything but naive, some young people have chosen to make it their future job, such as Gaspard, 16 years old: «On social networks you only see the pink side, but never the dive, all the preparation upstream. But me, I love it. I cook many dishes from all countries in the wok. For my last birthday, my mother invited me to a starred restaurant in Marseille. I was delighted.

The pride of cooking for his family

This is the other small revolution. If for the generation of their elders going to a restaurant with their parents was a pensum, these lovers of small dishes no longer disdain being invited there. “We have seen this change in behavior on very young people, confirms chef David Gallienne, a Michelin star for his restaurant Le Jardin des Plumes, in Giverny, which provides cooking lessons on site. It is the result of a whole virtuous chain: educational slogans on eating well, opening schools to vegetarian menus, social awareness around the virtues of sharing and approaching through cooking. Television programs, for their part, have turned the spotlight success stories of chefs who embody success in a hitherto underappreciated world. Result: we see more and more young people aged between 12 and 20 who come to have lunch in a starred restaurant for their birthday, because they dream of it.

“For my last birthday, my mother invited me to a starred restaurant in Marseille. I was very happy”

Gaspar, 16 years old

Even more unexpectedly, the distribution of everyday roles in families has been disrupted. Guys no longer see this as dominance by a girl. Very often they are proud to cook for their significant other. And when parents drag their feet, when mothers exhausted by the day have neither ideas nor desire to cook, they willingly stick. Jordan, aka @seizemay, the star chef of Tik Tok, sees it as a sign of a real mindset shift: “Everyone is equally involved, young, old, women, men. All equally, we want to share it together.”

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