EXPERT Q&A

Do you have any tips that can help me learn how to cook?

Cooking is a great skill that can help you in a nanny position. CareNectar expert Shenley Seabrook provides some helpful tips for those just discovering their cooking skills.

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Question

I just signed my nanny contract with a family that requires that I cook dinner for the family every day. I was honest during my interview, telling the family that I really don’t cook or know where to start. They said they understand and as long as I am willing to learn, they would love to bring me on as their family’s nanny. So now I need to learn! Do you have any suggestions for where to start?

Answer

This is such a great question, and good for you for being willing to try something new! 

Cooking for a family can be intimidating even if you are a decent cook, but if you don’t have the basics down there are a few simple things you can do to feel more comfortable about this part of your role. First off, I suggest sitting down with the family and having them help make of list of their ten favorite meals. Now, this isn’t to say that you will have to learn to cook all ten meals, but you will at least have a place to start!  For example, if the list includes a few pasta dishes, some with chicken and vegetables, and a couple of meals that include steak, then you’ll have an idea of what foods to start practicing with.

Before you start your job, look for a cookbook or food blog that includes simple meal ideas. Simple meals typically include only a few, easy-to-find ingredients and between 4-6 steps total. If you find something that doesn’t seem too intimidating, go ahead and try it!  Gather all of the ingredients, utensils, and cookware you need, then follow all of the directions as closely as possible. And don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time. Just try your best to figure out what went wrong and make a note of it so it doesn’t happen the next time. 

When cooking for a big family, a large Crock-Pot, or slow cooker, might just become your best friend in the kitchen. If the family doesn’t have one, see if they would be willing to purchase one. They typically are not very pricey and there are so many simple recipes you can make with them.  Crock-Pots are also nice because you can put all of the items in, turn it on, set a timer, and go about the rest of your day until dinner time! Finally, be brave enough to get feedback from the family during the first week of cooking their meals. Does the chicken need more seasoning? Are the vegetables undercooked? Do you need to use less or more salt?  Every family tends to like their meals made a certain way, but once you get into a groove with them, you’ll start to feel comfortable in no time. 

Finally, if you are cooking for children, be sure to keep in mind the parents’ expectations for the kids’ meals. Does everyone in the family eat the same meal? Do the younger kids have to have brussel sprouts on their plates like Mom and Dad or can they opt for carrots instead? If the kids don’t like something that’s been made, do they have other options to choose from? Some families will offer a plain peanut butter sandwich if a child is refusing to eat what is cooked for them, and other families expect children to eat what is placed in front of them, no exceptions. It will be important to clarify this with the parents so you are all on the same page when it comes to mealtime. 

Best of luck to you on your cooking journey!

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Meet The Expert


Shenley Seabrook

Shenley Seabrook is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who works primarily with children and adolescents in a private practice setting. She is also a foster parent and lives with her husband and daughter in Indiana. Shenley recently wrote her first children’s book, We Have the Same Heart, which celebrates diversity, inclusion, and community service.