Last month I had the pleasure of dining at one of the best restaurants in NYC: Red Rooster Harlem. Yes, the food is wonderful, but really it’s not just about the food – it’s about the incredible sense of community and care that fills the space that makes it so special. After meeting Marcus Samuelsson, and having him give us a tour where he pointed out all of the thoughtful features that went into building Red Rooster it was easy to see why the restaurant exudes warmth and an authentic identity. From the art that features local customers, to the books that reflect the history of Harlem, food, music and culture, to the artists they feature in the space – you know that there are conscious, purposeful choices put into the restaurant.
That thoughtfulness extends to the food and work of Marcus Samuelsson, who has teamed up with Uncle Ben’s Rice to get kids and families cooking together.
The campaign, Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest asks families to create a cooking video together and show how cooking can bring you together – and teach kids better food habits. You could win $15,000 for your family – and $30,000 for a cafeteria makeover for your school!
When you talk to chefs they usually point to a family member as the reason they got into cooking – a grandmother, an uncle or aunt, their mom. Cooking in the home is one of the most fundamental experiences we can share with our kids – it doesn’t have to be a big deal – it’s actually better if it isn’t. Unfortunately, I think we spend more time watching impossibly hard cooking shows that have nothing to do with real life cooking – and less time actually chopping, peeling, and turning on a stove to make a simple dinner with our kids.
Marcus spent a lot of time with my daughters and niece at the lunch – asking them all about their school lunch program, what they’d like to see in school lunch, what the kids actually eat – and about the conditions of the lunch room and the experience of lunch time at school (hot, rushed, and overcrowded – all while being yelled at by cafeteria aides).
It was really interesting to me that he partnered with Uncle Ben’s, but I totally understood it when you looked at this program that was trying to get families to not just cook together, but celebrate it too. And if using quick rice can make it easier to create that dinner, and get it on the table faster, then I’m all for it.
At Red Rooster they started with the brown Uncle Ben’s Rice, added lobster stock, herbs and spices and created their dirty rice:
It was delish. Along with the rest of the meal of shrimp, jerk chicken, kale salad and cornbread. Plus they made Shirley Temples for my girls. They felt very swanky.
If you’re in NYC be sure to go to Red Rooster for a really special meal. (We also picked up cupcakes for our Rosh Hashanah dinner that night. And they were amazing)
So, grab your kids, and get cooking together today. You can shoot the video on your smartphone – nothing fancy. Just like you can make some simple pasta, nothing fancy, but at least you’re doing it together, and showing your kids that cooking is not a big deal – it’s something you do to take care of yourself and the people you love, in the most basic way. And then enter the Uncle Ben’s Beginners Contest – you could even end up on Rachel Ray! But hurry! The contest ends October 6th!