Haynes Altobello has been one of our ChopChop Test Kitchen teachers for almost two years. When she’s not involved with our cooking classes, she is teaching kindergarten at a local school. Haynes told us she loves ChopChop Family’s philosophy that kids can learn real cooking techniques and use real ingredients. She said, “The recipes aren’t ‘kid food.’ They’re interesting, delicious, and fun to make!”
If you’re just learning to cook, Haynes has some advice. “Be honest with yourself and your grown-up kitchen helper about what you’re worried about. With that in mind, you can be supported with what you need: help with the stove, guidance with cutting, or encouragement to sample new flavors.”
Learn more about Haynes and her cooking advice below.
Tell us about your role in the ChopChop Test Kitchen. Do you have a favorite class you’ve taught so far?
I am a teacher in the Test Kitchen, and it’s so much fun! I choose the class themes and select the menus from the ChopChop Magazine recipes. Then, I teach kids how to prepare the recipes! One of my favorite classes was the Earth Day class this spring. We talked about using the whole ingredient to minimize food waste and also about composting kitchen scraps. This is a very popular trend right now and it’s a great way for kids to help the planet while having fun making delicious dishes. The Carrot Greens Chimichurri was out of this world!
Who taught you how to cook?
Many people in my life have contributed to my knowledge of cooking. My earliest memories are of cooking with my mom—helping with dinner and making autumn pies and fruity summer desserts were some of my favorite memories. I always remember the first time I used a sharp knife was with my grandma while cutting ripe summer peaches. My dad taught me lots about grilling and working with meats. My brother has taught me about plant-based cooking and vegan recipes. My Uncle Tony was born in Italy and became an incredible chef in the U.S. and has shared his expertise with me over the years. In middle school and high school, I had fantastic cooking instructors for elective courses such as Food Service and Patisserie. I’m also a product of the Food Network—I love watching cooking shows and reading cookbooks (especially Ina’s) and have truly learned so much from them!
What is the first thing you ever cooked?
I think the first thing I ever cooked all on my own was Tortellini Soup. I even wrote a recipe for it! I had seen my mom make soups on Sundays all fall & winter and thought, “I can do that!” I didn’t like the escarole my mom put into her recipe, so I decided to change it and use other vegetables. It was empowering!
You are also a teacher! Can you tell us how that helps with the Test Kitchen classes?
Knowing how kids will hold onto information best, I structure the experience in the Test Kitchen for kids to build understanding. Instead of telling kids how to do something or what the ingredients are, I pose questions and have the kids discover the answers within the recipe. I show students how to breakdown the recipes and incorporate ways for them to problem-solve things such as doubling a recipe or selecting kitchen gear that will work best. My classroom management experience as a teacher helps keep things running smoothly and keep kids engaged and actively participating throughout the classes in the Test Kitchen. My hope is that kids will use the skills in their home kitchens, not just during the class.
What are some upcoming classes you’re teaching?
I’m really looking forward to our summer classes. The road trip series was SO much fun last year and we are offering it again this year. This summer’s around the world series is also going to be great! It’s awesome to have five days in a row with the students. We really get into the groove and develop new friendships.
Do you have a signature dish?
I don’t think so…I like to try new recipes all the time! However, I make a cranberry upside-down cake every Thanksgiving.
What is something all kids should learn to cook?
I think everyone—kids and adults—should learn to cook some things they don’t like to eat (yet). I used to not like scallops, but then my friend, Nina, taught me how to cook them. They looked and smelled delicious, and sure enough, once I tried them, I loved them! Becoming a part of the process with new ingredients can be the best way to get comfortable with trying something new. And if you still don’t like it, that’s okay too!
Do you have a favorite ChopChop Magazine recipe?
Oh, SO many faves! The first one I fell in love with was the Beanie Burger. I had tried many veggie burger recipes with no success—too mushy, too dry, or requiring obscure ingredients. This one is super simple, tastes amazing, and holds together like a real burger! You probably have all with ingredients in your pantry and fridge right now.
What is a new cooking skill you have learned in the last year?
How to hull a strawberry with a straw! I love that this technique results in minimal berry waste. It drives me nuts when someone lobs off the whole top of the berry when all that needs to go is the stem and leaves.
What is your favorite kitchen tool and why?
Different sized ice cream scoops. I use these for portioning things equally—from cookies, to muffins, to meatballs. It’s important to have equal portions for even cooking. I have also found that kids love portioning evenly because it makes things fair. A food scale is also a great way to get equal portions and kids love using that in the Test Kitchen, too!
What is always in your fridge or pantry?
Almond milk and rolled oats. I make overnight oats for breakfast every day.
What is an unusual food pairing that you love?
Watermelon, feta cheese, and mint.
What is a food smell that sparks a memory for you?
My mom’s roast pork. It smells like home, no matter where it’s made. She coats it in ground sage, garlic powder, and rosemary, and it makes the house smell incredible.
Hungry for more? Learn more about our events and meet Haynes at one of our upcoming cooking workshops.