Chew On This

Weigl: Claire Crespo wants to inspire family fun in the kitchen

aweigl@newsobserver.comSeptember 3, 2013 

If you want to get your children more involved in the kitchen but are unsure where to start, Clare Crespo may be your muse.

Crespo is the host of the “YummyFun Kooking,” a DVD series of children’s cooking shows, and author of two cookbooks, “Hey There, Cupcake!” and “The Secret Life of Food.” She brings a whimsical touch to the kitchen, turning meatloaves into footballs, bananas into monkey pops and mashed potatoes and broccoli into monster heads. Crespo visited Raleigh this summer to lead a workshop at Marbles Kids Museum and chatted about how she ended up as a culinary artist.

As a child in Louisiana, “I was always playing with my food,” Crespo explained. And as an adult, “I turned into the person who would bring your birthday cake,” she said.

Crespo studied art at the California Institute of the Arts and worked as an animator and music video producer. In 2000, she quit her job to develop a website showcasing her artistic recipes. She wanted to give children a chance to express themselves artistically with food and teach them basic kitchen skills.

“Once they are involved with it,” Crespo said, “they wanted to eat it.”

As Crespo recounts her own story, her first website was “clunky but wildly visited” and she received a ton of emails from parents and their children. The experience led to her first and second cookbooks and then an overture from the Food Network. But the network wanted to tame her kooky vision for a children’s cooking show, Crespo said, so she passed on the opportunity.

Instead, she decided to do it herself. Her husband, a Hollywood production designer, and their friends turned the couple’s two-car garage into a set for her show. The “YummyFun Kooking” show was born. DVDs are sold online ( yummyfun.com) and at museums across the country.

Ultimately, Crespo’s hard work paid off. The second season of her show is being produced by a large production company. Actor John C. Reilly is scheduled to appear in several episodes. And no one can tell Crespo that there’s no value in playing with your food.

To see a printable recipe, click on link: Monkey Pops

Monkey Pops From “The Secret Life of Food,” by Clare Crespo (Melcher Media, 2002). 8 wooden craft sticks 4 firm, ripe bananas, cut in half 16 sliced almonds 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil 16 small round candies (for eyes) 8 maraschino cherries, sliced into smile shapes 16 sesame seeds

LINE a cookie sheet with waxed paper.

INSERT one craft stick into the flat (sliced) end of each banana half. To make ears, insert an almond slice into each side of the pointy end of the banana half.

MELT chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler. Stir in the vegetable oil.

REMOVE chocolate from heat. Place bananas on a rack with waxed paper or a tray underneath. Spoon chocolate over the bananas. Place bananas on a cookie sheet.

PRESS candy eyes, cherry mouths and sesame seed nostrils onto the faces of the monkeys. Freeze for at least an hour before serving.

Yield: 8 pops

Weigl: 919-829-4848; Twitter: @andreaweigl

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