Why I Cook, with Samantha Barnes
The founder of kids' online cooking community Raddish dishes on how she started her company, plus what cooking means to her.
A former middle-school teacher, Samantha Barnes founded Raddish, an online cooking club and meal-kit program geared for kids. We asked her what inspired her business, and why she believes teaching children to cook can help encourage confidence in spaces well beyond the kitchen.
Taste of Home: Where are you from, and how did your love of cooking begin?
Samantha Barnes: I’ve lived in the South Bay area of Los Angeles for the last 12 years, but I am a New Englander at heart—I grew up in Long Island and have lived in Maine and Massachusetts. My mom owned a boutique cookware store when I was little, so food is definitely in my DNA. I remember helping my mom around the kitchen, but I didn’t truly discover the joy of cooking until after college.
(Hey, Samantha! Which of these East Coast recipes is your favorite?)
TOH: What inspired you to begin your company, Raddish?
SB: After graduating college, I taught middle school social studies. My students spent their lunch break in my classroom—oftentimes eating junk food while discussing their favorite cooking shows on TV. They were eager to learn to cook, but never had the opportunity. So I had an idea to start after-school cooking classes, and within a year I left my teaching job to offer birthday parties, school enrichment programs and summer camps across Los Angeles. Raddish was born several years later as a way to take this concept nationwide: bringing families together and nurturing kids’ confidence in the kitchen and beyond.
(Interested in starting your own kid in the kitchen? These healthy recipes kids can help make are a great place to start!)
TOH: What does a typical day look like to you?
SB: I wake up early (but never early enough!) to drink coffee and take our dog on a long walk to the beach. I listen to podcasts and books on the way. Then, I’m full-on Mom: making lunches, helping my kids with their “Morning Math!” problem, getting everyone dressed and fed and out the door—including myself, and I’m always last. At work I’m supporting our small and amazing team, often working on operations and business development. My favorite days are recipe testing days! We taste and re-taste variations of our recipes until they are perfect.
After work we shuttle kids to theater and sports, but always have a home-cooked family dinner, even if it’s not until after 7 p.m. I wish I curled up with a book or Netflix once the kids are asleep…but by then I am usually catching up on work and life!
(We have to agree with Samantha, taste testing recipes in our Taste of Home Test Kitchen is a favorite part of our job, too!)
TOH: Do you have a secret weapon in the kitchen?
SB: Yes! I’m always planning and thinking ahead. I prep as much as I can in the morning before work: I chop vegetables, assemble meatballs, marinate chicken and so on. I keep chopped onions in my freezer so I can throw together a mirepoix in minutes! I also give my kiddos tasks I don’t necessarily love: drying lettuce, trimming green beans, scrubbing potatoes, etc.
(Try this brilliant meal-prep tip to help your weeknight cooking zip right along, just like Samantha’s.)
TOH: What advice would you give to parents who want to teach their kids how to cook?
SB: 1) Kids don’t need to cook an entire meal—or even an entire recipe—from start to finish. So invite them to help with a few steps: mixing a batter, cutting potatoes or marinating meat. They’ll feel proud knowing they contributed to dinner, and want to learn more.
2) Let them make mistakes and learn from them. No one uses salt instead of sugar twice!
3) Encourage kids to use all their senses as they cook—cooking is equal parts science and creativity, and careful observation is the key to following your heart and head!
(For even more advice, check out this helpful guide for kitchen tasks for kids at every age.)
TOH: What’s your favorite dish to make with your kids?
SB: I love making Dutch babies with my kids on Saturday mornings! We use whatever fruit is in season—apples or plums are the best—and keep the oven light on to watch it rise. My son’s favorite dish to make is pesto, and my daughter’s favorite is salad dressing. She is the queen of the vinaigrette!
TOH: What would you be doing if you hadn’t started Raddish?
SB: I would be a school administrator, designing creative curriculum or working on education policy.
TOH: What do you love most about cooking?
SB: Cooking is my love language. I cook to show my family and friends that good food shared together can nourish our hearts and minds.