At ChopChop, we love featuring kids who are accomplishing awesome work in the food and health world. Recently, we talked to Mason Partak, also known as “Mason Made”, whose passion for cooking can be seen in his popular YouTube videos and impressive school-kitchen fundraising successes. Mason is 11 years old and is from California. He took some time to answer our questions about how he learned to cook and what exciting projects he has and is currently working on.
ChopChop: How did you get involved in cooking?
Mason: I was two years old when I started decorating cookies with my mom and four years old when I got to learn to use a knife and start helping in the kitchen…this is when I really started cooking.
ChopChop: What was the first dish you remember making?
Mason: Probably the Ritz Cracker “Soufflé”. I helped my mom a lot, but this was the first thing that was my idea and my mom let me make.
ChopChop: What is your favorite thing to cook and/or eat?
Mason: One of my favorite things to cook is fried chicken, and I love to mix it up by adding different seasonings to my flour…it’s SO good! I also make dipping sauces for my chicken using whatever ingredients we have in our refrigerator!
ChopChop: What is one food you have tried over and over again but just don't like?
Mason: I would have said goat cheese, but while we were in San Antonio we had an hors d’oeuvres that had Cheve’ on it and I loved it! My mom always says that if you come across a food you don’t like, you just haven’t found the way you like it yet.
ChopChop: Why is it important for kids to cook?
Mason: Kids need to know how to cook so that they can make good choices for what they eat. The other good thing about kids knowing how to cook is that there is a lot of math and science in cooking! Finally, being able to cook real food gives kids confidence—I know it did for me.
ChopChop: Do you have any advice for kids just learning to cook? Or who haven't learned but want to?
Mason: When you think of an idea and other people tell you it won’t work…try it anyway! It’s your idea and you should follow that. Keep trying!
ChopChop: Tell us about your segment, “What the heck is this thing for?”
Mason: Oh, I love this! My mom, dad and I love to go into kitchen stores and find things that we can’t figure out what they are, and when we can’t figure it out, we ask the store clerk. It’s so fun! I do a video on my YouTube channel to not only show what the heck this thing is for, but I also give one away!
ChopChop: Why did you start making cooking videos on YouTube?
Mason: I started doing live cooking demos, but I wanted to do more! So, my mom said, “why don’t we make some videos and put them on YouTube so other people can see what you do.” We started making videos and our local morning show even invited me to cook on TV (that was super fun). I want kids to know that they can cook too, and if they can see me and follow my steps, then they can do it!
ChopChop: Tell us about your school kitchen project at Alta Vista School. Why did you want to update the kitchen and how did you help do it?
Mason: When I was in 3rd grade, I saw the lunch lady taking our lunches out of a box. I thought they should cook hot lunches, like we cook at home, but there was no stove or oven in the school kitchen. I asked my mom if I could raise the money to put a stove and oven in the kitchen. She told me that it wouldn’t be easy but she said yes. I talked to a lot of clubs and even made a presentation to the Lions Club to ask them to select my project for a grant, and they picked me. We sold tickets for an event called Celebrity Chef Challenge; and we made mandarin marmalade to sell and got a percentage of ticket sales at the Mandarin Festival. I did a lot of pubic speaking about my project when I did live cooking demos. I even collected hot lunches for a whole week and took them to our school board so they could know why I wanted better food for all the kids. It took over a year and a half but I raised $26,052!
ChopChop: What happened with all of the money you raised for the school?
Mason: Two very good things happened. #1: the cafeteria kitchen did get updated, and we got a new lunch lady who makes hot lunches each day. #2: our school got a culinary sciences lab, so the kids in grades K-5 will get to learn how to cook at school. Oh, and I guess there is a #3: the space that we had set aside for a school garden got cleaned up and planted, so our school now grows real food too!
ChopChop: Why is it important for schools to have kitchens?
Mason: Kids need to see the food that they eat at school getting cooked and they need good nutrition to be able to learn. If kids are hungry, they can’t focus. Don’t tell my mom I said this, but it makes me feel better when I eat real food.
Mason reached out to us to share his cooking story. Do you have a story about how you started cooking you want to share? Or do you know a cool kid who should be featured on ChopChop’s blog? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.