Generations Riveria Maya: Eko Chefs Offers Amazing Culinary Classes for Kids

Generations Riveria Maya: Eko Chefs Offers Amazing Culinary Classes for Kids

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I received a complimentary press trip to the new Generations Riviera Maya hotel for the launch of the Little Eko Chefs program. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

I just got back from Generations Riviera Maya in the Mexican Caribbean where I got to experience their new amazing culinary experience for kids: Little Eko Chefs. This newest hotel outpost in Mexico by Karisma hotels lives up to the impeccable style of Karisma beach hotels along the Mexican Riveria such as gorgeous modern rooms, each with a full on view of the ocean, lovely swimming pool and swim up bar, fantastic kids club and impeccable gourmet dining at five gorgeous on property restaurants.

My visit was part of a press trip to the newly opened Generations Resorts by Karisma that highlighted the resort’s Eko Kids Club – a wonderful service offering supervised activities for children, ages 4 to 12, in an ideal huge play space – as well as its new amazing culinary learning experience for kids.

Family vacations offer a wonderful time for us to bond with our kids, but we both benefit when our children have totally engaging activities in a kid’s club and we can enjoy a resort’s amenities without worrying about unhappy kids or feeling that we have to provide our kids with non-stop entertainment.

The Little Eko Chefs program at Generations Riviera Maya completely elevates the activity immersion experience for kids way beyond you could find at any other resort. Little Eko Chefs offers a free hour long class every weekday at the Kids Eko Kitchen, turning kids into passionate foodies with fun facts, interactive cooking techniques, easy to follow recipes, lots of hands on cooking time, and a delicious treat to savor at the end of each class that the kids themselves have made.

Alexander Weiss Kicks Eko Kids Culinary into High Gear


Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Alexander Weiss from MasterChef Junior
Over the weekend of our stay, the official launch of the Little Eko Chefs program included cooking classes from Alexander Weiss, the Wunderkind of MasterChef Junior, winning Season 1 and now age 14 proving himself to be quite the culinary professional in the making. Complete with kids’ cocktails, a pasta dinner, and photo opportunities with the kid chef, Alexander wowed us all with a three-course lunch cooking performance for the families and kids, in addition to a hands-on cookie class with the kids. He proved quite the inspiration as to where a passion for cooking in kids at an early age can lead.

Alexander is about to enter his freshman year in high school, won season one of FOX’s culinary competition series MasterChef Junior in 2013, along with a $100,000 grand prize. His winning dishes featured basil lemon shrimp and an heirloom tomato crostini appetizer, a pan-seared veal chop over potato gnocchi entrée, and a deconstructed napoleon cannoli dessert. Alexander began baking with his mom at the age 5 in their Manhattan apartment. By age 11 could bake his own croissants and cream puffs along with starting to cook savory foods.


Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Alexander Weiss from MasterChef Junior
Since his big win on MasterChef Junior, Alexander has gone on to cook dinner for the British Consul General and 20 guests, been featured in The New York Times, appeared on both MasterChef Junior Indonesia and the fifth season of MasterChef in the United States, presented food demonstrations at various food festivals across the country, and created a special dinner service with Chef Ian Gresik at his Drago Centro restaurant in Los Angeles. In November, Alexander embarks on the first ever MasterChef Cruise.

Alexander hopes to continue his culinary career by training with great chefs around the world and one day running a Michelin-starred New York City restaurant. Now considered a semi-professional cook, Alexander guest-cooks around the country and his guest cooking brought him outside the country to Generations Riviera Mexico to launch Generation’s Eko kids culinary program. He proved quite the inspiration for the kids learning from him.

From Culinary Skills to Cultural Cooking Adventures

Beyond the delicious food, Little Eko Chefs centers on eco-friendly cooking, teaching kids delicious, easy food recipes, having them learn basic cooking skills, all while having fun and being conscious of the environment. Not only is the kids’ kitchen large, bright and airy, but it also features a flat-screen TV on the wall to play original food-oriented, educational cartoons that illuminate the food of the cooking class of the day. For example, we got to watch a charming and engaging snippet about the history of chocolate. The storytelling draws on anecdotes, such as how the Spanish aristocracy gave chocolate as an engagement present to a French king, which launched its spread throughout Europe.

From learning and making chocolate from scratch, to making homemade pasta and tortillas, to visiting the resort’s nearby large Greenhouse complex to pick fresh vegetables for a garden soup and salad, the program offers an experience that could reward a chef of any age.

I came away, having talked in depth with Jeroen Hanlo, who heads up food and beverage for all the Karisma hotels, deeply impressed with the imagination, thought and careful planning that goes into each course’s curriculum. The Little Eko Chef program builds upon Generations’ brand commitment to extending unforgettable culinary, cultural, and environmental experiences to the kids of all the families staying with them. A chef assists the kids in the classes, and does any stovetop cooking for them.

The program truly immerses children in the cultures of other foods and how to make healthy and sustainable meals. It features a series of kid-friendly cooking classes, ranging from making chocolate from scratch to baking cookies to rolling out fresh pasta to preparing tortillas and tamales. On our press trip, we got to sample all 10 cooking classes offered, and they were all great (so much so that we started to ask if they could offer the same ones to adults!) Here are details, along with a more in depth look at the recipes and class-moments of my favorites among them:

The History of Chocolate – Kids learn all about cacao bean and convert it with artisanal equipment into chocolate mixing. The class starts by showing kids three different kinds of cocoa beans: raw, roasted shell on, and then roasted shell off (which you get to taste). They then take out the Metate and Mechanical Grinder and crush the beans to a thick paste. Kids then mix in sugar, cocoa butter, cream and eggs to form a liquid paste. This gets fill into plastic molds to create chocolate figures that set in the fridge. The finished chocolate piece get put in origami boxes the kids make while the chocolate hardens!

Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - History of Chocolate Class

Homemade Pasta Class – Kids will learn how to make their own pasta dough and turn it into spaghetti and raviolis to share for dinner with their family.

Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Homemade Pasta Class

Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Homemade Pasta Class

Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Set up pastry board, pasta machine, dough scraper and rolling pin
  2. Prepare and store a bowl of dough that is ready to be made into pasta
  3. Prepare and store fresh pasta sheets to be shown and then cooked
  4. Set up a pot of water on the stove for the pasta to cook in
  5. Cut few layers of pasta into what will end up being linguine
  6. Cook the pasta on the stove
  7. Finish the pasta in a pan and add the tomato sauce

Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Homemade Pasta Class

Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Homemade Pasta Class

Tamale Making Class – Kids learn how to make sweet strawberry and pineapple tamales in a corn husk.

Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Tamale Making Class

Tamales

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups corn flour
  • 2 cups strawberries or pineapple
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch baking soda
  • 12 pieces of dry corn husk

Equipment:

  • Large bowl for masa
  • Metante
  • Molino (grinder)
  • Small bowl
  • Whisk
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Boards
  • Pot with steamer
  • Paper towels for clean up

Directions:

  1. Set out metante and grinder
  2. Place one ball of corn flour dough for each person
  3. Place one cup of water out for each person
  4. Place one re-hydrated corn leaf out for each person
  5. Place a small cup with fruit (strawberries, pineapple, etc.) for each person
  6. Mix masa with butter, water and fruit
  7. Wrap your tamales

Homemade Gazpacho Class – Kids blend fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and stale bread into a sweet and savory soup they then drink out of cups.

Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Gazpacho Making Class

Gazpacho

Ingredients:

  • 14 medium size ripe tomatoes
  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 2 green peppers
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 pound of stale or toasted bread (about half a loaf)
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups cold water
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Wash and cut the tomatoes, peppers, garlic cloves and cucumbers (leave one tomato, half a pepper and half a cucumber to the side)
  2. Mix the ingredients in the blender
  3. Take the liquid gazpacho and pour through a fine sieve and place in the fridge to get cold
  4. Take the tomato, half a pepper and half cucumber you put aside and dice
  5. Mix into the liquid gazpacho and serve!

Other Eko Kids’ cooking classes included:

Artisanal Sorbet – Kids created their own mix of fruits (we got to try cantaloupe!) to blend and mix before pouring into the ice container to be spun by hand.


Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Kids cooking classes
Shaved Ice Fruit Cup – This class teaches kids how to shave ice themselves using natural fruit based toppings.

Homemade Cookies – In this class, kids learn the history of and preparations in making an assortment of favorite cookies.

Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Homemade Cookie Making Class

Mexican Tortilla MakingFrom start to finish, kids will learn the entire process of tortilla making, including how to grind corn by hand, turning it into tortilla dough, forming tortillas in the press and even learning additional side products to create like tortilla chips, empanadas and sopes. Ole!

Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Tortilla Making Class

Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Tortilla Making Class

Sushi Class – Kids learn the history of sushi and then get taught how to fill and roll professional looking sushi- with strawberries for filling and chocolate sauce for the dip!

In every well thought out aspect, the Little Eko Chefs program offers up a unique cooking and cultural immersion experience that will thrill any budding chef. Plus, kids walk away from every class with both a culinary certificate for the skill they mastered in the class, as well as a goodies bag to share a taste with their parents!

Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Sushi Making Class

Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Sushi Making Class

Greenhouse Harvest – Kids will choose from ingredients brought in from the nearby Greenhouse, including tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers and herbs, to create garden fresh soup and salad in the Eko Kids kitchen

Alexander’s Cooking Demo

So what has Alexander learned through his competition on MasterChef Junior, as well as spending time being mentored by top chefs in their kitchens around the country? “Don’t be timid with spices!”


Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Alexander Weiss from MasterChef Junior
Alexander has a great mastery for his age of the “Here’s what I’m doing next and why” banter during his cooking demonstration for Generations’ guests. Take a look at what he created during the demo: a yellow fin spicy seared tuna served over polenta cake with ginger pickled carrots.


Generations Riveria Maya Little Eko Chefs - Alexander Weiss's Yellow Fin Spicy Seared Tuna

The Kids’ Club Facility

The Eko Kids Club has daily, supervised activities for kids aged 4 to 12 years showcasing fun and educational activities, with a great environmentally friendly focus. The Kids Club proved colorful, hugely spacious, inviting and activity packed, including:

Generations Riveria Maya - Eko Kids Club

A big ball pit

Generations Riveria Maya - Eko Kids Club trampoline

Indoor trampoline

Generations Riveria Maya - Eko Kids Club beanbag chair movie area

A beanbag chair movie area

Generations Riveria Maya - Eko Kids Club Toys and Crafting Area

Toys and crafting area

Generations Riveria Maya - Eko Kids Club Gaming Consoles Area

Gaming consoles area

Generations Riveria Maya - Eko Kids Club Quiet Toddler Area

Quiet rooms for toddler and infant naps

Kids’ Pool and Nightly Entertainment

Not only are there tons of shallow places in the pool for infants and toddlers to splash about, there’s also a special designated kids area, with water raining from above and pint-size lounge chairs on which kids can imitate their parents!

Generations Riveria Maya - Kids Pool

They also have live entertainment in the late afternoon and early evening in this area, and when we were there we saw quite the assortment of moonwalkers, break dancers, and singers!

Generations Riveria Maya - Live entertainment at the Kids Pool

One night, the kids’ activity featured a hugely fun, all out bubble bash next to the ocean. You could barely hear any adult conversation over the kids’ shriek of pure elation.

Generations Riveria Maya - Bubble Bash

In addition to the Kids Club, Generations also offers a nanny service for any interested families, so all the grown-ups can go out to dinner together or share some quiet conversation time on the beach.

Though after touring the Eko Kids’ Club facility – including the terrific demo kitchen – I felt tempted to pass myself off as a kid for the week!

Featured Image Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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Stacy DeBroff
Stacy DeBroff
Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Mom Central.com and social and digital consultancy, Influence Central, is a social media strategist, attorney, and best-selling parenting author. A sought-after expert for national media, she trend-spots regularly with national brands and speaks frequently to national and international audiences on a wide range of subjects, including influencer marketing, social media, entrepreneurship, and consumer trends. A passionate cook, gardener, reader, and tennis player, she adores this new chapter of post-college-age parenting.
Stacy DeBroff

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