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
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.
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.
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!
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.
Tamale Making Class – Kids learn how to make sweet strawberry and pineapple tamales in a corn husk.
Homemade Gazpacho Class – Kids blend fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and stale bread into a sweet and savory soup they then drink out of cups.
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.
Homemade Cookies – In this class, kids learn the history of and preparations in making an assortment of favorite cookies.
Mexican Tortilla Making – From 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!
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!
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!”
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:
A big ball pit
A beanbag chair movie area
Toys and crafting area
Gaming consoles area
Quiet rooms for toddler and infant naps
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!
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!
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.
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!