Jaden Carda is the three-year-old Internet sensation behind the "Mini Minimalist," a video homage to New York Times writer and cookbook author Mark Bittman. In a single take, Jaden recites an almost verbatim rendition of Bittman's instructional video on making chocolate ganache. Jaden's memory and delivery is even more amazing considering that he was born in Thailand and has only begun to master English during the past eight months, when his family moved to Arvada, Colorado. We talked with Jaden's producer (and father) Joel Carda about the budding chef.
In the video, your son appears to mimic Mark Bittman's video for making chocolate ganache nearly word-for-word. How did he do it?
I download children's podcasts for Jaden on my iPhone from Sesame Street, NickJr, and PBS, which he loves, but of course I also download podcasts for myself. Most of my podcasts bore him but he returns again and again to "The Minimalist." Who would have guessed that Mark Bittman would be like catnip for kids?
Some of the comments on various blogs were almost as funny as the video. A couple of concerned parents suggested that he was showing signs of autism. Others were worried that we force him to watch Bittman in lieu of play-dates. He was hailed a prodigy and a genius. Like all biased parents, I think he is cute and smart and would love to believe that he is a genius but the truth is that he is none of the above. All kids are sponges and it is cute and surprising when they imitate adults. We just don't expect that kids would find something like that interesting and when they do, it strikes us as funny. For better or for worse, technology allows kids access to all kinds of unexpected information. Lucky for me, he'll soon be making some great meals.
Many parents also commented on the "Bitten" blog that their kids love to watch the podcast too. The unveiling of the mysteries of cooking may be part of the attraction but just think about some of the recent topics and the appeal to kids becomes apparent: chocolate, an octopus, and Mr. Tomato Head. It could also be that Bittman, who looks a bit like me and cooks a bit like my wife, feels like a parent to him.
He's sitting on the floor wearing pajamas and cooking with imaginary ingredients. Will we see him in a chef's jacket making real truffles any time soon?
I don't cook much but his interest in the podcast, and the simplicity of the recipe, inspired me to make the truffles for real with him. We're going to tackle short ribs this week too. I've already got video of the pretend version, "So rico, so sexy!" I'll post it once I get a chance to put subtitles on it.
What's next for your child prodigy? More Bittman? Batali? Bourdain?
My wife is Thai and along with expertise in Thai cuisine, she excels at Japanese, Indian, and Mexican food so I assume his first apprenticeship will be with her.