Ava’s MasterChef Junior Party – A Truly Unique 9th Birthday

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THE THREE TYPES OF BIRTHDAY PARTIES

For the past few decades, moms threw parties the only way they knew how: a host will officiate some games (one of which is guess what? the “bring me” game!), then a magician will come in and do his thing, after which comes the cake blowing, the handing out of souvenirs and giveaways, and then bam! The party is done and everyone is happy.

I like to call this the “standard” format for a party. It’s definitely fun, colorful, loud, and raucous. It’s also the very definition of how a children’s party should be run, right?

Wrong.

Recently with the advent of event styling, I’ve noticed the increasing popularity of the “chill” party. This is what happens in such an event: all loud noises are minimized, children are kept busy with a variety of activities, while the adults get to enjoy the food, mingle, and catch up in peace. Sometimes, a string quartet plays in the background, further mellowing the mood.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon huh!

But there’s also a third way of doing things, one that is most rare, hardest to execute, but (in my humble opinion), is the most impactful among guests, children and adults alike. I like to call this, the activity-based party.

10 seconds to go then…plates up! Are you ready?

Thank you to Starfish Media for providing these pictures!

While this title seems anticlimactic, it makes it up by having a name that describes the concept succinctly. An activity-based party is a party that is centered on…well, an activity. For the biggest impact, you should focus on just one “big” activity, based on a single theme or concept.

The effervescent Ava, master-facilitator of the games!

One example is:

What if you gave kids some fake, paper money, and had them “shop” among various booths for toys, snacks and candies, flowers, fruits, desserts, and craft supplies? The activity will teach the kids how to budget / allocate their resources, and the items they “buy” will already double-up as the souvenir / giveaway for the party itself.

This was the main idea behind Isabeli’s Sunday Market.

Here’s another idea:

What if you had all the kids dress up like little chefs, and have them participate in a cooking competition, ala MasterChef-style?

There would be a pantry stocked-full of the freshest ingredients, a large digital timer displayed overhead, and a panel of judges. The host will provide the instructions, and at the beginning of the match will say “May the odds be ever in your favour!“, Hunger-Games-style! (just kidding; the judge will probably say, let the games begin!)

This was the main idea behind Ava’s MasterChef Junior Party.

Here’s a beautiful highlights video of the whole event, made by none other than Lemon Three Films!

A PARTY LIKE NO OTHER

Thinking up an idea like this is quite easy, but making it into reality is another thing altogether.

Besides the styling, the hardest part here is securing a really, really good host / facilitator for the whole activity. Whoever will facilitate needs not only to be good with hosting and managing the kids, but more importantly also with devising the competition mechanics and preparing all the raw materials and prepped food items. So ideally it would have to be someone with both a hosting and culinary background.

This is where Cristine of The Kitchen Playground Manila comes in.

In order for you to get a sense of the scale of preparation that was needed, here’s a peek at the pantry:

My favorite scene in every MasterChef episode is that moment when Gordon Ramsay sends off the kids to the pantry to get supplies. My mouth waters every time I think about that pantry, stocked to the brim with everything you need to create the dish of your dreams. The possibilities!

This the exact scene I’m talking about:

Now, in order to appreciate the sheer amount of work and preparation that went into this event, here’s a list of the items that went into the pantry:

And…that’s just for Zone 1(fruits, veggies) and 2 (rice, pasta, starch). There’s 5 zones in total.

BASIC MECHANICS AND PROGRAM FLOW

Now let’s get down to business and discuss mechanics and flow. For this part of the event, I have to give credit to Sharon of Events and Beyond. She has always done a superb job of coordination and is always a pleasure to work with!

All the children gathered up for a briefing of the mechanics

I have always believed that blowing the birthday cake should come at the start or at least early into the program. This is especially true in the case of having an activity-based party. While the guests are still “fresh”, you enter the party, have your child blow his/her cake, then move on towards the activity. One crucial piece of the program, done.

Here’s a quick rundown:

PROGRAM FLOW

  1. Arrival of Guests, Activities and Food Carts, Groupings for Competition, Guests may start eating
  2. Cake blowing
  3. Orientation by The Kitchen Playground
  4. COOKING COMPETITION BATCH 1 
    1. Competition (20 mins)
    2. Food presentation / taste-test (15 mins)
    3. Interval / transition (5 mins)
  5. (BATCH 2 does games and activities while waiting for their turn)
  6. COOKING COMPETITION BATCH 2
    1. Competition (20 mins)
    2. Food presentation / taste-test (15 mins)
    3. Interval / transition (5 mins)
  7. Announcement of the 2 Winning Teams
  8. Final Round: Battle of the Best
    1. Battle proper
    2. Food presentation / taste-test
    3. Awarding of the ultimate winner
  9. Thank you message by Ava, hand out of giveaways

A participant adjusts the chef’s hat of her teammate

Because it would be pandemonium of all the kids had a competition at once, it was decided that everyone would be split into 2 batches. Batch 1 would compete and would have a winner, then it would be Batch 2’s turn. The 2 winning teams (one from each of the Batches) would battle it out in a final duel.

To heighten the stakes, a digital timer was projected:

Less than 10 minutes left! Where did half of the time go?

Putting the finishing touches on the dessert…but will it be good enough?

Personally, I find cooking to be a wonderful exercise for the children. It teaches them a real-world skill, fosters creativity (hmm what topping or ingredient should I use to get that flavor?), and gets their hands and feet up and about instead of just sitting in class the whole day.

These two kids are focusing hard. I wonder what’re they up to?

While the Batch 1 kids are busy duking it out in the ballroom, The Batch 2 gang is having a swell time decorating their own chopping board, making their bento, and playing games facilitated by a host.

Meanwhile back in the games, things are starting to get intense…

Ava is now on the prowl, checking up on each group’s work. Everyone has to bring their A-game on!!

After the competition proper comes the presentation of the food and taste-test:

It’s not enough that the food looks nice, it has to taste nice as well!

Now after the winners from Batch 1 and Batch 2 are declared, the two winning teams go head-to-head in a battle of the best match!

Here’s one of the teams, presenting their dish

After all the cooking has been done, all the kids gather around one last time in front of the stage:

The anticipation is palpable! I wonder. Who will become the new MasterChef Junior!

Everyone watches on as Ava steps on the stage…

…and announces the winner!

The happiest of birthdays to our dear Ava!

Love,

Michelle

About the author

Michelle Lao

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