Q&A: Del Mar TV host aims to be the next Mister Rogers of the kitchen

Vlada Vladic and student Abby DeCristo filming an episode of Cooking and Kids.

Vlada Vladic is on a mission to bring families back to the kitchen table for quality family time and homemade meals. Originally from Serbia, Vladic came to the U.S. 30 years ago with a determination and passion to teach kids and their families how to improve the food they eat through basic cooking and living skills. She’s created a public access TV show called Cooking and Kids which airs on Del Mar TV, and she’s founded a nonprofit called Vlada’s Seeds of Life.

What was your childhood like in Serbia?

I grew up on a large family farm with my grandmother, grandfather, two other siblings and my mom and dad. We grew pretty much everything we ate. I learned to cook early on and one of the reasons is because everyone around me cooked, and if you were to eat, you really had to start from scratch. So if you were to make a cake, you need to raise the chickens to have the eggs and you need to milk the cows to get the cream and butter. Eating healthy, working hard, being outside in nature, and having that family and community support system is very much part of who I am and how I was raised.

Why is this idea about quality family time so important to you?

I have been in this country nearly 30 years now, and I have seen a drastic decline in the family structure. There are so many families struggling today because we have given away our lives to technology. In order to have a healthy country and healthy future, you need to have a healthy individual. And the nucleus of a human being is a family. That is the environment we create for our children where they are taught to love, to care, to learn, to explore, to be good human beings.

How did you come up with the idea for the show, Cooking and Kids?

We have more cooking shows than ever, and less people actually cooking than ever. A majority of these shows are geared toward entertainment or competition, and none of that is what I think about food. To me, food is more about a time to share and celebrate. I thought let’s use this model to create a program that’s something that’s like a cooking show, but it’s actually more of a gathering place for families.

Why did you start your nonprofit, Vlada's Seeds of Life?

The idea for the nonprofit came simply because I want this to be everybody’s project, not just mine. During the last 10 years, I’ve been approached by a number of networks to do a cooking show, but I never wanted to give up my nonprofit work. Today, I work with former foster children, I work with single mothers who’ve suffered from abuse or other issues. I’ve been out there. Instead of treating the side effects of dysfunctional families, we try to cure the family and reinforce family values. If we do this, I think we will have a lot less social problems down the road.

Your two kids cook with you on the show. Was that your idea?

There was no way around it, same as there was no way around it when I was growing up. This is what family did, we cooked. Teaching kids how to cook is the easiest thing in the world because kids embrace the whole concept – from flavors to texture, to breaking eggs to mixing batter. I have never had a child come to any of my classes that did not want to cook.

How would you describe the state of American kids' health?

Children are suffering from diseases that normally people would get diagnosed with in their 50s or 60s – obesity, diabetes, all forms of cancers. There is also an alarming rate of mental sickness and behavioral disorders among children, which is very disturbing to me. Part of that can be cured with healthy food, proper activity and the right environment. Our biggest threat isn’t terrorism, it’s how we are raising our future generations.

What is your future goal for the nonprofit and the TV program?

My greatest goal right now is to bring this program from public access to PBS. I’ve produced 12 episodes and have donated them to a national network in which all public access TV stations in the world can download for free. In just a little over a year, our program has been aired on 145 public access TV stations and we are in 40 states.

The ultimate goal is to receive national support and have like a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood show but more focused on the kitchen table, cooking, recipes, family and community. I want to make this a staple of programming in American homes.

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