3 steps for your helper to make the meals of your dreams

New to China? Your checklist must be complete by now–schools,house,driver,ayi,coffee morning with shanghaimama .As you settle into your new life,you realize, having a foreign house-helper come with challenges you didn’t anticipate! Read this article from an expert,I promise it will enhance the quality of your life in China ~Kavi



Once your Ayi – Helper is hired, you are usually so relieved to have ticked an extra box in your to-do list that you can’t wait to ask her to cook for you. Am I wrong? It may be a good technic , but how long will it last? After a few months you realize that your helper doesn’t exactly cook in the way you wanted, that menus are often the same and that it is time to  to propose different ideas, to help her make a shopping list. That is, of course, without having to explain to her some fundamentals as using in a moderate way oil and salt.

So why wouldn’t you take time, as you would do to train a new colleague? That would show your employee at first that you are sparing time for her and concern. Moreover, you will see a real difference on a long term basis.

  1. Earning her trust and trusting her


  • Learn the language Even if learning the language of the country takes time and energy, I advice you to start by taking classes as soon as you can. You will get many benefits in doing so.She will feel confident to communicate with you easily and you will earn her trust.
  • Take time to be together Your helper first desire is to satisfy you but without taking too many risks. My advice would be to spend time with her and make her comfortable before giving her lots of recipes to cook. You could, for a start, go and shop with her, explain to her how the store is organized, where to find the proper products, show her brands you like… 
  1. Showing your family routines


Even if your helper knows how to cook a few dishes, she surely learnt them in families from different countries than yours. Without talking about nationalities, in a same country or family, habits are not always the same. So just imagine the differences between two states. Her food habits are not yours!

It is important to write down and explain to your Ayi your food habits as from the start as once the routine is set up you will feel ill at ease to change things.Tell her what are your meals made of? What is your pantry? What seasoning and condiments you use and how?

Do you have fresh fruit juice for breakfast or a fruit salad? Do you like having fresh bread everyday? What do your kids have for afternoon break? How many yogurts do you have a week?

  1. Explaining your food balance                                       FNK_PEPPER_AND_PEANUT_STIR_FRY_H.jpg

Organizing a Chinese or Asian meal is different in so many ways from occidental meals.That’s why your helper may be totally lost if she has to cook a meal corresponding to your conception of balanced food.

That’s the reason why you should explain her what a Western meal looks like and most specifically in YOUR family.  For instance, that it is made in 3 stages: as a starter you like having a salad or a soup, usually during the winter. For a main dish, protein is served with one veggies and a portion of starchy food.For dessert, she would probably think about a cake and not fruit or yogurts.So by giving her some guidelines, she will feel more confident to start cooking.

Let me give you one last advice!

Proceed step by step:Explain, Show, Help and then Delegate!


Writer: Olivia is the founder of Cuisine mei wenti and expert for expat families ( auprès de) who are lucky to have an ayi at home but don’t have the time and the method to teach her how to make delightful and balanced meals.