Munching with millennials

Just how competent in the kitchen is the next generation?


Millennials are supposed to be the “foodiest generation.” Nutritionally savvy, they were raised on sushi and sustainability, thanks to their baby boomer and Generation X parents. They view more cooking shows per capita than any other demographic entity. Instagram is all about food-porn shots of their plates of restaurant food.

Could it be that they actually don’t know how to cook or are we just picking on millennials?

A new study commissioned by found that just over half of millennials surveyed were able to identify a garlic press or a salad spinner from photos. More troubling, only 41 percent can make a vinaigrette dressing from scratch and 91 percent say they have trouble following recipes.

Barely 50 percent of these millennials say they know how to roast a whole chicken and nearly two-thirds of the generation can’t make a chicken salad sandwich. However, that may just be the vegetarian/vegan factor combined with the mayo factor. According to Philadelphia Magazine, millennials are also to blame for the decline and fall of mayonnaise as a popular food, replaced by tastier condiments such as chimichurri and gochujang. Apparently, avocado toast is the new chicken salad sandwich.

Other statistics tend to support the survey. The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that millennials spend nearly an hour less per day in the kitchen than Generation Xers and buy fewer raw, whole ingredients.

Millennials are being credited with the demise of the first-date dinner. Online dating has meant a geometric increase in the number of first dates. It’s too expensive and time-consuming to go out to dinner on all those dates. Today’s 30-year-olds spend almost 10 percent less on food and a lot more on education debt and health care than baby boomers did at 30, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

They are also killing the cork. According to Nielsen, pinot noir-loving millennials are insisting on wine bottles with twist-off caps and wine in cans.

Millennials are being partially credited with Nabisco’s redesign of its century-old Barnum’s Animals crackers box to show animals free of the cages they occupied in the recently shuttered Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

The Pew Research Center defines millennials as anyone born between 1981 and 1996 — about 22 to 37 years old in 2018. Members of Generation Z arrived between 1996 and 2010. Other sources quibble with the dates but the significant age difference means these young adults may have less in common than the stats suggest when it comes to food. For reference, see the divide between the Elvis boomers and the Beatles boomers.

Technology may be partially responsible for millennials’ lack of cooking proficiency. Even when they acquire a skill, the knowledge isn’t necessarily retained because of acute “cognitive offloading.” They don’t learn recipes or techniques by heart because they know they can find them again on YouTube, Google or Pinterest. A Google study found about 60 percent of millennials cook with smartphone in hand.

(Transparency requires me to confess that I find recipes on the Internet, not in my hundreds of cookbooks.)

A recent Better Homes and Gardens survey showed that 93 percent of millennial women try new recipes each month and eat dinner at home at least four times a week. Meanwhile, a University of Minnesota public health study found that only one-third of young adults read nutrition labels, with women more likely to read them than men.

It is well to remember that members of Generation Z will represent more than 40 percent of all U.S. grocery shoppers within about two years. They will be in charge eventually. America’s least hip eatery chain, Cracker Barrel, has bowed to demographic reality and launched the fast-casual Holler & Dash chain to woo millennials and Gen Z kids. Will the kids buy in?   

For many millennials, sustainability and transparency are key factors in deciding what to buy. As a result, companies are competing to see which product can present the purest GMO-free, organic, free trade, gluten-free and packaging-free foods. These kids grew up with packages on the kitchen table made here with the “Boulder” imprimatur of goodness on the label next to the bar code.

In my experience these generational generalizations are necessarily wrong at least half the time. You should have heard the crap hurled at us baby boomers by our parents’ Greatest Generation between the 1960s to 1980s.

If you are a millennial or younger, do the survey results above reflect the reality of your food life and your generation? Send your comments to: Let me know if I can excerpt and share your comments, with or without your name, in an upcoming Nibbles column.

Local food news

Wapos Mexican Cocina has opened a second location at 1389 Forest Park Circle in Lafayette. … Boardgames, Beer and Bites (or B Cubed) will open this fall at 2027 Broadway in Boulder stocked with 600 board games and waiters who are game geeks. … Plan ahead: Flatirons Food Film Festival, Oct. 11-14 in Boulder will include eight short films, 26 speakers and seven feature films including Brewmaster, Cuban Food Stories, Babette’s Feast, Eating Animals and The Cakemaker. … Add another national cuisine to the metro area’s restaurant roster. Turkish cuisine is on the menu at the tiny Bosphorus Restaurant, 3493 S. Downing St., Englewood.    We raise a toast to the recently passed Manny Salzman, a Denver doctor who helped elevate Colorado to the pinnacle of the fungi world. With his wife, Joanne, and Gary Lincof, he founded a quintessentially Colorado gathering in 1981, the annual Telluride Mushroom Festival. Salzman also helped lead mushroom-hunting tours to 23 countries during his 99 years.

Taste of the week

Quaffing a cold one takes on a different buzz when it is Prop’d-N-Hop’d, the new nitro cold brew canned coffee with hops from Erie Coffee Roasters. The coffee flavor is strong but balanced with nitro’s creaminess and the hops adding essentially a lemon-citrus accent — like Italian espresso with lemon peel. The coffee is available at Alfalfa’s Market, Lucky’s Market and other local stores.

Words to chew on

“My mother was a good recreational cook, but what she basically believed about cooking was that if you worked hard and prospered, someone else would do it for you.” — Nora Ephron

John Lehndorff has been writing Nibbles almost every week since 1985. Listen to Radio Nibbles podcasts at: