CHEF DE MISSION
They spend all day cooking for others – how do chefs get their kids to eat up their veggies? Anna King Shahab investigates
HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE GOOD FOOD HABITS IN CHILDREN AND GET DINNER ON THE TABLE ANNA KING SHAHAB WITHOUT TEARS? TALKS TO BUSY CHEFS TO GET THEIR VIEWS.
PARENTS OF YOUNG CHILDREN these days face a potential guilt trip round every corner when it comes to mealtimes. There’s advice coming from every quarter and much of it is contradictory. It begins right from birth – breastmilk or formula, when to start solids – and on that note, are purees still the done thing or are we supposed to feed them like adults from dot? Foods that were ‘good’ just a year ago quickly become ‘bad’. Breakfast swings from being the vital meal of the day to surplus to requirements and preferably skipped. Will our offspring turn into obese zombies if screens are allowed at the table? Will forcing kids to eat everything on their plates help or hinder their appreciation of food?
Amid the confusion, it can be hard to gain the kind of confidence in our abilities to nurture curious, hearty, healthy appetites that only a generation ago was inherent. Perhaps the greatest piece of knowledge we can gain on the family food journey is that everyone does things slightly differently, there’s no simple right and wrong. We’re probably all united in our goal of raising the next generation to love, and to truly appreciate, good food. Even if some days (some might say most, depending on ages and stages) mealtimes might feel like a straight game of “just eat enough calories to see you through the night, please”, the big picture is one of food being one of life’s great joys.
And who better to know both the joys and trials of feeding people than those who do just that for a crust? We spoke to some of our top chefs and restaurateurs about how they approach mealtimes with their young families, and how they’re encouraging culinary curiosity in their children. They’ve shared what a typical mealtime in their home looks like, what might be on the menu and some simple recipe ideas that go down well with their offspring. They’re all normal people, people who’ve had pureed pumpkin thrown at them, who’ve combed hardset Weetbix out of wispy hair, who’ve given an inner whoop of delight when their child learns to love something new. The lesson they share with us here is that with a bit of determination, a sense of doing what feels right and a hit list of simple, delicious ideas up one’s sleeve, mealtimes can be the stuff great memories are made of.