Chef Challenges

How do the culinary experts get their kids to eat? We asked for some strategies.

Roberto Gonzalez

You’d think with all their culinary savvy, chefs with kids might avoid the pitfalls of picky palates, but the truth is cooking for kids is tough, even when you have decades of kitchen experience under your belt. We asked some local chefs to dish on their strategies for serving up healthy food that can win over even the trickiest taste buds.   

“Never force,” says Brandon McGlamery (above, with family), chef/owner of Luma on Park and Prato. “It doesn’t create a good relationship with food.” With the help of his wife, Liz, who admittedly does most of the home cooking, Ryder (4) and Ashby (3) are slowly served a culinary education. “Ryder is extraordinary picky. If he could eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches his whole life, he would,” says Liz. “So we try to make the healthiest choices within the perimeters of what he’s willing to eat while trying to expose him to new things. You just keep trying.” 

“Get them to try one bite,” says Chris Brown, executive chef at JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes. “My 5-year-old daughter has tried foie gras, smoked salmon and caviar.” Not to say that she or her 3-year-old brother became instant aficionados, but Brown emphasizes constantly introducing new flavors. “Katie, my wife, and I make it fun and interesting by making our own food from scratch, such as jams, and sneaking in flavors, such as key lime. That way they’re trying new flavors without ever knowing it.” 

“Keep it simple and get the kids involved,” advises Rusty Spoon chef/owner Kathleen Blake, whose four kids are now 16 and older. All four have visited growers with her and plucked veggies from the Primo restaurant garden back when Blake was a chef there. “I’d also get them peeling, mixing or measuring and had them make their school lunches with me.”

She’s a fan of simple cooking. “I never cooked big, extravagant meals when the kids were little. A staple was roast chicken, and I’d turn the extra parts into something else for later in the week. People get overwhelmed trying to do something elaborate. Keep it simple and focus on food as a way to bring the family together.”

“Never stop trying,” says Greg Richie, executive chef/partner at Soco in Thornton Park. “My 4-year-old son is my toughest customer.  He is very strong willed and we’ve had our share of stand-offs. For a while he won the battle but we came back a month or two later when he was more amiable. You can’t give up. You have to have some will power.”

Richie recommends starting with a food your child already likes, such as pizza or cereal, and then suggests introducing new ingredients, via toppings, to constantly add new flavors. “We build upon what he already eats and expand his palate slowly.” 

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