Los Angeles mom Fanee Aaron has spent a lot of time looking into a question that will make kids and adults curious, and perhaps a little green with envy: what DO chefs cook for their own families? I’ve done some related informal data collection of my own, while Aaron, the mother of a 5-year-old, has written a recipe-loaded book called What Chefs Feed Their Kids, filled with advice and insight from kitchen pros across the country about dealing with kids of all ages. The list of participating chefs is a dream team, with Josiah Citrin, Joan McNamara, and Piero Selvaggio representing L.A., plus other folks such as the amazing nutritionist/lactation consultant Cynthia Epps (who totally saved my own sanity soon after my second-born came into the mix).
Turn the page to learn more about how Aaron got the project together and how her family’s eating habits have been affected. And enter to win a copy of the book! Leave a quick comment by noon PST on Tuesday, November 8 — the official publication date — and get one extra entry by tweeting the contest. Plus if you care to, drop a Like for Taster Tots and What Chefs Feed Their Kids on Facebook, too.
What inspired you to write this book?
In the beginning when I fist started giving my son, Cody, solid food, he would play with the purees I gave him and mush them around on the table. Very little got in his mouth. I wondered if that was OK? I didn’t know if I should be giving him the same foods over and over or if I should mix it up a bit. I wondered if there was a way to teach Cody to eat right from the beginning in a way that he would grow up to love good food — to enjoy eating well. I really wanted us to eat together, right from the start. I wondered how you build a kids palate?
What was your connection to chefs and the food world before you started this project?
I’ve always been interested in eating well but my husband and I mostly ate out and I had only rudimentary cooking skills. When I started the project when Cody was an infant, I reached out to chefs from around the country — cold called, really — and I saw that they were feeding their own children differently. Their kids at all ages were happily eating well off the kids menu. I wanted to learn about their strategies. How do they engage their kids with food and eating?
I learned a lot in the process of writing What Chefs Feed Their Kids. In the beginning, I learned to cook the basics. When Cody was eating basic things, I learned to make them flavorful instead of bland like chef Diane Forley, using stocks and herbs. As Cody got older, my cooking skills got better and now Cody is 5 and he does really enjoy a wide variety of foods.
How did you go about finding chefs to participate?
I did a lot of research to find chefs who were insightful about feeding their kids. I wanted also to talk to chefs from different culinary and cultural backgrounds. It is true that not all the children of chefs eat well and the chefs I spoke to for What Chefs Feed Their Kids spoke about times their children’s eating suffered when they were not spending enough time eating together. Chefs who have busy thriving restaurants are often not at home for dinner because they are at their restaurant.
The chefs that make it work do so by bringing their children into their world of food. It’s not genetics that makes chefs children eat well and it’s also not just what gets put on the plate, although that helps a lot. Chefs have a love of food and for them each meal is a new beginning. A new adventure, really. And that influences the way they feed their kids and teach their kids about food.
Did you test the recipes at home with your family, too?
I loved making all the recipes and lots of these have become our family recipes. I also would make larger batches and send them in for snack at Cody’s preschool. I made Barbara Lynch’s Yogurt Panna Cotta in mismatched china teacup for the kids to make it fun for them.
So, what do YOU feed your kid?
Cody is such a great eater now and we love eating together and sharing meals. We started a tradition that when we go out to eat we always order at least one new thing to try that we’ve never had before. Sometimes it’s surprisingly yummy and sometimes we don’t care for it so much. It’s become a fun way to stay adventurous.
Have any particular recipes from the book proven popular in your household?
Right now it’s just getting cold (even in L.A.!) and we’ve been craving more wintry foods. We just made Colby Garrelts’ Steamed Black Cod with Ginger Broth, Lime and Noodles the other night. That’s a go-to quick easy recipe and we make it quite a bit. I make a chicken version too and I always load it up with different vegetables and greens. The other dish we’ve been making is Josiah Citrin’s Kalbi Steak. He takes his kids to Manpuku in L.A. where they love eating and tasting all the interesting dishes.
Where do you like to eat out as a family?
I’ve been taking Cody a lot to Cafe Gratitude for an after-school treat. They have great smoothies made with nut milks and agave that we both love, and a great sparkling lemonade also made with agave. It’s fun to sit at the counter together. We also love eating at Viet Noodle Bar in Atwater.