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Top Chefs Weigh In On Cooking With Kids

WestCoast Families

David Hawksworth is poised to unveil his much-awaited eponymous restaurant in the beautifully transformed Rosewood Georgia Hotel. Instead of his familiar chef’s jacket, Hawksworth dons dust-covered denim, steel-toed boots and a construction hat. His keen eye manages the construction team as stealthily as his culinary teams, a level of perfectionism that transfers easily. As we talk about kids, nutrition and a passion for food, a lesser known side to this celebrated chef shines through.

Hawksworth Restaurant_David Hawksworth

I’m always curious to know who dominates the kitchen in a chef’s home. Who does the cooking in your household?

Me

You have a three-and-a-half-year-old son, Heston. How has your cooking changed since he came along and rocked your culinary world?

We’re eating much earlier. There’s less steak, more pasta and, at times, I’m making three different meals.

What is your biggest food challenge with Heston?

It has to be cooked in a way that tastes good for someone of any age to enjoy it. If you overcook food or it isn’t fresh, people won’t want it—and that includes children.

 Any other challenges?

Yes, getting him off the sweets when he’s been corrupted by Grandma.We don’t have apple juice or sugar in our house, so it really affects him. Food companies have marketed really well to kids and parents. I’ll give him yogurt, which seems healthy and yet he’ll be bouncing off the walls. Then I’ll take a closer look and realize there’s a ton of sugar in it.

So many parents struggle with getting their children to eat a variety of foods. Do you have the same problem with Heston?

If your child’s hungry enough he’ll eat. We do very little snacking and are active, so Heston is hungry and more willing to try new foods. Heston eats everything, even dim sum. When he tries something new, like broccoli, we tell him it’s “Superman Broccoli” like Willie Mitchell eats. Heston loves Willie, so he’s more than happy to eat it.

Where is your favorite place to eat out with Heston in tow?

Kirin for dim sum—the Richmond location is the best.

I once read that your Mom makes Christmas cake better than anyone. What would Heston say you make better than anyone?

Macaroni and cheese with a side of Superman broccoli.

Chef Pino Posteraro, of Cioppino’s Restaurant, took a moment to weigh in on the cooking with kids question as he was about to have a culinary adventure of his own—a trip to Paris with his youngest daughter. At the age of eight, she’s already proven a worthy companion for his ambitious itinerary of bistros and three-Michelin-star restaurants. “She fell in love with ratatouille,” Posteraro explains. “She then discovered a book that teaches children how to make everything in the movie and now she’ll eat anything—except snails.”

 I understand that your mother was a skilled chef. What was your favourite meal of hers?

The best meal of my life was served by my mother during a power outage. I was 14 years old and she had to cook with the preserves and salt-cured foods we had stocked in the pantry. We’d made up to 700 jars of tomatoes to make it last through the winter. The flavour was unforgettable.

 You’re passionate about health and, for a time, went to medical school. How does this translate in your family’s kitchen?

I’m very against pre-packaged foods and check the ingredients very carefully. It’s not like Europe, where fast food is a panini and fresh coffee. I must admit to giving in once in awhile, but overall we cook very fresh food—from garden to table.

Having four children, you must have at least one or two finicky eaters?

My children eat everything and have a sense of adventure about food—Greek, sushi, Chinese, everything.

Your children range in age from five to 17 years. Does that pose a dinnertime challenge?

It’s hard when we’re not on the same pace. I want to compensate for the time I’m away from the restaurant, so the kids are always there for the main event. For me, cooking is a legacy to be passed to my children, so they can, in turn, cook for their own children.

I understand that your daughter is now working at the restaurant. You have a reputation for running a tight ship, so what has this been like for you both?

The staff is like family to me, so it’s natural for her to be here. We sit together with the staff and have a meal before every shift, eating collectively as a family is one of the most important things to me.

 —Michele Kambolis

Courtesy of WestCoast Families, June 2011 

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