"If you give kids interesting food that's been seasoned well and cooked well, they're going to love it."
Chef Bobo (Robert Surles) is executive chef and foodservice director at the Calhoun School in New York City. He summarized his "kid food" philosophy at the recent FM/Restaurant Hospitality Healthy Customers, Healthy Profits event in Philadelphia and included some of his most successful techniques for getting kids to eat more nutritiously. Here are some of his suggestions:
- Brussels sprouts are the favorite vegetable of the Calhoun students because he prepares them by roasting them in a convection oven to bring out their natural sweetness and flavor. He also uses a similar technique on other vegetables like cauliflower, green beans and artichokes, with similar positive results.
- Fish is also a big hit: "I like to roast firm-fleshed fish with different glazes because it has to look good for kids to eat it," he said (fish constitutes 20-30 percent of the menued proteins at Calhoun).
- He also puts fish into kid favorites like tacos and makes modestly spicy dishes like Cajun catfish and fish curries.
- Poultry is usually roasted or served in colorful dishes like jambalayas, curries and tacos. "If it's colorful and kids are automatically attracted," he said.
- Color is also what makes the salad bar a huge hit. Calhoun's salad bar is all-you-want with plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables, and "kids build beautiful salads," he said.
- Fruits are emphasized as desserts, though there is also usually a oneounce portion of a sweet available (no seconds).
- Finally, the cardinal rule: "Kids don't like ‘kid food'; they prefer kid-sized portions of what they consider ‘adult foods," Chef Bobo declared.