Search
Pin It
Favorite

Dining With Dad: Top Local Chefs Share Secrets for Raising Good Eaters 

click to enlarge Chef Wesley Genovart with Esmé and Rafa
  • Chef Wesley Genovart with Esmé and Rafa

Vermont's farm-to-table food movement has attracted some stellar chefs, many of them dads. The six chef dads on the following pages have cooked at four-star hotels and restaurants around the globe. They've earned repeated accolades from glossy food magazines and the prestigious James Beard Foundation.

But, food critics aside, the well-known restaurateurs all agree that their favorite "customers" are their own kids.

They dished with Kids VT about dealing with picky eaters, dining out with kids, and the foods their sons and daughters love that make them cringe.

Chef Wesley Genovart

  • Position: Chef and co-owner of SoLo Farm & Table and Honeypie
  • Location: South Londonderry and Jamaica (Vermont)
  • Age: 38
  • Kids: Rafael ("Rafa"), 7, and Esmé, 3
  • Rafa and Esmé's mom: Chloe Genovart (co-owner and general manager of both restaurants)

KIDS VT: How have you encouraged your kids to eat a variety of foods?

Wesley Genovart: We've always just cooked what we cook. It's pretty much what we want to eat and, from a very early age, that's just what they've been exposed to. Dinners we can have together when [the restaurants are] not open are very important. We sit down and talk and all eat together.

KVT: What is the most important cooking lesson you have taught your kids?

WG: Rafa actually does help sometimes in the kitchen at SoLo. He loves it. He's learning focus, that even if you have just one job, do it well each time, and don't get discouraged by the repetition.

KVT: Do you think kids should go to restaurants like yours?

WG: Yes, as long as the parents are engaged with their children. Eating out should be a special thing to enjoy with family.

KVT: Tell us about a surprising food your kid loves.

WG: Esmé loves oysters, and that blows my mind. I don't think I really learned to love them until I was 18 or 19.

KVT: Any secrets to helping kids eat veggies?

WG: Our kids like them better raw. They love to come into the gardens [at SoLo] and pick carrots and peas and eat them right there.

KVT: Any memories of cooking or eating with your dad?

WG: My family comes from Majorca, and my grandmother would make this dish of snails, but only for holidays. I remember my dad would take us to this special little restaurant and we would eat snails. He loved them, and I loved them.

KVT: Is there a food your kids love that makes you cringe a bit as a chef?

WG: Bisquick pancakes. I'll make them with all these different flours, and all they want is Bisquick.

KVT: Kids, what's your favorite thing your dad cooks for you?

Rafael: Roast chicken and rice. And suckling pig.

Esmé: Spinach, broccoli and chicken.

Chef Rogan Lechthaler

click to enlarge Chef Rogan Lechthaler with daughter Lulu
  • Chef Rogan Lechthaler with daughter Lulu
  • Position: Chef and co-owner of The Downtown Grocery and Mama's
  • Location: Ludlow
  • Age: 41
  • Kids: Mason, 5, and Lulu, 2 -
  • Mason and Lulu's mom: Abby Lechthaler (co-owner and general manager of both restaurants)

KIDS VT: How do you encourage your kids to eat a diverse range of foods?

Rogan Lechthaler: Mason hated tacos. We made it into a taco bar, and now he loves it. Any time he participates in making his food, it works. Like for meatballs or dumplings, he'll make one and I'll make 30, but he's like, "Lulu, do you like these? I made them." He thinks he made them all.

KVT: What was the thing that most surprised you about feeding your own kids?

RL: We thought we were going to have to make chicken fingers and mac and cheese all the time, but that hasn't come up for the most part. It's about not giving in to what we think they'll want.

KVT: What's a surprising food your kids love?

RL: Crayfish! Abby is from Jackson, Miss., and we have them shipped up for special occasions, like her birthday and the Super Bowl. We do a boil, and they're spicy.

KVT: Any memories of cooking or eating with your dad?

RL: He was very proud of the Brussels sprouts in his garden, and every year we'd have a Brussels sprouts-eating competition. There was this bowling trophy with sprout leaves glued all over it. Each of us would invite a friend over and one of them would always win. I was not down with Brussels sprouts. People did not fancy them up back then.

KVT: What's a food your kids love that makes you cringe a bit as a chef?

RL: Ketchup is the bane of my existence. All that sugar, and it's so addictive for kids. They'll put ketchup on everything, and no other flavors get through.

KVT: What's your kids' favorite thing you cook for them?

RL: They'd say pasta and sauce. It's our family go-to. I take a local sweet Italian sausage and crumble it up, sear it with onions and garlic, add some tomato sauce, and put it over pasta with lots of fresh Parm[igiano]. They're in heaven.

Chef Aaron Josinsky

click to enlarge feature2-3-4178cef29f6a258c.jpg
  • Position: Co-chef and co-owner of Misery Loves Co.
  • Location: Winooski
  • Age: 39
  • Daughter: Eda, 5
  • Eda's mom: Laura Wade (co-owner and general manager of Misery Loves Co.)

KIDS VT: What was the thing that most surprised you about feeding your own child?

Aaron Josinsky: I remember talking to [a chef friend with kids] about this. I said, "They just eat whatever you put out because it's delicious, right?" And he said, "Uh ... no."

KVT: Tips for helping parents break kids out of a food rut?

AJ: It's phases, not ruts. You just have to be flexible and keep offering good choices. Eda loves hot dogs, which is fine, but she could eat one every day. We just tell her we don't have any hot dogs. That's what grandparents are for; they can take her out for a hot dog.

KVT: Got a secret to helping kids eat veggies?

AJ: Textures are important. The entrée into kale was roasted with olive oil in the oven to make a crispy chip. Now she prefers raw kale salad.

In the summertime, we have a big garden, and she just walks through and eats lettuces, herbs, kale and sorrel. She was taking a walk with one of our friends, and they kind of freaked out when she picked some wild wood sorrel. She said, "Don't worry. Papa picks this for the restaurant."

KVT: A food your daughter loves that makes you cringe a bit as a chef?

AJ: Cheetos. They're quite addictively good in a strange way, but they're really bad. She doesn't get them in our house.

KVT: Eda, what's your favorite thing your dad cooks for you?

Eda: Chicken bread. (Josinsky explains that he roasts a chicken in a cast-iron pan and, when it's done, he tosses hearty bread cubes in the rendered chicken fat and "all the nice brown stuff" in the pan.)

Chef Jozef Harrewyn

click to enlarge Chef Jozef Harrewyn with son Brent
  • Chef Jozef Harrewyn with son Brent
  • Position: Chef, founder and co-owner of Chef's Corner Bakery & Café and Chef's Corner South End
  • Location: Williston and Burlington
  • Age: 65
  • Sons: Brent, 35, and Ashton, 33
  • Brent and Ashton's mom: Pamela Harrewyn

KIDS VT: How did you raise your kids to be healthy eaters?

Jozef Harrewyn: Pamela, my late wife, was definitely the key player with food in the house. I was a chef at Four Seasons hotels when they were really young, so I wasn't usually home to cook dinner. From when they were babies, she made their food from scratch. Eating and cooking together were a real part of our life. It all comes from those roots.

KVT: Tips for getting kids to eat a variety of foods?

JH: They always had to try something once. Ashton hated mushrooms. He said they were like snake's eyeballs. He grew into them.

KVT: How about something you enjoyed cooking for the family?

JH: I always called myself a shrapnel cook. I'd come home and open the fridge and make a delicious meal of leftovers. I did make a lot of flatbreads with baguette dough from the bakery.

KVT: Brent and Ashton, what's a favorite memory of something your dad cooked for you?

Brent: We had a fire pit in our backyard. It was a place to gather around and spend time with each other and, of course, cook. Dad liked to cook over the fire and on the barbecue, even in winter. South African piri piri [a spicy chile pepper sauce] shrimp and flank steak were staples.

Ashton: My dad's famous flatbread pizzas with all sorts of toppings. The combinations were often unorthodox but never disappointed. I would gobble up as many as I possibly could. Another classic was super simple: Dad would caramelize sugar in a pan, very low heat, until it got golden and melted. Then he would add orange juice to make a sauce for bananas cut in half. They would soften in the pan, and then it was all poured over vanilla-bean ice cream.

Chef Eric Warnstedt

click to enlarge Chef Eric Warnstedt with daughter Ella
  • Chef Eric Warnstedt with daughter Ella
  • Position: Chef and co-owner of Hen of the Wood and Doc Ponds
  • Location: Burlington, Waterbury and Stowe
  • Age: 42
  • Daughter: Ella, 10
  • Ella's mom: Julie McDonough

KVT: What was the thing that most surprised you about feeding your kid?

Eric Warnstedt: I figured my kid would be this crazy, adventurous eater because of what I do. It was great until she was about 5; she would eat all of the fun stuff. Then she just went into normal-kid mode and eats pretty basic. There really isn't any fighting it. The exposure is what's important.

KVT: Do you think kids should go to restaurants like yours?

EW: One hundred percent. I love when Ella is at the restaurant when I'm working. It really brings it all together. I love bringing her out to eat as well. I do dislike seeing kids handed an iPad. If your kid is bored and doesn't want to participate in conversation, let them sit there and space out. They will be OK.

KVT: What do you think is the most critical thing parents can do to raise healthy eaters?

EW: It's all about setting a good example without being preachy, right? Like most things. [Recently, I've been working] on changing bad habits, and Ella has jumped on board with me. During our chats, it isn't about weight; it's about balance and common-sense eating and being grateful for what we have access to. As I've been eating healthier, we've been having more fun with breakfast. We crank music and get silly. We've been making these breakfast bowls of crushed bananas with whisked eggs, cooked in a nonstick [pan]. Then, in the bowl, add berries and apples, shaved coconut, some chia seeds, and drizzle the whole thing with almond butter. Ella loves them!

KVT: Got a secret to helping kids love veggies?

EW: We have a pretty good try-it-once scenario in our house, but I don't push anything. We'll get there. I only ate iceberg lettuce when I was a kid; now look at me.

KVT: Ella, what's your favorite thing your dad cooks for you?

Ella: Tacos!

Chef Steve Atkins

click to enlarge Chef Steve Atkins with son Gabe
  • Chef Steve Atkins with son Gabe
  • Position: Chef and co-owner of The Kitchen Table Bistro
  • Location: Richmond
  • Age: 47
  • Son: Gabe, 16
  • Gabe's mom: Lara Atkins (co-owner and pastry chef of The Kitchen Table Bistro)

KIDS VT: Tell us about a surprising food your kid loved.

Steve Atkins: At one of his first "fancy" dinners in New York City, Gabe surprised us and the whole staff by ordering lamb tongue, and then ate every last bit of it.

KVT: What is the most important cooking lesson you've taught him?

SA: Taste and season. Even a simple dish can become pretty fantastic when well-seasoned.

KVT: Do you think kids should go to restaurants like yours?

SA: Absolutely. Being a good dinner guest is a good skill to have. It's good to introduce kids to the concept of dining in public and to the experience of being waited on, being respectful of the staff, of enjoying different dishes and flavors.

KVT: What is the most critical thing parents can do to raise healthy eaters?

SA: Don't talk about good foods and bad foods. We are promoters of eating and enjoying everything, but all of it in moderation. And don't use sweets as a reward.

KVT: Got a secret to helping kids love veggies?

SA: I've found that, most times, when people don't like something, like Brussels sprouts, it's because they were introduced to it in a not-delicious form, like boringly overboiled. Try grilling or roasting instead.

KVT: Any memories of cooking or eating with your dad?

SA: My dad was a really good cook and showed his love through sharing food and meals. He had a giant garden so, in summer, sharing tomato sandwiches and eating his Southern black-eyed peas and okra straight from the garden will be a lasting memory for me.

KVT: Gabe, what's your favorite thing your dad cooks for you?

Gabe: His summertime gnocchi with corn and tomatoes.

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines....

camps central

Otter Creek Wildlife Rescue

Otter Creek Wildlife Rescue

Addison, VT

Every year, hundreds of orphaned and injured wild birds and mammals need help. Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators are trained to aid our feathered and furred friends, and properly release them back into the wild. Campers learn what’s involved, focusing on Vermont species, how we can help them thrive in nature, and…(more)

other camps » learn more »