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I was chatting about house-made ketchups the other day with Paul Virant of Vie in Western Springs, Illinois. Virant, one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs 2007, said he likes to keep the ketchup on hand at his restaurant—not for the menu, but for the occasional kid who comes in with his or her parents. Whenever his cooks trim chicken breasts, Virant has them set aside the narrow tenderloins, bread them and freeze them; then, if a finicky kid comes in, the cooks fry up some of these Vienuggets and send them out along with housemade ketchup. Virant is sympathetic to the plight of the picky eater, having been one when he was little. Even though he grew up across the river from Collinsville, IL, the horseradish capital of the world, he preferred mild-tasting foods.
As a reformed picky eater myself, I absolutely loved Virant’s story and the thought of his chicken tenders sitting in his restaurant’s freezer waiting for small guests to arrive. I like to think that picky children grow up to become the best cooks.
For Virant’s ketchup recipe, you’ll have to wait for our June issue. If you’ve got a picky or adventurous eater at home, you’ll love our August issue. But if your kid can make her own ketchup, or shows other preternatural cooking gifts, consider entering our kids’ cooking contest. The grand prize—a profile in our August issue as well as a set of kids' cooking tools—is sure to please any small fry. Even one who likes mustard.