One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an appreciation of healthy, wholesome foods. Welcoming them into your kitchen is a great way to get them excited for mealtimes, and it might just make them more open to trying new foods and flavors.
Join some of FOOD & WINE’s favorite personalities as they share the kitchen with their children. Get step-by-step instructions for preparing their favorite kid-friendly dishes, and follow their tips for coaxing kids to get cooking.
After all, if meal prep is a family affair, it'll mean less stress for mom and dad—and better nutrition for everyone.
While growing up in South Boston, 13-year-old Barbara Lynch got her first kitchen job cooking at a local rectory. It was in high school, however, that an influential home economics teacher and a job working with chef Mario Bonello at Boston's St. Botolph Club piqued her interest becoming a professional chef. During her early twenties, Barbara worked under some of Boston's greatest culinary talents, including chef Todd English. After working with Todd for several years, Barbara traveled to Italy where she learned about Italian cuisine firsthand from local women. She returned to Boston and became the executive chef at Galleria Italiana, bringing national acclaim to the tiny trattoria when she was named a FOOD & WINE Best New Chef.
In 1998, Barbara opened a restaurant of her own, No. 9 Park, in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood. The restaurant immediately received rave reviews from publications around the country and was named Best New Restaurant by FOOD & WINE.
Today, as the CEO of Barbara Lynch Gruppo, the James Beard Award winner oversees the operations of nine concepts and employs more than 200 people. In addition to running her company, Barbara dedicates time and resources to a number of philanthropic missions, including the Crittenton Women's Union, Common Threads, The Greater Boston Food Bank and Share Our Strength
Barbara has a daughter, Marchesa, 7.
- Favorite Kid-Friendly Recipes
- Family Photo Album
- Q & A
How do you encourage your child to eat healthy, balanced meals?First, I lead by example! Marchesa constantly sees me cooking. She spends a lot of time at the restaurants, in the kitchen with me at home and at farmers' markets with me on weekends. She is always around fresh, healthy food. Even if all I'm doing is making a quick soup or salad, she is there, helping and tasting. I make a point to eat healthy meals with lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains because I feel better when I eat this way. Marchesa is a typical 7-year-old in that she loves all the treats other kids do, but I feel like if 80 percent of the time—while she's home—she's surrounded by good, healthy things to eat and learning to make her own healthy food choices, that's a great thing.
Why are so many children drawn to fast food and processed foods?Growing up, I was allowed to eat whatever I wanted. My mother made sure there were three meals a day, but in between breakfast, lunch and dinner, chips, candy, soda and cookies were the norm. The more you eat of that stuff, the more your body craves it; you need more sugar and fat to get your "fix." When Marchesa was younger, I thought I could keep her from junk food. Then she went to her first sleepover and came back hooked on the snack cakes and chips and sugar cereals I had been keeping out of the house. My rule now is that she gets a certain number of treats a week. It lets her figure out what she really wants and doesn't make anything so forbidden. If she's anything like I was growing up, she'll find anything forbidden all the more attractive!
How do you get children to try foods that might be outside of other children's comfort zones?It's simple but it works: Institute a "just one bite" rule. You don't have to love it or even eat the entire thing but you do have to try it. I also think that if kids see their parents eating a varied diet, they'll naturally become a bit more adventurous. Marchesa started eating oysters and fried calamari and all sorts of things at a young age, which made me quite happy. But she goes through periods where she'll eat only certain foods or not feel adventurous, and that's okay, too. At the end of the day, I want her to have a happy, positive relationship with food and understand what a wonderful, special thing it is to cook and eat together.
When you're short on time, what do you serve for dinner?I absolutely love making farro risotto with peas. It's easier and more nutritious than traditional risotto, and you can make a big batch ahead of time. It never gets overcooked and the texture is amazing. It's a great introduction to a super grain!
If your child got to decide what's served for dinner, what would the meal consist of?Chicken legs and mashed potatoes. It's her favorite meal right now!
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.