What One Of the World’s Top Chef Feeds His Child

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That’s me, feeling positively starstruck in the presence of Yotam Ottolenghi, one of the most admired chefs in the world at the moment. The Israeli-born, London-based guru of vegetable cookery was in town over the weekend as part of a tour for his latest cookbook, Plenty More (Ten Speed Press, 2014). Guests at the event were treated to a parade of dishes from the book and a peek inside his brilliant head as he opened the room up to questions. To me, the most interesting among them concerned the business of feeding kids.

The father of an almost-two-year-old, Ottolenghi was asked if parenthood has changed the way he eats at home. I was struck by the simplicty of his answer, especially considering how complicated a subject this is for many families. He said simply, “No. Not at all”. He explained that his boy “eats what we eat”, which if you know his  cooking, is not exactly chicken nuggets and buttered noodles. He was forthright in admitting that every plate isn’t met with unbridled enthusiasm, but that hasn’t altered his approach to the family meal. He takes a tack of neutrality, doing his best not to nudge, but just to put out the food and leave it be, noting his son eats better without a parent standing over him waiting on every bite.

It’s early days yet for Ottolenghi in his journey as a dad. His  child is just a toddler and as every seasoned parent knows, we get thrown curveballs at the table we might never have predicted. But he’s got the right idea, indeed, it’s the kind of advice I would give any new parent on feeding their kids from the get go, which boils down to this:

1. Feed your child what you eat

2. Eat together as much as you can manage

3. Don’t let them see you sweat.

Of course, it’s not always this simple. And we’re not all Ottolenghi. I suppose if I was at the receving end of his glorious cooking day-in-day-out, I’d be inclined to clean my plate, too.

 

Plenty More

Comments

10.27.2014 at4:05 AM #

Liz - Meal Makeover Mom

Katie: First of all, I’m beyond jealous. I’m huge Ottolenghi fan (as you can tell from the pictures I share on Instagram). I just received his new cookbook and am busy working my way through it. My kids have liked everything from the book. Even my carrot-hating 16 year old ate a few of the Honey-Roasted Carrots I made last week. I love the simple advice from Ottolenghi you revealed here in your post and couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing his insights! BTW, this summer when my UK brother-in-law and his family were in town, we made the cod cakes from Jerusalem. I blogged about it and also linked to your zucchini cupcakes .. which we also made together during their visit 🙂

10.27.2014 at4:05 AM #

katiemorford

Thanks Liz. I love his new book and how it’s organized by technique. I’ve got a c few of his recipes planned for this week. We will see if I get to them all. And I remember that post you did. Those cod cakes look incredible!

10.27.2014 at7:12 AM #

Alison

I bought his book last week after hearing him on NPR and it is a great book. I am making the Tomato Pomegranate salad tonight. We had the Thai Red Lentil soup last week and it is amazing!

10.27.2014 at7:12 AM #

katiemorford

They served that Tomato Pomegranate salad at the event using just cherry tomatoes, I imagine because that’s what’s tastiest in the market right now. It was delicious and is apparently a recipe Ottolenghi is rather proud of. It is the very first one in the book! I will add that lentil soup to my “must cook” list. Thanks for sharing.

10.27.2014 at7:58 AM #

Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine

I think you should totally allow your kids to eat what you eat, eat with them, and let them cook with you!

10.27.2014 at8:28 AM #

Kelly

Katie…just so you know…many of us feel as star struck/ inspired by you and your work! Thanks for sharing another great resource.

I just watched the documentary Fork Over Knife last night …. very compelling…so tasty vegetable cookery is top of mind:)

10.27.2014 at8:28 AM #

katiemorford

That’s incredibly sweet Kelly. We all learn from eachother.

10.27.2014 at8:47 AM #

Bettina at The Lunch Tray

My husband and I had the chance to eat at Ottolenghi in London on a 15th anniversary trip two years ago and it was just fantastic — a highlight of our trip! So I’m a huge fan of his, too, but I’m really glad, Katie, that you also made the point that his child is still quite young. We also fed our kids what we were eating (sometimes with a few small modifications) and if you’d asked me when my son was two if I’d have a vegetable-averse/”picky” child on my hands, I’d have said you were crazy. And then ensued an entire decade of watching him stubbornly turn down vegetables! So when Mark Bittman recently expressed a similar confidence in this approach, I wrote this post just to reassure parents who ARE following this advice but still meeting resistance from their kids: http://www.thelunchtray.com/getting-kids-try-new-foods-advice/

10.27.2014 at8:47 AM #

katiemorford

Thanks for that perspective Bettina. It’s not always so simple and there are bumps in the road.

10.27.2014 at9:55 AM #

Kate

Hi Katie! I have never heard of Ottolenghi before and just looked up his books. They look amazing! Do you have a preference as to which book I should try first? Plenty or the new one Plenty More (is one easier than the other?)? Thanks! Can’t wait to dive into those beautiful recipes!

10.27.2014 at9:55 AM #

katiemorford

Hi Kate,

They are both beautiful books. I have had Plenty for a few years, so can say that it is a great book. I’m looking forward to playing around with his new one. I’d probaby start with Plenty. You could always check it out at the library and see how you like it before you lay down the credit card.

10.27.2014 at12:38 PM #

Kate @ ¡Hola! Jalapeño

I think this is sage advice, although I have to wonder with him being a busy Chef how often he actually eats at home with his child?

The struggle with your children is in the monotony of the day in and day out and this kind of simplicity leaves those of us who are responsible for actually feeding our kids every meal of every day feeling like we are doing something wrong if your child resists what you put in front of them on a regular basis.

If you are only around for the occasional meal it may seem like your kid eats everything when in reality they have their likes and dislikes just like every other human. Just a thought.

10.27.2014 at12:38 PM #

katiemorford

Good point Kate. Thanks for chiming in with perspective from the “day-in-day-out” trenches of feeding little ones.

10.27.2014 at8:05 PM #

genevieve @ gratitude and greens

Oh my goodness, I can’t believe you met Ottolenghi! I’m so jealous! He’s such a talented and innovative chef. I love all his cookbooks and I just love the respect he has for all the ingredients he uses. I went to one of his restaurants in London and it was divine! So glad you got to meet him in person. My parents were the same when I was a kid: I just ate what they ate, and it worked out because I’m the biggest food lover now!

10.27.2014 at8:05 PM #

katiemorford

Lucky you to taste things first hand! Thanks for the comment.

10.29.2014 at6:05 AM #

Deanna Segrave-Daly (@tspbasil)

Ahhh – so so cool that you met him! I adore Plenty and can’t wait to get my hands on Plenty More. I really agree with a lot of the comments above and so glad you pointed out that what a 2 year old eats might not be the same in a few years. Sigh – that was my toddler, eating everything I cooked up and then the curve balls definitely came. I’m having faith that if we just keep cooking with her, involve her in food shopping that she’ll come back around to being more adventurous again 🙂

10.29.2014 at6:05 AM #

katiemorford

I’m sure she will. It’s amazing what patience and perseverence can yield.

09.14.2015 at1:23 PM #

Vikki

My son ate everything in sight, and I mean bowlfuls of kale, egg scrambles and so on. Then, he turned three, his appetite slowed down, and he gained a sense of independence, which in turn led to demanding alternative foods (still not provided) and a lot more foods being rejected. We still offer only what we eat, but there are many complaints now.

09.14.2015 at1:23 PM #

katiemorford

They can be tricky, those little ones. They do get a mind of their own, and it’s not uncommon that they reject foods they once embraced. Typically though, if you just keep doing what you are doing (serving everyone the same meal) he’ll come around again. Good job, mom.

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