You’ve seen him on Food Network, he’s authored numerous books, including his newest, Guy Fieri Food, but now Guy Fieri is tackling something more near and dear to his heart than anything he’s done before: Cooking With Kids. He’s created the Guy Fieri Cooking With Kids Foundation, where he’s produced videos, mentored kids of all ages and educated families on the importance of getting kids into the kitchen from the very beginning.
We caught up with Guy earlier this week and listened intently as he talked about why this movement struck his heart, what needs to be done next and how families at home can improve life in the kitchen. He gave us a glimpse into his life at home with his two sons, Hunter and Ryder, and talked about their food habits. He even answered several Food Network Facebook fans questions.
FN Dish: Cooking With Kids — why is it a passion for you?
GF: First of all, I’m a dad, I have two sons. There’s something about people that have kids that make that connection — no matter whose kids they are, you want the best for them. I love talking to them — they call it like they see it.
When you look at kids being deprived, not deprived of food per se, but deprived of something they would like or they need, it bothers me. Knowing how to cook and knowing where food comes from is one of those things. It lays a foundation down in their lives that they will need in order to bridge other pieces together.
FN Dish: You started your Cooking With Kids Foundation about a year and a half ago. Tell me more about it.
GF: So we’ve done a couple different things. First, we had about 20 kids come into one of my restaurants and had them cook. However, back in January, we brought 100 junior-high students together, mentored them, and while they were cooking we shot it for Food Network webisodes. In my career, I love Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, I love Guy’s Big Bite — I love all the shows that I’ve shot, but this has been the high point of my career. It brought tears to my eyes.
We approached the California State Legislature with a bill that would declare every second Saturday in May “Cook With Kids Day.” It passed and I was just elated. It meant that everyone — chefs, restaurateurs, schools, businesses — would have to focus on kids for one day. We took it one step further with our legislative friends and now Cooking With Kids Day takes place every week on Sundays.
FN Dish: You have two sons and even though you’re a chef, there have to be foods they are hesitant to try. What do you do in those circumstances?
GF: Hunter will try and eat anything. Ryder is the antithesis of that. However, what does Ryder like? Artichokes.
FN Dish: For parents, what tips can you share with them regarding their child’s eating habits?
GF: Easy, here are several tips:
1. Don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t play into the game of ‘If you eat this, I’ll give you a cookie.’
2. Don’t make a separate meal. As a family, decide together what will be on the menu for the week. Though, if I’m cooking spicy Thai food, I’m not going to make them eat it, I’ll make a variation of that.
3. Feed them when they’re hungry. Forecast what’s coming up: If they had lunch at noon and a snack at 2:30 p.m., they’re not going to want a full dinner at 6:00 p.m. If you eat dinner and they say they ‘aren’t hungry,’ wrap it up for later and instead of offering a snack, give them the meal they were suppose to eat earlier.
4. Get them in the kitchen cooking with you. If you have somebody create something, they’re far more likely to feel ownership of it — they’ll want to try it. In fact, let them try it before anyone else. Let them be on the inside track.
FN Dish: How can you get them interested in cooking/ helping out in the kitchen?
GF: First of all, don’t give them 20 potatoes and ask to them peel them and then shuck the corn — they want to be a part of the sensational moments, like stirring, cutting, etc. Cooking with kids doesn’t mean you have to make snow bunnies: Ask them ‘What do you want for dinner?’ If they say ‘chicken fingers,’ then make chicken fingers together. Have him or her get the breadcrumbs, taste elements of the dish along the way. I don’t think you should be making a turducken with them, but there are plenty of other meals you can try.