Small Plates: What five top chefs feed their own kids. By Phil Gutensohn for

Even if they feel their product is pristine, flavor pairings innovative, and technique flawless, there is a critic who humbles the most confident chefs in the city – that tiny little mouth at home. Babble talked to five talented chefs who are also parents. They’ve trained under the likes of Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud and Tom Colicchio, and run their own kitchens – but still these parents face the same dilemma we all do: what to make the kid for dinner? Here are some of their kids’ quirks, likes and dislikes, plus their favorite recipes to try on your own mini tasting panel. – Phil Gutensohn

  • Easy Overnight Whole Wheat Bread

    Easy Overnight Whole Wheat Bread

    Chef: Jeff Butler

    Kids: Owen, 4; and Remy, 1

    Jeff Butler is a chef-instructor at The French Culinary Institute. He trained in the kitchens of Babbo, Daniel, and Lupa, and was chef de cuisine at Dani. His kids are fans of chicken and spinach sausage, pizza, and spanakopita. Owen has been through a picky phase, but getting him involved in making his meals has helped bring him around. According to Jeff, one of Owen’s favorite things to do is to help make pizza.”We usually buy prepared pizza dough, fresh mozzarella, whole peeled plum tomatoes, and chopped spinach. He helps with rolling out the dough and spreading out the ingredients. It’s good for us because he gets involved, and it’s an easy assembly and covers all of the nutritional bases.”

    Get the Recipe »

  • Veal Puree

    Lucy’s Veal Puree

    Chef: Liz Benno

    Kid: Lucy, 1

    Liz Benno worked in Mario Batali’s organization at several different stages in her career, most recently as the chef in the kitchen at his Italian Wine Merchants shop. Her husband, Jonathan, is the chef de cuisine at Per Se. Lucy mostly eats purees and soft-cooked vegetables. Her favorite meal is a puree of ground veal with carrots, onion,spinach, garlic, potato, basil and dried oregano. She also loves broccoli with potato, garlic, and onion, and her favorite snack-on-the-go is baguette stubs that Liz accumulates in their freezer.

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  • Ela's Cacio e Pepe

    Ela’s Cacio e Pepe

    Chef: Akhtar Nawab

    Kid: Ela, 2

    Akhtar Nawab is the chef and co-owner of the Manhattan restaurant Elettaria – Latin for “green cardamom,” and a play on Nawab’s daughter’s name. The market-driven menu at Elettaria draws on Nawab’s Indian heritage, but is also influenced by his time in classic French and seasonal New American restaurants. As you might expect from hisvaried experience, he feeds Ela a wide range of flavors and cuisines. Her favorite foods are dim sum or pasta, but she’s also been known to enjoy blue cheese. Is there anything Akhtar feeds his kid that he never thought would? Seems that even top chefs can appreciate McDonald’s French fries.

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  • Nori Chips

    Peter Berley’s Nori Chips

    Chef: Peter Berley

    Kids: Kayla and Emma (both adults)

    Peter Berley is a culinary educator, a James Beard award winner for his book The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, and the former chef at the vegan Angelica Kitchen. His daughters Kayla and Emma were raised on a mostly Macrobiotic diet focused on whole grains, soy, seaweed and fish. They lovedgrains and pastas, carrots, broccoli and string beans. Not every vegetable was given a free pass – appreciation for eggplant and asparagus came later in life. Still, they snacked on roasted seaweed the way some kids snack on saltines. Like most kids, they loved repetition – but Berley didn’t consider feeding his daughters the same thing over and over again as a rut. He looks at favorite foods in the same way he sees a child’s favorite book: repetition helps development, whether it’s reading the same Curious George book thirty times in a row or eating the same thing every night for a month.

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  • Leftover Frittata

    Ben Pollinger’s Leftover Frittata

    Chef: Ben Pollinger

    Kids: age 5, 3, and 4 months

    Ben Pollinger is the Executive Chef at Oceana and draws on his time in restaurants as diverse as Lespinasse and Tabla to create globally inspired seafood-focused menus. He cooks more simply at home, but approached tasks like making infant purees with a production-cooking mindset. Like many parents, he cooks and freezes purees in ice cube trays – but more quickly and on a larger scale than most. “I could knock out a month’s worth of food, about five starches, eight vegetables and four or five proteins, in a few hours.” His two oldest were early fans of dishes like venison stew and lightly spiced (but very fragrant in the diaper) Indian dal.However, Ben says that they both started to get more selective around the age of two, and that their pickiness had no rhyme or reason. The kids both love hard-boiled eggs, but one will only eat the whites and the other the yolk. Ben is aware that favorite childhood foods aren’t always an indication of future culinary aptitude. His favorite food growing up? “Canned ham: How the hell did I end up doing this for a living?”

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Small Plates

What five top chefs feed their own kids. by Phil Gutensohn

August 20, 2010


Easy Overnight Whole Wheat Bread for Owen and Remy

300 grams (2 1/2 cups) AP Flour

100 grams (just of 3/4 cups) Whole Wheat Flour

2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

25 grams (1 1/2 tbsp) vegetable oil

1 envelope instant yeast

315 grams (1 1/3 cups) water

Parchment paper

Loaf pan

Wire rack


Mix flour, salt and sugar in a bowl.

In Mixer put all of the wet ingredients and the yeast.

Mix the yeast and oil together with the dough hook.

Mix in all of the flour into the wet ingredient mixture. Mix until the flour is completely hydrated and the dough is very sticky.

Put dough into a parchment lined loaf pan mold that has been greased or sprayed with Pam.

Let dough rise overnight in the refrigerator.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove loaf pan from the refrigerator and proof in a warm place until it completely fills the pan (approx 1-2 hours).

Bake in oven for 50-60 minutes until golden brown crust forms.

When finished, remove immediately from pan and parchment paper and cool on wire rack.

Small Plates

What five top chefs feed their own kids. by Phil Gutensohn

August 20, 2010


Lucy’s Veal Puree

pound ground veal

3 (med to small) carrots, roughly chopped

1 (med) Spanish onion, roughly chopped

4 handfuls spinach, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 Idaho potato roughly chopped

2 cups organic chicken stock

teaspoon dried basil

teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Healthy pinch of salt

Pinch of pepper

When prepping the vegetables, chop them roughly. You’re going to puree them down, so don’t worry about making them pretty, but cut them the same size so they cook at the same speed.

In a medium saucepan add the olive oil. When the oil slides easily across the bottom of the pan, add the carrots, onions, and garlic. Season lightly with salt and pepper and sautee for about five minutes.

Add the veal and cook until all traces of red are gone – less than five minutes.

Add chicken stock, potato, and herbs and cook low and slow for an hour.

When vegetables are soft and flavors are balanced, add the spinach and stir until wilted.

Let mixture cool to a manageable temperature and buzz in batches through a food processor.

Freeze in batches in an ice cube tray for easy portioning.

Defrost cubes in refrigerator overnight and warm in saucepan; in a pinch, cubes can be microwaved.

Small Plates

What five top chefs feed their own kids. by Phil Gutensohn

August 20, 2010


Ela’s Cacio e Pepe

1 pound dry pasta (we use linguine)

1 large onion, minced fine

4 cloves garlic, crushed

4 tbs olive oil

2 tbs butter

black pepper

1 cup grated pecorino romano

In a large heavy pan, add the olive oil and the butter. When medium hot and the butter is sizzling a little, add the onions and the garlic. Season with a pinch of salt to help soften the vegetables.

Cook over low heat until the onions are soft. Have Ela stir the onions under daddy’s supervision:

Add the pasta to a pot of boiling salted water and stir to make certain the pasta doesn’t stick together.

When the pasta is cooked, it should be flexible so it doesn’t break but still undercooked in the center. Using tongs, add the pasta directly to the onions and garlic without draining the water. Stir to combine and add about 4 oz of the pasta cooking liquid. Turn the heat to high and cook the pasta, stirring often. Continue to add the cooking liquid until the pasta is just cooked.

Turn off the heat and add the pecorino. Stir to combine. Crack a generous amount of pepper on the pasta and toss.

Serve right away with a piece of pecorino on the side for Ela to grate onto her pasta.

Small Plates

What five top chefs feed their own kids. by Phil Gutensohn

August 20, 2010


Peter Berley’s Nori Chips

Package of organic roasted nori seaweed

Olive oil

Fine sea salt

Heat saut’ pan to medium heat

Pull two sheets of nori per kid and reseal leftovers in airtight container.

Lightly brush shiny side of nori with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

Place oil-side down in the warm pan. Cooking will take just a couple of seconds. You’ll know the sheet is done when the nori is fragrant and has shrunken a little.

Pull from pan with tongs and place on dry towel to cool.

Repeat process for remaining sheets being careful not to overheat pan.

When the nori is cool (which won’t take long), snip the sheets into desired shapes.

Eat within the same day and be casual about the fact that your kid is snacking on seaweed.

Small Plates

What five top chefs feed their own kids. by Phil Gutensohn

August 20, 2010


Ben Pollinger’s Leftover Frittata

Works great on the weekends.

Serves two adults and two kids.

Time- 10 minutes max.

6 eggs

1/4 Cup grated Parmigiano or other hard cheese, or any cheese chopped or grated

6 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped up leftovers from last night’s dinner. Anything goes. Nice if some potato and green vegetable is involved.

1/4 cup chopped herbs if you happen to be lucky enough to have an herb garden

Salt and pepper

Turn on the broiler.

Crack eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork until they are smooth and fall freely from the fork.

Beat in half the cheese and half the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Yes, Mom, it is okay to taste the raw egg. I didn’t die from eating the cake batter.)

Heat a 10-inch nonstick pan over high heat until very hot – when you can drop a drop or two of water into the pan and it skitters about. But don’t leave the nonstick pan on too long until it smokes.

Pour the remaining olive oil in the pan then immediately add the leftovers. Cook one minute, stirring occasionally. Add herbs if using.

Add the egg mixture to the pan, tilting the pan a little to distribute the eggs evenly. Cook on the stovetop for one minute. Run a heatproof spatula around the edge to loosen.

Scatter remaining cheese on top and place pan under broiler. Broil one minute. Check to see if eggs are set. If still a little loose broil 30 seconds more.

Remove from broiler, run the spatula around the rim and loosen it underneath. Slide the frittata onto a plate.


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