If you can’t get your kids to eat their veggies, just send them to Chris Van Hooydonk – he’ll have them eating their parsnips and squash in no time.
The Oliver chef from Artisan Culinary Concepts has taken the salad bar program at Tuc-el-Nuit school by storm, winning the hearts and tummies of many children.
It’s not uncommon for pupils to come up and hug his leg or give him a high-five after filling up on vegetables. In fact, they totally trust his judgment.
“My daughter told me that she trusts anything that Chris puts in front of her,” said envious parent Benita Baerg.
Her six year old is as picky as any other kid when it comes to food.
“I was pretty sure there was no way she’d try his bison burger turnovers, but she went back for seconds.”
Now Baerg’s daughter is asking her to make mac and cheese the way Hooydonk makes it, complete with cauliflower, squash and parsnips.
Hooydonk isn’t re-inventing the wheel; he’s merely experimenting with how to present healthy food to children.
“It’s all about presentation,” he said, noting you have to keep it simple.
Hooydonk uses different textures and colours to entice kids to eat what’s good for them.
“I’m introducing new foods that they’ve never tried before . . . and seeing what the kids like.”
The chef believes the students don’t need to know that there’s parsnips in the macaroni and cheese or bell peppers in the spaghetti sauce.
Hooydonk also believes that parents should not go out of their way to make a different meal if their child doesn’t like the one already prepared.
He stated the importance of introducing a variety of foods for children to choose from.
For example, try olives.
“I never thought these kids would eat so many olives. They just inhale them.”
Hooydonk also brings in heirloom carrots, which come in different colours that the kids can’t get enough of.
The chef takes great pride in knowing that he’s making a big difference in children’s lives at school and at home.
He’s hoping that the kids will get into the habit of choosing these healthy foods over pizza or hot dogs. And in 10 year’s time, he’s hoping to see these same children bringing healthy foods to their own communities.
Student Lexi Nice said she finds it fun to eat a variety of foods that Hooydonk offers.
“My favourite is the white carrots. It’s like a secret surprise.”
Fellow student Madison Boen-Shekula like’s the different shaped foods on the menu. Her favourite is the purple potato salad.
Kyton MacFadden said he likes the different flavours and variety. His favourite is the pulled pork and potato salad.
“I eat more veggies here than I do at home.”
MacFadden said he wants to know how the chef manages to get all those different colours on the menu.
Classmate Justice Baptiste said it’s important to have this lunch program for the students because some parents simply can’t afford to buy expensive lunches for their kids.
Baptiste said he’s never tried purple potato salad before.
Being an athlete, he needs all the nutrition he can get, Baptiste admitted.
The boy noted that he loves Brussels sprouts, but can’t stand stuffing.
Fellow student Stephanie Matevia said she likes the fact they can choose what they want to eat as opposed to someone “plopping” food on their plate.
Matevia said she feels a lot better after eating lunch.
“I’m a horseback rider, so I have to stay in shape.”