WASHINGTON – Four renowned chefs took on what might have been their toughest challenge ever,and it had nothing to do with cooking a fancy meal. It was to make a delicious,healthy dinner for five for $10 and to please tough customers: kids.
Six year-old judges Jeshua Ferro and Austin Jackson tasted six dishes and voted for their favorites by selecting a happy face. The losers rated sad faces.
Jeshua said everything was good – the salad,the yogurt dessert and the broccoli-beef. That’s the only dish Austin liked. He tasted the shaved carrot and apple salad with a frown and spat out the Jell-O and buttermilk panna cotta.
“I’ll stand behind the instant Jell-O buttermilk panna cotta any day,” he said,as he laughed.
Hosted by the Partnership for a Healthier America,the summit focused on ending childhood obesity.
The chefs worked in teams of two to prepare two three-course dinners. They quickly realized that culinary experience was something children don’t always care about.
Tsai opted for a strategic approach. He described a yogurt parfait with cinnamon-covered cashews as “vanilla ice cream with rock sugar.” Both kids seemed to like it.
Jeshua’s parents Laura Castillo,30,and Tony Ferro,50,of Silver Spring,Md.,and Austin’s mother,Kim Mrkva,29,of Toledo,Ohio,judged the food favorably.
The challenge imitated what American families deal with every day – no time,tight budgets and picky eaters. The children’s mothers,and thousands like them,struggle to get their children to eat healthy food and like it.
“I like corn,pizza and chips,” Austin said. The only vegetable he approves of is broccoli,but only if topped with “yummy” melted cheese.
“It is a challenge,especially with lack of money,” Mrkva said.
Mrkva is a stay-at-home mother of two,Austin and Kaleigh,4. Her husband is a stone and brick mason.
The event focused on busy parents like them who need to become educated about the variety of healthy food options and easy recipes.
Four other chefs prepared a healthy dinner for everyone at the conference that cost $4.50 per person. The meal included risotto with vegetables,turkey and pumpkin pie.
Sam Kass,White House chef and host of the challenge,said it is crucial to get this information out to parents. He promoted initiatives such as My Plate and Mi Plato,from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Kids make 70 percent of all restaurant decisions,” Tsai said. “Why do you think there are all these free gifts at McDonalds?”
The chefs agreed that getting children involved in preparing healthy meals encourages them to try new foods and make better choices that could help them avoid obesity.
“Kids will eat it,they just need to be exposed to it,” Colicchio said.
Health-care costs related to obesity are about $147 billion,Kass said. According to the summit website,those costs are projected to reach $6 trillion by 2050.
First lady Michelle Obama attended the summit Wednesday and said many of the long-term issues of childhood obesity go unnoticed.
She said overweight children miss two weeks of school per year on average and that a fourth of young people are too overweight to serve in the military.
“We have to think seriously about the future of our kids,” Castillo said. She said she doesn’t want her daughter to struggle with health issues and that’s why she is patiently trying to build healthy habits.
Reach reporter Danya P. Hernandez at [email protected] or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits SHFWire.