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Thursday, May 26,2011

Celebrity chefs prove kids can eat their veggies

By P.J. Nutting

Jax Fish House chef and culinary celebrity Hosea Rosenberg has a longstanding streak of impressing palates, but he has yet to prove himself against some of the toughest natural-born food critics: kids.

Parents everywhere know the difficulty of preparing a meal for their children. On May 30, many of them will witness pure magic when a group of kids can’t choose a favorite between grilled Brussels sprouts and fresh strawberry tarts as two of Boulder’s best chefs whip up their greatest healthy creations for a judging panel of elementary students.

The Pick Chow! Across America event, hosted by the award-winning kids nutrition website ZisBoomBah.com, will encourage kids to make their own choices heard in the kitchen. The site has invited Rosenberg to compete against Eric Skokan, owner of Black Cat Bistro, in an Iron- Chef-style competition in which a three-course meal must be prepared with a mystery ingredient and be supervised by their child-aged sous-chef.

And it won’t be the typical cheese pizza and dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. ZisBoomBah.com is the grand-prize winner of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! “Apps for Healthy Kids” competition, and allows kids to play with their food on the site by combining virtual veggies, fruits, grains and proteins into their own healthy combinations. The “Add It Up!” meter shows the nutritional content in cartoon gauges, and ant mascots Zis, Boom and Bah give your child a nutritional star rating that will have them feeling like Bravo’s Top Chef.

“ZisBoomBah’s goal is to give kids a voice at the dinner table by arming them with the knowledge and power to make healthy choices,” says Mike Carcaise, ZisBoomBah COO and co-founder. “Kids love the event — imagine hundreds of kids glued to their seats watching chefs create tasty meals, learning about food, winning prizes and having fun!” Kids interested in becoming a judge can be signed up at ZisBoomBah.com’s booth during the Boulder Creek Festival; the winners will be drawn by raffle and notified on Sunday. If you think your child is too picky to participate, ZisBoomBah.com founder Karen Laszlo points out that a Florida judge refused to give up his avocado salad at a recent Pick Chow! Event.

“We hear this from parents all the time: ‘Oh, they won’t try that, they won’t like this,’” Laszlo says.

A mother herself, she points out that experimenting with meats and vegetables, and their subsequent rejection, leads to a power struggle that has both sides running for whatever tastes good. But as speedy school lunches and busy schedules continue to push kids toward the fast and fried, she said that kids need the control points that empower them to find healthy foods they prefer.

“Kids don’t cook in the kitchen as much as they should,” Laszlo said. “We spend a lot of time with our kids doing their homework, teaching them how to brush their teeth, making sure their clothes are clean. We do a lot of teaching around that. And yet, one of the most critical things is their diet, and kids need to learn that for themselves, as well.”

ZisBoomBah.com’s interactive dinner plate will collect a child’s recipes and email them to parents with recipe suggestions — and who knows, maybe zucchini might be on the menu tonight. Laszlo says kids can pick it up quickly, and watching chefs prepare colorful, tasty ingredients may inspire them to bring their own veggie wraps to school. Learning about food in a fun and wholesome way can lead them to a lifetime of out-performing the drive-through. If anything, Pick Chow! will stir the desire in kids to see food as fun instead of something to approach with caution.

“Parents are astounded that the kids will taste the food, first of all. Second of all, they can’t believe they actually go up and pull the plates away from the kids,” Laszlo says. “It is hysterical.”

Laszlo is less fascinated by food TV than she is watching adults pick up groceries with their kids.

“We adore just sitting there and talking to kids, seeing how they think and how they’re gonna put good things together — that’s the inspiration, to see how they interact.

“The cook-off is geared towards the kids, but the parents are laughing non-stop because they can’t believe what they’re seeing,” she says. “Within 20 minutes, these chefs are taking raw materials, all these fruits, vegetables, meats and spices and serving plates to the kids. Now, they know what they’re doing, but once the parents get the recipe they can do the same thing.”

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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PJ,

I'm very much looking forward to this event.  It's a blast working with the kids like this.  Just a few comments:  I haven't been at Jax for over a year now.  Adam Watts is the current chef of Jax Fish House.  ALSO, I did this same event last summer, so I have had a little experience with the kids.  Chris Blackwood (West End Tavern) and I competed last year at the same event.  It was really fun and that's why I agreed to participate again this year.  I hope to see you and the rest of Boulder there!  Cheers, Hosea 

 

 
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