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Surprising Science

How Iron Chef Jose Garces Got His Kids to Eat Their Veggies

Even an Iron Chef can fall into the trap of letting his kids eat junk food. His secret to selling his kids on nutrition is to present good foods in forms and textures they enjoy.

Ever since he defeated Bobby Flay on Iron Chef in 2008, Jose Garces has been a major star of the American food scene. The Chicago-born, Philadelphia-based chef is author of two Latin American cookbooks as well as owner of 14 restaurants (plus a taco truck!) in cities across the United States. On top of all that, he’s a father of two children, aged 7 and 11.

If you’ve ever wondered how a chef cooks for his family, Garces explains:

“I think I have like a ten-year market study of my kids’ eating habits and how they were formed and hopefully, like, where I can take them to. When they were young  they went from breast milk to formula and then onto solid foods. And that was a key point where we could still control what they were having, what their intake was. And knowing this, as a chef, I would make fresh purees in the restaurants and then cryovac them. So I would make sweet potato puree, malanga puree, spinach and carrot.”

But just like any hard-working parent, Garces soon found himself falling into the habit of relying on easy-yet-unhealthy meals for his kids:

“I think where we made a mistake, as they got older we started introducing them to pastas or French fries and that sort of kind of, you know, the busy parent ends up feeling like ‘oh, I just want to feed them and move on.’ And it’s foods that they like and I just think that that’s a mistake. Now ever since then we’re still trying to make up the ground on how do we get kids away from these unhealthy foods that they naturally gravitate towards.”

So what does Garces do to try to encourage his kids to eat healthier? First, he acknowledges that, for many children, strange textures are a major food offense. Thus, Garces relies on his old friend, Mr. Blender, to erode food stigmas. You can maintain healthy elements and ingredients, says Garces, by serving nutritional foods in soup form. All that said, he still refers to his kids’ nutritional habits as “a battle.”

Perhaps the rest of us can take solace that even Jose Garces has trouble keeping his kids from eating fast food.

Hear more from Jose Garces about nutrition and parenthood in this clip from his Big Think Interview:


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