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The Daily Dish Top Chef

Top Chef Judges Share Their Best Tips for Feeding Their Kids: "They Smell Your Fear"

Gail Simmons and Graham Elliot have sage advice for their fellow parents. 

By Jenny Berg

As seasoned food-industry pros, Bravo's Top Chef  judges Gail Simmons and Graham Elliott, and alum Stephanie Izard,  know just how grueling the business of eating can be. There are fierce critics, bad tippers, and — perhaps most fearsome of all — wee diners with the pickiest of palates. When we caught up with the three Bravo's Top Chefpersonalities recently in NYC, we had to ask each of them: What advice can you offer fellow parents who just want their kiddos to eat, already? 

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As a busy working dad, Graham had an answer prepped for this one. And, funnily enough, it's all about prep. "My biggest thing is…it’s kind of like when you cook at the holidays," he shared. OK, we're imagining the way we cook on the holidays might not be the same way Graham does, but we're listening.

He continued: "You know on Thanksgiving. You don’t want to make every single dish that day. You try to prep ahead. It’s the same deal for me. If I know that maybe three times a week I can get in the kitchen with the kids, prep up some veggies, cook up some different grains, and then on the day of cook up some fish or chicken or whatever you’re going to have... if you try every single day just to make all your meals on the fly with your kids, it’s never going to happen." Point taken! 


Gail had this piece of advice: "Well, my son doesn’t eat yet. He’s only 4 and a half months old. But my daughter is a good eater and that doesn’t mean that every day is perfect and all she wants is broccoli. Some days, she won’t eat anything. Every day is different. So number one: Be flexible, be adaptable if you want them to be adaptable because the more you put your foot down — they’re smart. They know, they smell your fear, so you’ve got to be adaptable if you want them to be adaptable."

She continued, "I always just think that part of the reason she’s a good eater is that I just keep [good food] around. I keep the good stuff around, she sees us eating it, it’s in the fridge. Even if she says, 'No’ 20 times it’s still going to be on the table. And I find nine times out of 10, if we just leave it there for her and don’t make a big deal of it, when we’re not looking she goes in and demolishes the whole bowl of whatever it is. So, you’ve just got to not put too much pressure and make sure you keep those lines of communication open with your kids — and I guarantee they’ll eventually come around."

Finally, we asked chef mama Stephanie to share her tip for getting her kiddo fed. "I’m always just trying to sort of make sure not to waste a bunch of food, especially with a 2-year-old it’s hard, so I always open the fridge and look [and think] how can I take last night’s leftovers and make them a little bit more [appetizing.] My 2-year-old will call me out ... he’s like, ‘We just had that last night.’ So just kind of combining things and trying to reinvent leftovers and continue to make them delicious," she shared. "I would think that he wouldn’t notice, he’s like, ‘We just had pasta, Mom.’ I’m like, ‘Let’s turn it into, like, a veggie stir fry with some noodles." 

Tune into Top Chef Jr. on Universal Kids, Saturdays at 6/5c, for more food insight from the littlest generation.

—Reporting by Laura Rosenfeld 

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