Parenting

Michael Smith interview

This chef and dad wants your family to eat well at every meal, and hopes his new cookbook, Fast Flavours, will help make that happen.

Smith with his son, Gabe, his partner, Chastity, and her daughter, Ariella.

How can parents get their kids to try new foods?
Be very, very careful about setting a realistic set of expectations. There’s no advice that’s going to work for every kid. Having said that, the best way to get your kids involved is to engage them. I know a lot of parents take kids shopping because it’s kind of a necessary evil, but while they’re at the supermarket, take them into the produce section and get them to pick out something they’ve never seen before. If your kids help find it and help cook it, they’ll be more than likely willing to try it. And that is the only rule we have, “If you don’t like it that’s fair, but you at least have to try it.”

Do you have any strategies for helping a parent with a picky eater?
Perseverance and patience. That’s all we get as parents.

Do your kids cook?
Absolutely. It’s perhaps the best strategy of all: Get them in the kitchen. Just play. There’s no right or wrong. “Oh, so you dropped the egg, that’s fine. Big deal.” I know rock-solid that it works.

What are some good starter recipes for kids to try out with their parents?
Make something you know they’re going to eat, like pasta. Set them up for success. There’s lots of little steps in there. We’re so used to rushing through all of the processes, so we tend to overlook the obvious. Boiling water is actually quite fascinating to a five-year-old.

Why did you decide on the theme of “quick cooking” for your new cookbook?
As a chef, I’m constantly learning new time-saving tips, so I wanted to explore what would happen if you took that mindset and applied it to home cooking without compromising flavour. And as it turns out, many of the flavours that we enjoy benefit from fast cooking.

Can you give some examples?
Well, tomato sauce. If you sit there and simmer it for hours, you’re just turning the tomato flavour to mud. Or anything green, for instance. It turns bright green very quickly, regardless of how you cook it, and it becomes dark, muddled green just as quickly and starts to lose its nutritional value.

Which foods do you recommend kids eat?
In nature, colour is often associated with micronutrients and ripeness is often associated with peak nutritional profile, so good, ripe, colourful fruits and vegetables.

How can time-strapped parents feed their children nutritious food?
Find some time on the weekend to cook ahead a bit. Sweet potatoes are wildly nutritionally dense and sometimes they take a bit longer than you might have time for during the week, so fire up the oven on the weekend and bake off a couple of sweet potatoes and then just chill them down. And now you’re minutes away from a sweet potato purée.  Spend time to save time.

What is your favourite quick family meal to make?
Some type of pasta, because I can come up with the sauce in the time it takes me to bring the water to boil and cook the pasta.

This interview was originally published in our October 2012 issue with the headline “Michael Smith,” p. 114.

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