Specialty Food Magazine

Spring 2018

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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A growing wave of foodservice establishments have taken heed, with restaurants from fast-casual chains to boutique hotels to award-winning dining venues, putting extra thought and effort into what they offer younger diners. Some skew healthy, with plant- based proteins and ancient grains, while others look to approximate the adult experience on a smaller scale, adapting dishes so they are a better fit for children. These chefs and restaurateurs focus on the provenance of the ingredients, and generally avoid nitrates, unnatu- ral fillers, and processed foods. Restaurants like Urbana, in Washington, D.C., make dinner interactive. Children can build their own pizza by adding toppings like Tuscan kale from the rooftop garden and grilled chicken that is sourced from local Amish farmers. "If you are going to offer a kids' menu it should ref lect the same standards that you have already put in place for the rest of the menu," says Ethan McKee, Urbana's executive chef. "We look to incorporate the best seasonal and sustainable ingredients into our menus, so it makes sense that the kids' menu is an extension of that standard." Since Urbana is located in the Kimpton Hotel Palomar, the restaurant caters to hungry hotel guests as well as local families. In addition to its make-your-own-pizza option, the kids' menu includes elevated dishes like Norwegian salmon with sauteed spinach and house-made tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce. "It's important to keep the options familiar," McKee says. On the West Coast, artisan juice bar, Jujubeet, offers children the same types of nutritious dishes that adults gravitate to, but with simpler f lavors. Kids can choose from a beet-based, cold-pressed juice, house-fermented coconut yogurt, a rice and bean bowl with avocado, and even energy balls filled with almonds, honey, and raw cacao. Knowing that children tend to reach for sweet and avoid bitter—a reason many don't like a host of vegetables— Elena Razmpoosh, a mother of two and registered dietitian nutritionist who works with Jujubeet, has helped curate a menu of items that balance carbohydrates, protein, saturated fats, fiber, and f lavor. For example, the menu includes a carrot hummus, which has a sweeter quality than plain chickpea hummus, and a bean bowl that comes with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast to give it a cheesy f lavor. Expand Palates Restaurants looking to improve the quality of the kids' menu need look no further than their ingredients, notes Jonas Falk, CEO and chairman of OrganicLife, a foodservice management company spe- cializing in high-end, restaurant-style food for kids in preschool through high school. Falk, a former chef, has changed the way that millions of kids eat in schools. "We knew our impact would be much greater if we replaced low-grade 'mystery meat' with high-grade, local, grass-fed beef, all-natural poultry, and local, organic products," he says. "Proper portions, wholesome ingredients, and cooked-from-scratch are what matters most in overall nutrition." He advocates training chefs and notes that learning to properly make a pizza results in a more nutri- tious meal for children than heating up a frozen, processed version. Foodservice establishments should also steer clear of adopting the mistaken belief that children are unadventurous eaters. While that can certainly be true for some children, the millennial parent is determined to make sure they don't raise a picky eater. According to a study on menu innovation by the research firm Mintel, 76 percent of parents would prefer restaurants to serve child-appropriate por- tions from the adult menu rather than a separate kids' menu, and 49 percent of mothers, who self-identify as a "foodie," like to expose their children to new menu items when they dine out. For them, restaurants are capable of more than simply putting food in their children's bellies; they can provide an educational opportunity to expand their child's knowledge of ingredients and hopefully, expand their palate. "As parents, our job is to expose [our children] to a variety of foods so they can learn to like them," explains Razmpoosh. That becomes challenging as a parent when restaurants fail to offer fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense plant foods. Alyssa Moran, a registered dietitian and doctoral candidate in nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health authored a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine looking at the calories, sodium, and saturated fat in children's menu items at large U.S. chain restaurants. The study found that from 2012 to 2015 not much changed in the nutritional quality, but many restaurants swapped in water, juice, or milk for traditional soda. "Early childhood is such a critical period for nutrition, and as a culture, we need to stop perpetuating the idea that kids will only eat dishes made of white bread, fried foods, and cheese," Moran says. "The more kids are exposed to healthful foods, the more likely they are to accept them. Because kids consume so much food out of the home, restaurants can play an important role." With quality ingredients at the core, more formal dining establishments are giving younger diners a memorable restaurant "For [many parents], restaurants are capable of more than simply putting food in their children's bellies; they can provide an educational opportunity to expand their child's knowledge of ingredients and hopefully, expand their palate." (continued on p. 86) SPRING 2018 47

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