This week, in honor of Mother’s Day, a series of famous chefs are sharing their exclusive tips for OpenTable diners for making eating out with children a pleasurable experience. Today, we check in with one of Manhattan’s most popular chefs.
One of a small group of influential female chefs, chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli has cooked at some of the world’s most famous Michelin-starred restaurants before becoming executive chef at Manhattan’s chic Butter restaurant. A familiar face to fans of “The Cooking Loft” (of which she is the host) and “Chopped” (on which she is a regular judge), Guarnaschelli grew up eating a variety of delicious cuisines, thanks to her mother, the esteemed cookbook editor Maria Guarnaschelli. Now a parent herself, she is introducing her young daughter to new foods and fine dining.
Guarnaschelli reveals, “There was an entire year of my childhood, according to my mother, during which I ate nothing but hamburgers and French fries. My mother always looked worried if I refused to eat and my father would always say the same thing: ‘Leave her alone. When she’s hungry, she’ll eat!’” Guarnaschelli’s best tip about bringing children to dine out is born from that. “Timing your visit so that your child is hungry (but not starving!) when you arrive at a restaurant makes for an easier dining experience. Though toys and games are helpful, some good old-fashioned eating also helps to pass the time for your children.” Also, remember to relax. Dining out is supposed to be fun – for everyone. “In a social situation such as visiting a restaurant, I think it’s best to minimize the pressure on your children. Go through the menu with them and make them feel a part of the experience with you. Talk about what you are going to eat to create some anticipation and excitement.”
As a chef and parent, she advises other parents to communicate allergies or problem ingredients prior to the visit. “I write the chef an email beforehand if I am concerned about certain ingredients. Giving a restaurant advance warning, even if it’s just a day before, can really help,” she adds.