No finicky little eaters here
(tho’ Brian hates pumpkin!)
Brian Mark Hansen and the team, celebrating the Bocuse d'or 2023 title.
All photos: Creative Republic \ Jesper Bøjlund
Who wouldn’t leap at good ideas from a true champ? Read on for the Bocuse d’Or winner’s tips for the happiest happy meals with kids in the kitchen.
Brian hates pumpkin. He’s making no bones about that. Despite the fact that pumpkin was a key ingredient in the ‘Feed the Kids’ theme in this year’s Bocuse d’Or. The rest is history. Because, as you may be aware, Denmark’s Brian Mark Hansen became the world champion in January 2023. Dreaming up a dish with that pumpkin was not something he fretted over.
“When the theme was announced, I went ‘COOL! That’s just our thing!’ because that test is so tricky. The trickier the test, the better.”
So if you’re fretting daily over how to ‘feed the kids’ with picky little eaters at home, here’s where you get to prick up your ears. Because it’s not just about what’s dished up...
Devote one hour (and forget the witching hour)
Brian’s kids: Dicte age 10 and Buster age 14 have helped out in the kitchen ever since they were tiny tots. Because the thrill of cooking is downright infectious.
“The thing is, kids are far more into meals if they helped make them. And because of that, it doesn’t matter what you’re cooking. As long as they get that meals aren’t just something to get over and done with. It’s not exactly thrilling to yank a packet of frozens out and shout ‘dinner’s ready’ after 20 minutes. You need to be able to make time and allow yourself an hour to make dinner, because it needn’t take longer if you’ve planned it right.”
And, by the way (bummer, kids): “if they’re involved in the fun cooking, they obviously get to help clean up afterwards!”
What the kids say goes (-ish)
“It’s all about tapping into what grabs their interest.”
That said, even a champ has to stay on the ball!
“One week, they’re telling you butter chicken is a hit; next week they’re saying it’s sh*t. Once in a while, Dicte goes all vegetarian, but other times she’s steak-crazy. You have to be open to children’s whims, because it’s not nearly as much fun if you don’t have a say. So hit them at their level, up the ante and put a lid on it as you go. Because mostly, who cares what’s for dinner, as long as it appeals to them and has some nutritional value.”
Give ‘em space (and practise saying “oh, never mind”)
“Buster’s go-to is butter chicken. He marinates the meat the night before and takes charge, supervising the show. And the thing is, kids enjoy being in charge if set a task. Obviously, you won’t want to give them the sharpest knife from day 1, but it’s important to be willing to give them a chance. Sometimes things go wrong – the rice is overdone, the spuds are undercooked. Or dishes aren’t ready to serve at the same time. But never mind, the point is you’re all in it together. Plus, who cares if the tomatoes are sliced one way or the other?”
About Brian Mark Hansen
Born 1982. Winner of the 2023 Bocuse d’Or. Head chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant Søllerød Kro in Northern Zealand, Denmark.
Brian won the Bocuse d’Or with his kids’ menu based on Hans Christian Andersen and the ‘Danishness’ of real fairytales. And for his take on a happy meal with taste and great looks.
“I didn’t create kids’ meals, I created flavours for adults, but staged them in a visual universe that was more playful and imaginative and fun to look at. Plus, the flavours were on point.”
Brian’s daughter, Dicte, age 10, was a wannabe chef. Until the Bocuse, when she saw how tough that was.
Up the flavour
Meals don’t stand much chance of shooting down the pie hole of those budding foodies if they are lacking X-factor and don’t buzz on the flavour-savour scale.
“Don’t be afraid of upping the flavour. Kids like flavours, and they’re not born scared of chilli or curry, and they love some dining drama and great looking meals. What they are terrified of is bland food. And I’m with them on that.”
All switched off
Switch off. Just switch it off. The whole lot of it. The mobile, email, gadgets, gizmos, TV.
“Our kitchen is a quality-time space, where we hang out together, devote our attention to the mealtime, and turn the day around. Which is way more enjoyable, as opposed to the kids stuck in their bedrooms, and me answering email. Enjoy those good times in the kitchen instead of rushing in to watch the same old boring current affairs prog, where they just repeat themselves every day. It doesn’t matter if you have dinner at 6pm or 6:30pm.”
Family comfort food no. 1
The spag-bol trap… Hmmm. Any family with kids that didn’t fall into the bolo trap? Well, then listen up to the words of a true champ:
“Pasta Bolognese should be a delight! After all, you can make it in so many ways and flavour it any which way. As in, you don’t have to go for the cheapest pasta.”
Give meals the respect they deserve. And teach your kids where the ingredients come from.
“Carrots don’t come from supermarket freezer compartments”. And fish is not something you get in a blue plastic tray smelling of whiffy dishcloth or something left out in the sun too long!”
“Nobody wants to eat something cooked to a mush. So, let meals come alive with fresh ingredients in your kitchen!”
And with this final send-off from the master/champ class, you’re ready to go cook. Go feed the kids.
Brian Mark Hansen and coach Christian Ebbe