A chef’s recipe for getting kids out the door well-fed
Published: August 27, 2019
By: Perry Perkins
As the parent that works from home, getting our daughter ready for school and providing breakfasts, lunches and transportation falls to me.
Before Gracie hit school age, I remember thinking that parents who complained incessantly about their trials and tribulations over just getting their kids out the door each morning were, apparently, a bunch of whiners.
Then my daughter started school… and, apparently, I’m a whiner.
By the time she was up, dressed, fed and in the car that first week, it would not be uncharitable to say that my kitchen looked like a dozen drunken monkeys had a food fight.
I’ve been a professional chef most of my life. My entire day revolves around my ability to plan and organize my kitchen, so everything is done the right way, at the right time, every time.
That first week? Not so much.
The alarm would go off at 6am and I’d hop out of bed thinking: “OK, plenty of time! I’ll whip up some scrambled eggs with veggies, maybe a little bacon, toast some bread, pour some orange juice…”
By 7:15 I’d be having a psychotic episode, flinging cold mini-bagels with what would turn out to be jalapeno pepper jelly in my daughter’s general direction, trying to stem the waterfall of orange-juice cascading from the table, and screaming through a haze of bacon smoke: “For the last time… YES, you have to wear shoes! Now hurry up and meet me in the car!”
Note to newbies: Never, ever, agree to “meet them in the car.” Your vehicle’s tags will expire long before they finally wander out the door like tiny disheveled zombies and shamble off into the morning on little bare feet.
Getting kids up, achieving a minimal level of personal hygiene and getting them fed is hard. And getting yourself ready for work at the same time… puh-lease! It’s like the polar explorer Shackleton preparing a mission to Antarctica.
I’m not going to lie to you, men… you will suffer, at times you will hate me, some will surely die… and we may have to eat the dogs before we’re done.
But, there are some simple shortcuts I’ve learned since that first week to make it, if not easy, at least less likely to find yourself Googling orphanages while eating cake frosting
directly from the can.
We have a saying in the restaurant industry — the 6 Ps: “Prior planning prevents (bleep)-poor performance.” (Sorry, most sayings from the kitchen have to be censored.) So, here’s my 4-step plan to help maintain your sanity, and your children’s survival.
Step One: Cook in Bulk Frittatas are my go-to breakfast. Eggs, milk, cheese and pretty much anything else you have hangin’ out in the fridge.
- Every Sunday night (or whichever night works best for you), crack a half-dozen eggs per kid, whisk in a little milk, a little shredded cheese, a bit of salt and pepper, any veggies that won’t lead to armed rebellion, and maybe a little leftover chopped
- Pour it into a buttered baking dish and bake at 350 degrees, until it stops jiggling (30-45 minutes). Let it cool to room temp (important), then freeze half and put the other half in the fridge.
- In the morning, whack a chunk off for each kid, nuke it for a minute, and serve with a slice of toast. Halfway through the week, thaw the other half, and repeat.
To keep it interesting, make simple ingredient modifications each week (ham and swiss, turkey and cheddar, kielbasa and provolone, etc.) Every other morning, I alternate with something even simpler, like peanut-butter toast, crock-pot oatmeal, or homemade egg, ham and cheese “McMuffins.”
Step Two: Pack lunches the night before!
Or better yet, make THEM pack lunches the night before. Who are they, Bill Gates? Why do they rate a personal chef? Speaking of which…
Step three: My Mission in Life
TEACH YOUR KIDS TO COOK!
I retired from restaurants 10 years ago, and now I run a non-profit teaching at-risk and under-served kids basic shopping and simple, healthy cooking. Trust me, they can do it, and unless you want to blow that college tuition on brains powered by cold pizza and ramen, you better teach them early.
Make it fun, keep it simple, and praise everything. You might end up pleasantly surprised with a personal chef of your own.
Step four: Protein FIRST!
First thing in the morning, simple carbs and sugar is like feeding a movie Gremlin after midnight. Bad idea. Terrible idea. People get hurt.
Chef’s Rant: It’s my personal belief that cold cereal is, second only to the atomic bomb, the worst invention in human history. Processed grains are what we feed livestock to fatten them up as quickly as possible. You ever see a cow trying to take the SATs?
Whole grains, protein and fresh fruit jump start the brain, sharpen focus and reduce hyperactivity. In other words, they keep parents sane.
So, remember your 4 Ps, “Prior preparations avoid poor performance,” so you don’t end up like me that first week — a trembling, broken shell of a parent, sitting in a car eating half a cold bagel found in the glove box and thinking, “There’s something wrong with this jelly….”