Mom of two, Chef Vivian Howard, of the PBS docu-series, A Chef’s Life shares tips for getting kids to eat, creating memories around food, and how to get dinner on the table.
In the fall, I was contacted by a rep for PBS’s A Chef’s Life, the character-driven docu-series that takes viewers inside the life and kitchen of Chef Vivian Howard and her two restaurants located in the low country of eastern North Carolina.
As a mother of twins, Vivian knows how to create good food on the go that is both quick and fun to make with her children. In the coming weeks, I will be sharing some of Vivian’s kid-friendly recipes.
In addition to being able to share some great recipes with you, I was able to send Vivian some questions.
She shares tips for getting kids to eat, creating memories around food, and how to get dinner on the table. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: I read that you have two children: twins – Theo and Flo. How old are they?
Theo and Flo are four and a half.
Q: Are your kids adventurous eaters? If so, how did you encourage that to happen?
My son is an adventurous eater…my daughter, not so much.
I do my best not to make two meals, a kid’s and an adult’s, so I put things on their plate that they may not eat but one day eventually will.
I encourage new tastes by mixing them with items my kids are already used to, so there is something in their meal and something new to try.
Q: How do you create family memories around food?
That’s a really interesting question. I would say the memories aren’t intentionally created.
For example, my husband makes pancakes every Sunday, and he’s been doing it since my kids have been able to eat solid food. This has become our tradition and a memory of every weekend.
And when I was little, my dad would take me to school and get me a sausage biscuit, so I asked him to do it as a grandpa as well. Every Friday morning he brings my kids a sausage biscuit and it’s great because one, they love it, and two, I don’t have to make breakfast!
Those are two things we’ve established so far and I’m hoping to do more. I have this dream that I’ll be at home in the evening and we’ll have these memorable meals – I do work at night so I haven’t exactly met this goal yet.
Q: What is your typical day like?
Well, my day is always really different. The days were more similar when it was just restaurant service. Now, I wake up, make breakfast and a snack for later for the kids, get the kids to school, go to the office where for the past year
I’ve been working on a book that I just delivered the manuscript for, go to the restaurant, check in with everyone, hold a meeting with the kitchen staff on new dishes, observe service and talk to people in the dining room – those are the tasks five days a week!
Q: Which food traditions do you believe would die without documentation? What advice would you give modern Southerners to prevent this from happening?
All of our long standing traditions are in danger because people don’t cook anymore. A lot of traditional practices like canning tomatoes, or more strenuous things like hog killings, are things families did together that created family memories and taught life skills.
I know we are going to lose traditions but what concerns me is losing family time and the passing down of useful skills. I imagine the skills we’ll need for the future are different than the past, but it’s still important to do things together and work together.
Q: I read that you said “cooking as a profession was not something that was respected.” How did you get past that and pursue your passion anyway?
Well I got into cooking because I wanted to be a food writer, and work to get that behind the scenes view. Once I started there, I realized I love being in the kitchen and the comradery of the kitchen, and then I didn’t care if it was respected.
I was good at it and I was having a good time! The ones who really cared were my parents. I started around 15 years ago and about that time the idea of being a cook was shifting. It was the beginning of a curve into seeing a chef as a more likely career, but I never had a problem with it. It was my parents, and it took them a while to get over it!
Q: What tips would you give working moms (and working families) to get dinner on the table?
Dinner doesn’t have to be super elaborate to be homemade. I took that idea from my mom, who would make home cooked meals but didn’t need to spend all day in the kitchen, or put something in the crock pot before work, in order to make it good.
Something like a simple stewed corn, or pot of beans with a pan of cornbread, or my mom’s most famous chicken and rice took ten to thirty minutes in the kitchen.
And during that time you can do something simple that brings the family together whether it be help with homework, get the kids in the bath, or do things that need to be done around home.
Dinner doesn’t always need to be a 12 step recipe.
That is such great advice. What’s your favorite way to make memories with your family around a meal?