The Sustainable Restaurant Association talk to James Golding about providing kids with healthier food options

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th May 2017

This month the Sustainable Restaurant Association speak to James Golding, group chef director of THE PIG Hotels about creating healthier menus for kids and their Feed Children Well campaign.

It’s hardly a secret that British children’s health leaves a lot to be desired. One thing’s for sure, they’re certainly not eating enough veg. As many as one in seven 4-11-year-olds go most days without consuming a single portion, let alone five! Eating more veg is vital for children, not only because it’s great for their health now, but it also helps establish good lifelong eating habits.

THE PIG Hotel exterior
The garden at THE PIG

At present, kids get 13% of their weekly calories in restaurants but only 4% of their required veg. Incredible as it may seem, pizza and baked beans account for a fifth of the veg children do actually eat. Plonking a couple of tired broccoli florets on a plate isn’t the answer either.

Chefs are trendsetters and have a substantial influence on how we all eat – particularly their younger customers. With families eating out on average 1.5 times a week and looking for healthier options, this is a huge opportunity. Kids deserve a better, greener deal and there are a number of chefs taking this seriously, recognising that it makes no sense at all going to huge lengths sourcing the most incredible ingredients and then serving children beige, bland and boring food.

Throughout May, the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) is urging the whole hospitality sector to Feed Children Well. Together we can plant a seed, helping the next generation grow up with healthy eating habits ingrained.

James Golding, Group Chef Director at THE PIG, is adamant that his guests, regardless of age, deserve the best food his kitchen teams can produce. Much of it is about a mindset, James adds.

“It’s fair to say that chefs who don’t have kids of their own can find it a pain catering for children,” he says. “I’m a dad and I know how I think children should eat. That doesn’t mean everyone has to eat that way, but I do think it’s incredibly important to provide healthy options, so long as you’re adaptable and make it enjoyable too. I mean you can’t pride yourself on your food philosophy if you don’t apply it to what you’re serving the kids too.”

THE PIG

One of the children

in the kitchen at THE PIG

James is adamant that devising creative, appetising and adventurous menus for children shouldn’t be seen as an onerous addition to chefs’ work, but an intrinsic part of it. The children’s menu is discussed at the regular monthly head chefs’ meetings at THE PIG.

“Each of the head chefs devises their own children’s menu and it has to be fun, healthy and tell a story,” he adds.

>>> Read more from the Sustainable Restaurant Association here

From day one, those have been the driving principles behind the THE PIG’s children offering. Abundant kitchen gardens on site provide James and his chef teams with an incredible and huge natural larder of fresh produce with which to work. And the chefs take full advantage of this bounty by their back door.

“If the weather’s ok we get the children out in the kitchen garden to see the veg growing. That way they can start to make a connection with what goes on their plate. The colourful turnips, purple salad leaves and blue nasturtiums are fantastic for getting the kids excited about veg and then it’s even more exciting if they can go into the restaurant and have it served up on their plate. We grow 12 varieties of tomato and the passion those kids feel when they see them growing is contagious and makes them want to try them. Sometimes we even have the kids picking the salad leaves for their own meal.”

Four years training under Anton Edelman at The Savoy taught James that what the customer wants, the customer gets and he’s pragmatic enough to realise that not every child will want the healthy options every time.

James Golding and Children at The PIG

James Golding and Children

at The PIG

“We want families to have the best possible weekend away where they can relax. We’re not fine-dining but we do want our food to be beautiful and perfect. Some of my very best memories are from meals out with my wife and kids and it’s such a shame when you go somewhere and there’s a tatty A4 menu with ketchup smeared on it with the same old boring kids dishes on it. We’re not snobbish – we do have some kids classics but why should kids have to settle for a second class menu.”

As part of its Feed Children Well campaign the SRA is calling on all restaurants and the whole foodservice sector to serve two portions of veg with every meal.

We’ve produced a toolkit full of really helpful tips and tricks, with the help of the Soil Association and a number of restaurant groups which have already created their own recipe for getting their youngest customers to eat their greens.

Come and share your veg successes and challenges and be inspired by some of the children’s food champions in the sector. Visit www.foodmadegood.org/kidsveg. Or join the conversation on social @FoodMadeGood #KidsVegOut

The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit membership org that helps foodservice make smart, sustainable decisions through the Food Made Good campaign.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th May 2017

The Sustainable Restaurant Association talk to James Golding about providing kids with healthier food options