Our team loves to travel and we have this wonderful possibility to meet various creative people while traveling who are not just simply being great to talk to, but also inspire us in our everyday lives as writers of this blog. This time – please meet Ben Péporté, a chef of nursery in Luxembourg city. Ben is truly in love with the food and tells us about the peculiarities of feeding kids.
Enjoy the reading.
How did you get a job of a nursery chef? Was it your dream occupation?
No, not at all. To explain I need to go back to my childhood. I wasn’t good at all when in school, not to say – I hated it. My parents did not want me to stop studying so I decided to go to a more practical school where I would have to not only use my head but more so the hands. At the beginning I thought pastry would be my thing, but after several weeks I saw that it was boring because the recipes had to be followed exactly and I preferred to stay creative.
That is how I started to like the kitchen and being a chef.
At the age of 19-20 I was in my final year at school – I stopped with the school and started working in a home for the elderly. After several years, because of some arguments and misunderstandings with my boss, I left that place for another care home. I stayed there for 2 years. After the 2 years my manager saw the job offer to become the nursery head chef and told me I should apply for it. So I did and here I am.
What is the schedule of the nursery kitchen like?
We (me and the kitchen team) start at 5:45 in the morning. First we do the menu, which needs to be done by 10:30 AM. Then one of us goes to do the delivery for the different nurseries and the others do preparations like washing vegetables and potatoes for the day after. As soon as we finish we have to clean the whole kitchen. At 2 PM we are done and we can go home.
What are the main requirements for the food which is served for the children?
Since I am working for a nursery, it isn’t enough to make a tasty dish. Here I must take into consideration the nutrition and all kind of allergies that kids have. Mostly food is vegetarian so they get meat only once a week which was not so easy at the beginning especially for a BBQ freak like me. On the other hand – it helps me a lot to learn about the vegetarian kitchen and now I know that vegetables can be tasty as well!!
What are the differences between children and adult food?
Kids need more fat then adults. Otherwise they have problems with their internal organs and especially to intestines. Then there are a lot of restrictions like salt, proteins and so on which aren’t so good for kids because their body can’t digest them so well. By abusing these things internal organs like kidneys can be damaged and kids could become overweight when they are older. So now you can all blame your parents if you are overweight!!!!
How to make children eat? Do you try to make the food look funny and attractive for kids?
It depends on age but let’s say until 3 years old kids are only imitating adults. So they don’t really eat because of the taste. If they are hungry- they eat, if not – they don’t. This is the perfect moment to give them as many different meals as possible so that they would get used to it all and that they would get that taste. Afterwards it is easier to keep them eating spinach and other stuff.
What do kids like and do not like to eat? For example, I still cannot eat semolina porridge as this was something that has been served for breakfast everyday back at my kindergarten.
Kids eat everything. Like I said – they are imitating adults. Of course it should not look like someone’s …. on their plate. But for the rest they eat everything. If there is an adult opening the pot and saying: „Geee, that’s awful and the smell, yuck!“, it will be hard to make them eat even if the food is delicious.
Of course you shouldn’t force them to eat or even worse – make them eat the same dish everyday
How about the legal restrictions? Is it difficult to comply with them?
I take it as a challenge. I have the legal restrictions and the nutrition restrictions and, of course, I want to make a tasty meal so there is a challenge every day and that’s what makes my job interesting.
What do children usually eat in Luxembourg? Do parents pay a lot of attention to what their kids are eating?
I can’t make a general judgement about parents. As you know – Luxembourg is a multicultural country and every mother brings in her own knowledge. We (at the nursery) are working on recommendations from professional nutritionists.
I also think that at the age of 0-4 years (which is the age I take care of) parents still feel more responsible and so the nutrition is still ok. It is when kids starts going to school that they acquire bad eating habits.
Could you tell any fun stories from your job concerning food and children?
Well there is one I can recall. I don’t know if it is funny or sad. At the beginning when I started working there I ordered a lot of different herbs to replace salt in food. And so once an educator called my superior to complain that I put tree leafs in food. So I asked her to send me the leaf. And when I got it – it was a bay leaf!!