Family Kitchen Advice From Celebrity Chef Tyler Florence

As the mother of an active boy who seems like he’s undergoing a growth spurt every few weeks, I know that one of my great responsibilities is feeding him well. I’ve read a lot on the topic, but as a writer I’ve also been privileged to interview some of the best resources on the topic. When it comes to feeding the family delicious, wholesome food, there’s no better expert than Tyler Florence, who’s a culinary entrepreneur and host of several Food Network shows. Florence–a father of three–is the author of eight books, including Start Fresh, which features recipes inspired by Sprout, a line of organic baby food he co-founded. I interviewed Florence last year when working on an article for Pregnancy & Newborn and I thought I’d share some of his thoughts with you today.

Florence is a great chef, plus he’s committed to feeding his family food that will nourish their bodies as well as tantalize their taste buds. Even when he was in the thick of the early days of parenthood, he and his wife, Tolan, strove to make healthy choices. But they also kept things simple.

“We didn’t really have a routine other than always trying to do the absolutely best thing for them as much as we could,” Florence says.

For Florence, doing the best thing means keeping only good, wholesome foods in the kitchen. That way, there’s no way they’ll fall back on something that’s processed or full of chemicals. In the Florence household, that has paid off: There’s not a vegetable that his kids won’t eat, he says, if it’s cut into pieces and roasted with some olive oil until it’s slightly caramelized—a process that’s simple and easy for even the busiest of parents, and which also brings out the delicious flavors of the vegetable. I’ve tried this technique on everything from broccoli to rutabagas and am amazed at how it makes the most humble vegetable shine.

When interviewing Florence, I appreciated his encouragement that no matter how overwhelmed one might be feeling as a new parent, it does get better. While there’s no magic way to make everything easier in the moment, what parents can do is to make a commitment to do the best for their children in how they feed them and prioritize it, even if it means that they might have to forgo something else that takes their time, such as a shower.

When it comes to feeding children, Florence says parents can’t compromise and that doing the absolute best thing for them now means the parents won’t have to apologize later. Find ways to make it work for you, he tells parents, even if it requires finding support from a relative or nanny. Buy only good, wholesome food. Then, “just grab a book … and then just make a decision you’re going to do it.”

“Our kitchen is a very wholesome place,” Florence says. “You could check off one thing from the angst of being a parent by just deciding you’re going to cook from a very focused nutritional point of view.”

It’s been a while since my interview with Florence, and it’s interesting to revisit our chat and compare where I was at in my parenting experience then versus now. Back then, my son still demanded most of my time whenever he was awake, plus I was still cooking separate foods for him. These days he can play independently a little more and he generally eats whatever we eat. In addition, he’s starting to get involved in the kitchen with me. Florence was right–it does get easier. I’ve tried to feed my son well from the beginning (even before interviewing Florence), focusing on organic ingredients and limiting sugar and processed foods. I’ve found that this approach has informed the eating habits of the entire family, which in turn has made it easy to integrate my son’s diet into the rest of the family’s mealtime repertoire now that he’s a little older. Thank you, Tyler, for taking the time to talk with me and share your perspectives. You are an inspiration.

Image is from an earlier Outside Oslo post in which I announced my article for Pregnancy & Newborn. The editors didn’t use Florence’s interview, unfortunately, but the chef had a great perspective that I wanted to share with you here.

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