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Paris chef leads charge against “obsolete” kids’ menus

A chef in Paris has hit back against “obsolete kids’ menus” in restaurants across France, in an attempt to encourage chefs to provide better food for children.

Children’s menus often offer nothing more than “sausages, chips and ice cream” (“saucisses-frites-glace”) served straight from the freezer, according to Simone Tondo, chef at Paris restaurant Chien de La Lune, speaking to French newspaper Le Monde.

“There is nothing more obsolete than the ‘children’s menu’,” said the chef, who has just become a father himself. “Children are clients, just like anyone else, and I want them to have a nice time too.”

Instead, Tondo’s restaurant serves salads, gnocchi and pannacotta, designed as much for parents as their children.

Tondo joins a number of chefs and restaurants rethinking their approach to serving children, such as Paris bistro Passarito, which also offers small portions of food specially designed for children, such as simple boiled eggs, or peas with bacon.  

Other chefs go further, saying that children do not need a separate menu at all.

Stéphane Jago, chef at Paris restaurant L’Ami Jean (below), and Eric Guérin, chef patron of La Mare Aux Oiseaux in Saint-Joachim (Loire-Atlantique) and the Jardin Des Plumes in Giverny (Eure) say they want to children to have a “gastronomic experience” too, and simply offer their younger customers smaller versions of the usual menu.

Guérin in particular aims to make his existing menu more palatable for children by simply changing the names of the dishes, to make them sound less intimidating.

Instead of “courgette with squid, with herbs and algae from Croisic” his children’s version reads: “courgette spaghetti with cuttlefish”; while “tomato-raspberry hake with thyme emulsion” simply becomes “tomato-raspberry hake”.

“I do the same dishes for everyone,” he said, also speaking to Le Monde. “I just don’t give too many details, so I don’t scare the children. I also serve their dishes under a metal cloche, to give a ‘wow’ effect.”

As Eric Roux, journalist and founder of the Observatory of Popular Cuisines (Observatoire des cuisines populaires), said: “Children are often treated as if they do not know how to eat or to taste. [But] a restaurant is a celebratory and educative environment.

“Restaurateurs should adapt the portion sizes but not diminish the diversity of their food. Children are often more ready to try things in a restaurant that they would never touch at home.”

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