Can Tom Kerridge’s tasting menu encourage kids to try new foods?
As a family, we love food. My husband and I have always enjoyed going out for nice dinners and our children have always been ‘good eaters’. They enjoy cooking and baking and my youngest struggles to think of anything but food, to be honest.
That said, they can still be fussy about it. Meat, bones, salad, cooked spinach, mushrooms, anything they haven’t actually heard of or don’t like the look of – it can all be a challenge.
But if we ‘fancied’ our food up for our kids – taking smallish steps at a time – would it encourage them to try different things?
It’s a concept chef Tom Kerridge believes is worth a try. And he should know – he has a 4-year-old son called Acey, of his own. “Everything they like can be a bit beige, can’t it?” Kerridge laments in his friendly west country twang. “We’ve been trying to encourage kids to have a go with different flavours, something a bit more colourful, and to get them to broaden their horizons.”
He recently teamed up with Uber Eats, offering kids a five course tasting menu completely free of charge to anyone living in London or Manchester. All you had to pay for was delivery. It sold out in both locations, of course, but did it actually work?
My daughters, Rosie, 11, and Poppy, 8, were up for the challenge. Here’s what they thought of his menu…
Tom Kerridge’s Tiny Tasting Menu
Course 1: Puffed pork rind and gherkin ketchup
The crunch of these fancy pork scratchings is a bit like crisps, Kerridge believes, but I had to rename this course ‘pork puffs’ to get Rosie and Poppy to eat it. Talk of skin or rind leaves most of us feeling a bit queasy in this house…
The result: Total success. Rosie preferred the ‘airier’ ones, that were a bit less crunchy, but they both munched through the lot (and they don’t like shop-bought pork scratchings). They loved the gherkin ketchup too, but they do actually like gherkins.
Course 2: Berkswell blue and truffle ‘cheese toastie’
For this course, Kerridge was keen to stretch the kids slightly by using a blue cheese, though he notes Berkswell is not very strong: “It’s got a more complex flavour than Cheddar, but it’s still cheesy, and a bit of truffle works really nicely.”
The result: Success again. “I can taste cheese and butter on the outside – that makes it crispy and golden,” says Rosie. “I can’t taste what cheese it is, but it’s really good.” It was at this point Poppy asked if it was blue cheese, when she’s never actually eaten blue cheese before, and they both agreed that kids who didn’t like blue cheese would definitely still like this. They’d never eaten truffle before either, but the whole course disappeared within about two minutes.
Course 3: Cured salmon, wasabi, Avruga caviar and spinach tart
“I mean, this is basically a quiche,” says Kerridge of his most challenging course yet. “There’s a little bit of horseradish/wasabi flavour going through it and the caviar gives it just a little touch of that fish flavour, which drives it forward more.”
The result: The sight of the caviar caused quite severe face scrunching, but both girls soon tucked in, unable to detect any heat from the wasabi. “I can’t taste the spinach because there’s so much salmon,” declares Rosie happily, who will eat it raw (if she has to) but always complains about it when it’s cooked. And they were both really worried about the ‘beady things’ but actually really liked the caviar.
Course 4: Pulled BBQ beef brisket with smoked mashed potato, salted anchovies and caper butter, served with wilted sprout tops
The main course contains flavours everyone knows, notes Kerridge. “Mashed potatoes,” he says, “you know kids love it, we all love it – it’s amazing, however, we’ve made it smoky. And the brisket has that barbecue flavour – it’s quite strong, sweet and rich, and it’s that pulled beef that’s slow cooked – delicious.”
The result: “Uhhmmmm,” moans Rosie as she lands a big forkful of beef brisket in her mouth and her eyes sink to the back of her head. She is sold on this course. Poppy doesn’t actually like the sweet barbecue flavour and they’re both super confused by the smoky mash, only able to relate it to a smoked cheese they once ate. They think they’ve eaten the veg before, but have no idea what it is. But rather wonderfully, every last sprout top is entirely gobbled up.
Course 5: Mandarin and vanilla trifle
“For dessert, we’ve got a mandarin and vanilla trifle, not too dissimilar to normal, but we’re using mandarins for an extra layer of flavour,” says Kerridge.
The result: It disappeared in about 90 seconds, but the jelly was quite bitter, apparently.
Overall, I think it’s an utterly brilliant idea. Aside from feeding kids for just a delivery charge, which is a great, great thing in these trying times, I’ve been banging on for years about someone introducing a tasting menu for kids. My two absolutely loved the theatre of the whole thing (so much so, Poppy stood up and told her whole class all about it the following day), and they definitely ate things they would never normally go near.
Overall scores from the kiddiewinks were 3/5 and 4/5, which does seem on the low side considering how much they seemed to enjoy their fancy Tuesday night tea. But they’ve watched so much Bake Off, MasterChef and Great British Menu, they think they’re actual judges. That said, almost all the food vanished in record time.