The Kids Menu

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Sushi. New York strip steak, medium-rare. Squash-lemon-habanero cupcakes.

Those are just a few of the unconventional requests from the children of some of the city's best-known chefs.

But kids -- even adventurous ones accustomed to eating great cooking -- are still kids. So when we asked three local chefs to share their children's favorite recipes, we got a crunchy fish fillet -- and two innovative takes on mac n' cheese.

Of course, these dishes go well beyond powdered cheese packets, incorporating fresh veggies and indulgences like truffle oil that would excite any food lover.

Cultivating creative culinary palates, of course, takes some work. Bill Glover, chef and owner of Sage in Olde North Columbus, started training his daughter, Sage, early, by pureeing fresh fruits and vegetables rather than relying on strained jarred foods.

"As a chef, I have the ability to expose her to things she might not get otherwise," said Glover, who makes an effort to make dinner for his family on nights he's not cooking at Sage. "There are foods I eat that she won't eat, but I don't have to tip-toe around her narrow likes and dislikes."

The chefs continue to delight in introducing their children to new foods, like when High Street Grill chef Wil Novak watched his son Maxwell, 8, taste crab legs for the first time at a clambake.

And Raen, the 11-year-old daughter of Dragonfly chef Magdiale Wolmark, is becoming a verifiable foodie, willing to sample exotic flavors like pickled ginger, smoked paprika and artichoke hearts. (She's the squash-lemon-habanero cupcake fan, by the way.)

It's not always love at first bite, though. All three chefs said their kids are picky about certain things.

For Sage, it's Brussels sprouts. "They're the classic thing kids don't like, and she doesn't like them," Glover said. "I made them again recently and she said, 'What's this?' I said they were just baby cabbages. She decided she still didn't think she liked it. But she tried it!"

And getting the kids to try new things is half the battle, Novak agreed. He always urges his to at least taste foods they're not familiar with.

"If they taste it and choose not to like it, that's OK," Novak said. "But keep going. Don't stop putting new things in their faces."

Chef Wolmark, the genius behind vegetarian destination Dragonfly, devised this dish for his 5-year-old son. Gabrael loves traditional macaroni and cheese, but can't tolerate dairy products.

Unlike other vegan versions, this recipe doesn't use the cheese substitutes many kids describe as "weird tasting." The sauce incorporates cashews to add some protein and creamy texture, roasted red peppers for color, Dijon mustard for a little tang and a secret ingredient -- truffle oil -- for decadence.

Wolmark says the multipurpose sauce is also great for drizzling over flatbreads and sandwiches. He serves the pasta with a small salad and a cupcake for dessert.

  • 4 cups of your choice of organic pasta
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock, plus 1 cup of vegetable stock for reheating
  • 2 cups of toasted organic cashews
  • 1 cup of organic preserved or freshly roasted red peppers
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt to taste
  • Truffle oil (optional)

Choose your pasta. Chef Wolmark uses orzo or Israeli couscous, which gives the dish a creamy casserole appeal, but traditional elbows or penne are fine. Bring large pot of filtered water to boil and add teaspoon of salt. Add pasta and stir. Cover pot and quickly bring water to a boil again. Continue stirring occasionally until pasta is al dente or perfectly cooked.

Remove from stove, drain and run under cold water to cool. Let water thoroughly drain, transfer to a mixing bowl and lightly coat with olive oil. Remember that the smaller pastas will take substantially less time to cook.

For the sauce, place 2 cups of the vegetable stock, the cashews, the peppers, the mustard, salt and truffle oil in a blender. Blend on high speed until sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.

In medium-sized saucepan over medium flame, heat additional vegetable stock until it begins to simmer. Whisk in sauce, season with a pinch of salt and bring to a simmer. Fold in pasta, simmer an additional 1 to 2 minutes, and serve.

"My kids are picky about vegetables, like any kid," Novak said.

So he and his wife, Julie, brainstorm myriad ways to sneak them onto their plates, like grilled veggies tucked into lasagna and veggie burgers smothered in American cheese.

Novak's 6-year-old daughter, Lainey, isn't the most adventurous eater, "but she has incredible taste buds for a 6-year-old," Novak said. "We've snuck veggies in before, and she caught us."

This dish includes enough cheese to cover the taste of the squash. To add an even healthier punch, you can make it with whole wheat pasta. "There are so many nutrients needed for their little bodies," Novak said.

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup butternut squash puree (see directions below)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup crushed baked potato chips
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


Cut the stem off a butternut squash, cut squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Roast halves on a cookie sheet, flesh side down, at 400 F for about 1 hour. Scoop out flesh and puree in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add a tablespoon of water as needed to get squash to puree to a smooth consistency.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add macaroni and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain in a colander. While noodles are cooking, coat a large saucepan with cooking spray. Over medium heat, add olive oil and then flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture resembles a thick paste but is not browned, about 2-3 minutes.

Add milk and cook, stirring every now and then until the mixture begins to thicken, about 3-4 minutes. Add butternut squash puree, cheddar cheese and cream cheese and season with salt and pepper. Stir sauce until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Stir in cooked macaroni.

Place in bowls and top with crushed potato chips and more grated cheddar cheese if desired. Serve warm.

When Bill Glover asked his daughter Sage about the favorite thing he's ever made for her, she immediately answered: "That white fish with the lemon bread crumbs."

The lightly breaded cod is just similar enough to fried fish sticks to appeal to picky kids, and the panko crumbs add some welcome texture.

Ingredients for the fish

  • 2 pounds black cod
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 egg, white only
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the sauce

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Italian parsley, chopped

Remove skin from fish, then season fillets with a little bit of salt and white pepper. Keep cool in the refrigerator.

Mix together the panko, melted butter, lemon zest, parsley, salt and white pepper in a small mixing bowl. Beat egg with a wire whisk until a firm foam develops. On one side only, dip the fish into the beaten egg whites and press it into the bread crumb mixture.

Place fish bread-crumb-side up on a metal pan. Broil on medium heat in a standard oven until internal temperature reaches 145 F, about 10-12 minutes, or until fish is flakey to the touch and breadcrumbs are golden brown.

In a small stainless-steel pan on medium heat, melt butter until milk solids have turned brown. Remove from heat, add lemon juice and Italian parsley and immediately spoon over fish.