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How restaurants plan child-friendly menus

While creating food experiences for little diners, chefs incorporate colours, activities and fun galore

Chefs create menus to engage children with food options. ( Pavel Subbotin, Unsplash)
Chefs create menus to engage children with food options. ( Pavel Subbotin, Unsplash)

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"Children today are well travelled and way smarter than we were as kids," says Radhika Bhatt, mother of eight-year-old Kabir. “He loves to eat chicken lollypop and pizzas loaded with mushrooms and is very clear about his choices. As I don't cook these at home, he prefers ordering them while dining out. I cannot influence what he eats, unlike us when were growing up and dependent on our parent’s choices,” says Bhatt.

Likewise, my son who is all of 2 screams fries when we go to the mall. He will only eat naan, not roti.

While eating out, seven-year-old Sharvil Pethe makes it very clear: “Only margarita pizza, no veggies please” before passing on the fresh juice to his mother and ordering his favourite Ferrero Rocher shake.

As a result, a number of hotels and restaurants in India are offering special kids' brunches, menus and cooking experiences for a complete family dining experience.

Also read | When children's food choices are linked to their mood

Cooking for and with kids
Last week, as part of Children's Day brunch, several hotels curated food experiences that went beyond the ordinary. At JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, the Sunday brunch was themed around the television channel for children, Nickelodeon, where some parts of the menu were inspired by Happy and Pinaki. “On the menu was nankathai canapes, Zaffrani nankathai and Zaituni nankathai: a cookie reminiscent of childhood. The idea was to innovatively curate childhood specials,” says Dane Fernandes, Executive Chef of the hotel. 

Similarly, Feast at Sheraton Grand Pune hosted a special super hero themed brunch priced at 1000++ for its junior guests aged 5-11. They had chicken nuggets, pop-corns, McDonald styled fries coupled with a whole room dedicated to desserts. Pull me up cakes, tarts, chocolate eclairs, doughnuts, cheese cake lollipops and ice cream sundaes set the kids up for a delightful Sunday.

To go a step further, Mahesh Kini, executive chef at the JW Marriott Hotel Bengaluru, creates engaging activities for kids around food. “We have DIY healthy salads counter where we encourage kids to make their own salad. For instance, the Mediterranean salad with falafel or the mix veg amaranth puff salad where all the ingredients are laid out and kids are encouraged to put together their own plate of greens. A variety of veggies like cucumber, bell pepper, olives, orange, beetroot and avocado make it vibrant and fun. Kids love the entire kitchen experience. Making something as simple as a salad gives them immense confidence and they are proud to have their parents taste it,” says Kini. While the Sunday brunch for adults costs INR 3250++, kids eat at half the cost.

In association with Natasha Events, The Westin Pune Koregaon Park, also organises fun activities for kids as a part of their Sunday brunch. Rishi Mehra, Director Food and Beverage at the hotel, says,“ While parents enjoy a laidback brunch, kids are best left to experts who engage them in activities ranging from painting to cupcake decoration to pizza or cookie making. This keeps the kids off phones and tablets.”

Mamta Masri, founder Natasha Events, who teamed up with the hotel in December 2012, says, “We have chocolate fountains for kids and make your own mocktail counters.” For Halloween, she created a delightful spread of hollow pumpkins, cookies shaped as surprised ghost, spooky cat and wily witches. For Christmas, she plans on including ginger bread, candy cane cookies, Santa hat cupcakes with red and green sprinkles, Christmas tree meringues and more. These are desserts that remind children of their favourite holiday things.

Also read | Why wordless books for children are getting better, popular

Restaurants follow suit
It’s not only hotels, even restaurants like Smoke House Deli offer kids-special menu. Here, the menu is designed like a story-cum-colouring book, replete with adventures of Smokey and Salem, the mascots of the restaurant. These two characters take the kids on a journey through a host of dishes that are indulgent but healthy. “For instance, the multigrain pizza is prepared with a veggie sauce comprising tomatoes, carrots and other vegetables that some children generally shy away from. The pasta is made from whole wheat dough while cookies are sugar-free, made using honey and jaggery. Designed in consultation with nutritionists, the menu is healthy but fun as feeding kids isn’t easy,” says Jaydeep Mukherjee, the brand head at Impressario handmade restaurants that owns Smoke House Deli.

The restaurant is planning to create a separate line of crockery for kids shaped like elephants, airplanes, penguins and more. “This age group is vital for any eatery because parents like to go to places that cater to their children,” says Mukherjee.

The colour code

“There are a few things that our culinary team keeps in mind while planning the kid's menu. A, the food needs to be comforting and B, presentation is key— it needs to be visually appealing for children. Once the food looks attractive and colourful, half our job is done. For instance, we had rainbow cakes, brightly coloured smoothies and vibrant fruit salads on the menu for Children’s Day,” says Ishaan Singh, Director of Food and Beverage, Sheraton Grand Pune Bund Garden Hotel. “Also, children don't care for vast menus, they enjoy a select few dishes which are appealing to them. Our job is to pack in as much taste and nutrition as possible in this select menu,” he signs off.

Also read | Children’s fashion gets a couture touch this season

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