• Our Fave Foodie Parents

    Presenting five fab local parents cooking up great things—from restaurants to tiny treats and even more—in NYC’s food scene.

    By Caitlin Wolper, Abigail Rubel, Kelly Guidry

    Being a pastry chef, culinary expert, or any member of the food industry entails long hours, stressful days, and busy schedules. We highlighted a few foodie parents who are doing it all: They’re cooking in the kitchen (or on TV) and still make time to feed their families too.

    Melissa Elders — Nibble+squeak

    Melissa Elders

    At Work: Founder of Nibble+squeak
    At Home: Mother-of-One

    Melissa Elders is the mother of 3-year-old daughter Serena and the founder of Nibble+ squeak, a networking platform that brings food-loving families together with family-oriented restaurants, allowing them to enjoy top eateries in their city while also getting in family bonding time and making new parent-friends in the process.

    What is your family’s favorite type of  restaurant to go to?

    We all really enjoy dim sum. My daughter is obsessed with dumplings, noodles, and spare ribs—pretty much anything on a dim sum menu she can devour. For us, that makes it a lot of fun [because] we can go out to Flushing and check out some of the dim sum variety there.

    At home, what are some typical dishes that you will make for your family?

    A staple in our house is roast chicken, especially roast drumsticks, or anything on the bone. [Serena] is very much a caveman/carnivore, and she likes to have something to grab on to and eat with her hands. Also, my husband and his family are Italian, so pasta is a huge staple, and I try to introduce different varieties of shapes and flavors into that. On the vegetable side, she is a huge fan of cauliflower and so am I, so we do, during winter, a lot of cauliflower. We try to eat very seasonally [and] the farmers’ market is just outside our door; [Serena] comes with us so she sees what’s at the market, what’s in season, and we construct the meal from there.

    Tell us about Nibble+squeak.

    At our events, we make that restaurant experience really easy and welcoming from the very first moment they step in the door; they know that the staff and the restaurant is there to welcome them as a family. But equally, it’s a community-building event where you can meet people that are into the same things as you… We really want to talk about the dining scene at all levels and all neighborhoods, beyond the events, so we’re encouraging families to dine out and especially when they’re traveling to cities beyond their own. –KG

    Siri Daly — “TODAY” Show Contributor, Author & Food Blogger

    Photographer: Ellen Silverman | Food Stylist: Eugene Jho | Stylist: Karin Olsen | Hair & Makeup Stylist: Valerie Star

    At Work: “TODAY” Show contributor, author & food blogger
    At Home: Mother-of-Three

    You’ve probably seen Siri Daly on the “TODAY Show” serving up some delightful treats to the whole morning show crew, and with her new cookbook you can bring her food right into your own kitchen. Siriously Delicious: 100 Nutritious (and Not So Nutritious) Simple Recipes for the New Home Cook came
    out in April.

    Her book goes meal-by-meal and shows some of what she feeds her family—which includes her husband, fellow “TODAY” personality Carson Daly, and their three kiddos ages 3, 5, and 9—on a daily basis. “[My kids] were great eaters up until 18 months, and then they had a mind of their own at that point, like: ‘Oh, this is green, I don’t want that,’” Daly says. Despite their anti-green agendas, she does sneak in healthy foods sometimes, like squash in Mexican pasta, but adds that “if you just try and try and try hard enough, they will eventually like it.”

    She also leaves “a lot of tips in the book, for ways you can change [a meal] if you have picky eaters or ways to make it more indulgent or a little healthier.”

    Sometimes, keeping it simple is the best move. She and her family love Taco Tuesdays: Everyone gets to make it exactly how they like.

    “I think of food as a creative expression,” Daly says. “It brings people together.” –CW

    Marisol Morley — Tiny Kitchen Treats

    Marisol Morley

    At Work: Founder & CEO of Tiny Kitchen Treats
    At Home: Mother-of-One

    Marisol Morley is the founder and CEO of Tiny Kitchen Treats, a cookie bakery that specializes in fantastical custom designs that range from magical unicorns for kids’ birthday parties to logo cookies for corporate clients. She’s also a new mom to 16-month-old daughter Julia.

    What do you like to feed your daughter?

    One of the things I read [as a new parent] that I thought was helpful was “Don’t let your own food prejudices affect what you let your child try.” And there weren’t many because I kind of eat everything, but I would put cumin in her peas and maybe that’s not something normally I would eat. I just let her eat anything that we’re eating. She loves cheese, crackers. Raspberries are her favorite fruit. In general, she likes very flavorful food: The more flavor in it, the more she’s excited to eat it. Probably part of that is we’ve let her try everything her whole life and haven’t said: “Oh, kids don’t like broccoli.”

    Is she still too young for cookies?

    I don’t let her really have cookies, not yet. She’s so little. But over the holidays I had a ton of leftover gingerbread, so I brought it home with no icing on it and she went crazy.

    How do you get her involved in the kitchen?

    It’s kind of just letting them do whatever you’re doing, making them feel useful and helpful and part of the process in whatever capacity that is. I’m obviously not letting her fry an egg, but you can let your kids stir the bowl or wash the vegetables, put the piece of bread into the toaster, push down the knob. They get very excited, I think, if they’re doing something that’s appropriate. They don’t really say, “Why can’t I use the frying pan yet?”

    How has having a daughter changed your own eating habits?

    I make sure she sees me eating things that are healthy and green. It’s changed the way I eat a little bit, because she asks for a bite of everything I’m eating. Well, I’m not going to eat a Krispy Kreme donut. And if I do eat those things, I sneak them. But it makes you not want to buy them as much, because you’re like, “Well, I can’t eat this in front of her.” And she’s always there. They become your conscience, and it’s kind of great. They really make you think about what you’re eating and what you’re putting in your body, because that’s what they’re going to put in their body. –AR

    Gail Simmons — “Top Chef” Judge, Author & Special Projects
    Director at Food & Wine 

    Gail Simmons & her daughter Dahlia Rae | Photographer: Johnny Miller

    At Work: “Top Chef” judge, author, and Special Projects Director at Food & Wine magazine
    At Home: Mother-of-One & expecting her second

    Gail Simmons, a culinary powerhouse and local mama, has spent 15 (soon to be 16) seasons as a permanent judge on “Top Chef,” works as the special projects director at Food & Wine magazine, and recently released a cookbook called Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating, which takes Simmons’ experiences traveling and translates them to your kitchen table. She’s mom to 4-year-old Dahlia and is about to welcome another child (due this May) with her husband, Jeremy Abrams.

    “I always try to have healthy options in the fridge, lots of fruit, lots of vegetables,” Simmons says. “We always roast a lot of vegetables at the beginning of the week so we have them to use throughout the week: Whole grains, a bowl of quinoa, maybe brown rice.”

    Her daughter Dahlia isn’t too picky an eater—in fact, Simmons doesn’t think she’s ever seen her eat a chicken nugget. “She’s picky like any 4-year-old, but I’ve learned when it’s things we’re forcing on her that’s when she backs off, even if it’s food that she loves,” Simmons says. “[My husband and I] try to give her choice enough that she feels like she’s making her own decisions and she’s empowered in what she eats, but I’m not running a restaurant, so I’m not making 50 meals depending on her whims.”

    Though it “sucks her soul” a little, Simmons isn’t worried about her daughter’s occasional bowl of buttered noodles (a kid fave if there ever was one). “My doctor once told me—and I try to keep in mind—that when you’re feeding children, you don’t have to stress about [every meal] as much,” Simmons says. “It’s more about thinking of a few days in a row, three, four days in total and what they’ve consumed over those few days.” –CW

    Erik Ramirez — Llama Inn

    Erik Ramirez

    At Work:Co-Founder of Llama Inn
    At Home: Father-of-Two

    Erik Ramirez is the co-founder of Williamsburg’s much-loved Peruvian restaurant Llama Inn, which he opened with Juan Correa in November 2015: The restaurant has received two stars from the New York Times and a Michelin Bib Gourmand. Ramirez also works with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, and most recently supplied appetizers to their latest gala. A father to two boys, ages 1 and 3, Ramirez admits striking a work-life balance can be very difficult, even with his wife—who also works in the restaurant—and mother-in-law pitching in.

    “I feel like at this age is where it’s the hardest,” Ramirez says. “Once they are a little older and they’re going to school, they can kind of take care of themselves a little bit more.”

    But as young as his kids are, they have a lot of food preferences; Ramirez says the word “love” a lot when he describes their favorite meals, which range from pancakes (“love”) to ham and cheese omelets (“love”) to pizza (“looooooove”). He adds that his wife tends to cook healthy meals at home, and feeds the kids green smoothies: “I think my boys do eat pretty healthy, probably healthier than most.”

    Ramirez and his wife will take the kids out to eat at any spot the couple wants to try (as long as kids are allowed), most recently Hart’s in Bed-Stuy. Though sometimes they have to cater to older son Luca’s picky eating by ordering flavors he recognizes and enjoys, “if we can bring [our kids], we bring them.” –CW

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