Chef’s Kids Eat the Darnedest Things

Quail eggs? Frog legs? Tofu? Bring ‘em on! But leave room for peanut butter on salami.

Rabbit As Pet And Provender
Cork, Westmont

You won’t find soda in the Haddonfield home of chef Kevin Meeker and his wife, Janet, owners of Cork. They don’t forbid it; it’s just that their kids (daughter Leigh, 19, and twin sons Connor and Nolan, 14) don’t care for it. They’ve grown up on finer stuff. “My dad would bring home food from the restaurant and let us taste it,” says Connor. “Or he’d make things at home, like short ribs or frog legs, and ask us what we thought.”

Having a pet rabbit has not impeded Connor’s explorations. “When he was eleven,” relates Kevin, “he saw a rabbit on a restaurant rotisserie, ordered it, and liked it, even though he had a pet rabbit at home.” On another occasion, adds Leigh, the family was out strolling and passed a butcher shop where a skinned rabbit was hanging in the window. “He still was interested in eating rabbit,” she says.

Nolan holds his own, being partial to eel, escargots, and soft-cooked quail eggs. Leigh, a college sophomore, and her boyfriend often go to Philadelphia for sushi, Thai, or Vietnamese. “I’ve tried virtually every type of food there is,” she says.

When Leigh has dinner at friends’ homes, she says, “their parents will make chicken, and it will always be the same way. When they come over my house, they can always expect something new.” (PS: They love it.)

Though the kids enjoy cooking, neither Leigh nor Connor intends to follow in their parents’ footsteps. (Nolan is undecided.) “Mostly my mom and dad tell me never to get into the food business,” Connor admits. “It’s too much work and hassle.”

Peanut Butter Experiments
Stage Left, New Brunswick

Mark Pascal, co-owner of the restaurants Stage Left and Catherine Lombardi, tries to set good examples for his four kids, ages eighteen months to ten years. At their New Brunswick home, Pascal says, “We try to eat seasonally, and almost all the meat and fish we eat is organic.”

Pascal reports that Spencer, 8, is beginning to experiment: “He seems to think peanut butter with peas or salami are good combinations.” Given a choice, the Pascal brood prefer to dine at Stage Left. “The sky’s the limit,” Pascal says, “and there’s always dessert.”

Father And Son Eat No “Evil”
The Pop Shop, Collingswood

Holden Fisher, 5, is a tofu connoisseur. “He likes the extra-firm kind, right from the package,” says his mother, Connie Correia Fisher, owner of the Pop Shop.

Fisher’s husband, actor Stink Fisher, “is very anti-McDonald’s,” Connie says. “He calls the place evil. For a long time, Holden thought McDonald’s was actually called ‘Evil.’ Holden will ask, ‘Why do people eat at Evil?’”

Holden absolutely will not touch a sandwich. This befuddles his mother, author of the cookbook PB&J USA. Holden explains,“I just don’t like it when everything is all stuck together.”

Mashing Meatballs For Baby
Mama Tucci, Livingston

New mother Adele Flores, co-owner with husband Rocco of Mama Tucci, makes nearly everything from scratch for ten-month-old Farrah. At their home in Madison, Adele says, “I only give her natural sugars from fresh fruit, in homemade custards or yogurts.” Farrah recently developed a passion for meatballs, which Flores makes from scratch, mashes with a fork, and serves with pastina.

Learning To Swirl And Sniff
Eagle Oaks, Farmingdale

Scott Lahey, executive chef at Eagle Oaks Golf Club, is proud of his children’s food smarts. Patrick, 6, and Margaret, 4, “know how to pick a ripe cantaloupe or look at corn to see if it’s old. We have not had a loaf of white bread in the house, period. The fastest food that comes through our door is pizza.”

Lahey, also a sommelier, says, “Wine with holiday meals is a family tradition. Right now they are happy with cider. But they know how to swirl and sniff wine. And they already like to see if a wine glass is crystal by running their finger along the rim.”

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