Your kid is sporting the “it” backpack and must-have sneakers this back-to-school season, but when it comes to the lunch they’re bringing to school… you know they deserve better. Lackluster turkey wraps and uninspiring PB&J sandwiches just aren’t cutting it anymore, so we asked two A-list chefs: What do your kids bring to school for lunch, and what did you eat growing up? Here’s what Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian (The Lambs Club) and Chef Marc Murphy (Landmarc, Ditch Plains) had to say.
Asian Lunch Box
“I think it is fun to put an Asian twist on the lunch box. Purchase some seaweed salad and cucumber rolls from a local sushi restaurant. Include sesame crackers and an Asian pear. Another side salad option: toss edamame with grated carrots, chopped scallions, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper.”
“I love to do a riff on a Mezze Platter for kids’ lunches. I start with a plastic lunch container with a top opening lid. One with smaller interior boxes is ideal. I fill small containers inside with hummus, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and carrot sticks. I then roll up small fresh roasted turkey or Virginia ham slices. Next I cut mini pitas in half or triangle larger pitas. I place a petit bunch of red seedless grapes in and also triangled pieces of cheese. You can vary this: Swiss, Gruyere, cheddar. To finish it off, I tuck in two chocolate chips and a small note for them to discover at lunchtime.
“Be sure to keep ‘wet’ ingredients in containers or away from ‘dry’ ingredients such as the pita so as not to make anything soggy. Kids love this set-up because they can be hands on dipping, creating and mixing up bites.”
Salmon Salad Sandwich
“Instead of the classic tuna salad sandwich, I would substitute tuna and use Salmon. I poach the salmon, then when it’s cooled, you flake it and mix with red onion, mayo, salt and pepper and capers. It goes great on wheat bread or just with vegetables. I like it better than tuna because it’s filled with Omega 3’s, which are healthier for kids and still tastes great.”
Roast Chicken Legs
“Instead of chicken nuggets, I roast chicken legs, let them cool overnight and pair with a low-fat ranch dressing or an aioli. I also add some carrot or celery sticks that can be dipped into the sauce. My kids love it because it’s delicious and much healthier than breaded chicken. It’s also something you can plan ahead which is great for parents.”
“Rather than packing them leftover Chinese food, I make a fresh chicken stir fry. I cut up broccoli, carrots and chicken into bite size pieces, so it’s easier for kids to eat. I sauté them and deglaze with Soy Vay Teriyaki. I serve it in a thermos so it stays hot. It’s one of my kids’ favorite lunches.”
What did you bring to school for lunch as a kid?
GZ: Fresh egg salad sandwich on white bread with the crusts cut off. My mom always sent along a piece of fresh homemade pie in a triangle plastic pie container. Sometimes I would get fresh popcorn or tapioca. My mom made everything from scratch.
MM: I grew up all over Europe, so it really depended on which country I was living in. When I was in boarding school in Italy, there were these amazing Italian women who made cannelloni and spaghetti con vongole and it was some of the best I’ve ever had. I was really lucky.