“Hell’s Kitchen” Chef Harper on Cooking, Family and Love

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ModernMom was super excited to snatch an interview with Chef Rock Harper, season 3 winner of the acclaimed cooking competition "Hell's Kitchen", book author, philanthropist and most importantly, father of three. He opened up about everything — from sharing some touching personal stories to offering moms advice for healthy cooking that kids will actually want to eat. Here's our Q&A session with the endearing chef:

 

Let's jump right in — how can I get my kids to eat healthier?

Several ways, but the first and most important is to go out and buy several copies of my book "44 Things Parents Should Know About Healthy Cooking for Kids"! Seriously, I think that most people, including kids, reject what they don't know until they are in the habit of receiving new and exciting adventures. What we must do is get our kids familiar and excited about an endless amount of foods that healthy for them. Take them to farms, farmers markets, grocery stores, anywhere they can experience what REAL food looks and tastes like. And, allow them to have a hand in preparing it. In "44 Things" I talk about how we put our kids in such a box early on and later on life, they don't want to step out. They won't like everything but, give them a choice before it is too late. Even if you have older kids, it isn't too late. Just make it fun and intriguing. Have patience and remember that you are in this for the journey. I could write a book on this subject, wait, I did. :) If anything, we MUST cook with flavor. Salt, pepper, herbs and the right amounts of good fats go a long way. No one like bland food, and your kids are no different.

Moms are busy! What's your best advice for getting a meal on the table quickly?

Plan ahead and don't get trapped into the "I don't have time" trap. We should plan our lives with food in mind. Everything doesn't have to be an extensive meal that takes hours to cook. But, I always like to get ahead on cooking early in the week. Cut up vegetables, brown meat or roast chicken and use it in several meals throughout the week. Also, when really pressed for time, skip the fast food and head to great store like Wegman's that has awesome fast options that are already cooked or easy to assemble.

What is the most important thing parents should know about healthy cooking for kids?

We are all different. So there is no formula for healthy cooking that works for everyone; that's why I didn't write a recipe book. So, change at least one thing and you have already changed your life. Take your time and change what you can, when you can. Just remember, no matter how ubiquitous it is, you really are what you eat.

What foods keep your kids at the table?

My favorite fool-proof meal is macaroni and cheese, of course. It's great, versatile and easy to adapt to any family's tastes. And as for dessert — it's all about cake! For most people, it is a challenge keeping desserts healthy, especially cake, but it can be done and it's not tough at all.

How did you get involved with the March of Dimes and why is it important to you?

I attended my first Signature Chefs Auction fundraising gala in DC as a Sous Chef serving March of Dimes guests with another chef and it was an awesome feeling when I realized that we were changing lives just by donating our time, food and love. Soon after, my wife and I had a horrific experience. We were newlyweds, madly in love and expecting our first child, Rahman Jr. In the fall of 1998, a week away from the due date, we lost the baby. It was the toughest thing I have ever been through and I'm sure I can say the same for Tamara. What made it worse is that it was on Thanksgiving. It was tough to bounce back; if we have even done that totally. But, after going through that and trying so hard to have another child successfully, I almost knew it was my calling to help this amazing cause. Our son, Elijah, was born healthy and we are so grateful for him. Leah, our daughter was premature with a few health challenges and she was in the hospital for weeks and that was a "not again" moment for us. She is awesome today and our experiences only strengthen my will to try and help in any way I can.

What's the most unexpected thing about being a parent?

For me, it is a never-ending job. Just when you think you have figured it out, things change on you! It's beautiful if you really think about it, but I just didn't expect it.

ModernMom's Note on the March of Dimes' Babies Luncheon:

The March of Dimes' 5th Annual Celebration of Babies Luncheon took place on Saturday, November 13th at The Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. The Celebration of Babies luncheon coincided with the March of Dimes kick off to Prematurity Awareness Month, a time when the organization galvanizes the Nation around the serious problem of preterm birth. Hosted by Samantha Harris, Celebration of Babies recognized prominent individuals including Hollywood moms & dads who are celebrating the birth of their children and who are role models for March of Dimes’ commitment to improving the health of babies. The 2010 March of Dimes’ Celebrity Volunteers, or “Stork Club”, includes Sarah Chalke & Jamie Afifi, Ali Larter & Hayes MacArthur, Joey & Chandie Lawrence, Tiffani Thiessen & Brady Smith, Jenna Elfman & Bodhi Elfman, Rock Harper & Tamara Harper, Lisa Leslie & Michael Locke and Maria Quiban & Sean Whitesell. The “Stork Club” members are individuals who have had or are expecting babies in 2010.

Get Chef Rock Harper's Book: www.amazon.com 

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