By Richie Nakano | Images via iStock, photo illustration by ChefsFeed

I have cooked (with varying amounts of success) professionally for half of my life.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel far and wide to cook with other chefs, collaborate, and learn. I’m not a world-class chef per se, but I’ve done okay. I’m comfortable with my skill set and I feel like I can hold my own with my peers. The days of self-doubt in the kitchen are gone.

Except for when I cook for my fucking children. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my children more than I love…I dunno, chicken? I love them a lot. They’re bright, beautiful, profoundly bizarre children. And when it comes to eating, they will put down dozens of skewers of yakitori, teriyaki rice bowls, piles of soba noodles. If we get fancy-ass Neopolitan style pizza, I have to get a personal Margherita for each of them. They have sophisticated, expensive palates, for a 5 and 8-year-old. 

And that’s the problem.

Kids have no filter and are not impressed. They’re little Yelpers. They do not care that you staged in Japan that one time. They do not care about your bookshelves full of Phaidon cookbooks. They do care about Paw Patrol, and the Nintendo Switch, and chicken fingers. Kids love chicken fingers. What they don’t love is your nice pot pie you thought they might like or that creamy mushroom pasta you learned how to make in Italy. Kids hate mushrooms. And onions. You put parsley on those chicken cutlets you thought they might eat? Well now your kids are having cereal for dinner I guess.

For breakfast, one wants poached eggs and toast, while the other one asks for pancakes. For lunch, they both pick at their turkey sandwiches and tell me how their Grandma makes them chicken tenders and tater tots. Around 4 pm, they go into snack mode and eat pretzels, chips, and candy, then complain about how they’re not hungry for dinner. If I decide to get cheffy and alter a recipe, they notice, and they complain about it. Loudly.

The greatest betrayals come when they find out that a certain dish that they love has something in it that they think is gross. When I showed my oldest son what a garbanzo bean looks like and explained that this is what hummus is made of, he looked at me like I had been secretly poisoning him. When my youngest asked me what was in the quiche he was enjoying, I listed off the ingredients.

Eggs, and bacon…

“Yum!” 

…cream, and cheese…

“Yum!” 

And onions and spinach.

He put the quiche down.

“I’m not hungry anymore.”

I know that someday, I’ll look back on all of the wasted dinners, all the rejected kid’s menu lunches, and breakfast fails with some form of longing for these early years and all of the challenges that being a parent brought.

But it’ll be nice to have hummus in the house again.

*