Chef Brings The Whole Family Together In One Place: The Kitchen
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Chef Monica Hayes-Jones is not your typical chef. Most of the time you see chefs running around rampant in the kitchen , yelling at their staff and frantically trying to get things on the plate. Chef Hayes-Jones has a different approach: not only is she a celebrity chef, she also has a passion in teaching kids how to cook. And not just kids, but creating meals that both the children and their parents can both have fun in the kitchen together cooking a meal.
Launched in 2009, she created Tasteful Manners (TM), a cooking, nutrition and etiquette company based in Chicago. The goal of TM is to bring the family together and improve the health of the family by teaching parents and children how to prepare, easy, nutritious meals at home.
BlackDoctor.org recently sat down with Chef Monica to see what she has planned for Chicago.
BDO: Why kids in culinary?
Chef Monica: I was a speech pathologist for Chicago Public School, so I was already working with children and I felt good about the services I provided. I would pull students for services as early as 9 AM, and their hands and faces would be stained red, and I asked what had they been eating? They told me they had “Flamin Hots” with cheese and meat for breakfast. I was shocked that their parents gave them this, but they quickly corrected me by telling me that they had bought it from the gas station on their way to school. I was mortified for so many reasons, so I started keeping fruit, granola, and muffins in my office to offer them a better choice for breakfast and or snack.
BDO: Was there a defining moment/reason why you chose to work with kids in the kitchen?
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Chef Monica: While I realized that although I was making a difference in my students’ lives, it wasn’t the impact I wanted to make with them. So I thought about the last time I was really happy and it was with my daughter the night before cooking with her in my kitchen. I decided that I wanted to share that with all of my students, so I decided to change course and go to culinary school. I finished in 2007, then started Tasteful Manners in 2009 to provide food education and healthy culinary arts.
What are the top 3 foods that busy moms need to have in the kitchen and why?
- Whole wheat tortillas – Most of the carbs in whole-wheat tortillas are complex carbs, so you don’t have to worry about a spike in blood sugar levels. If you’re in a savory mood, sprinkle low-fat shredded cheese over a tortilla fold and griddle to toast for a deliciously melty cheese quesadilla. If you’re craving something sweet, a toasted tortilla with peanut or almond butter or a little sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar for snack.
- Bananas – Sweet and filling, bananas are a nutrient powerhouse abundant in potassium and fiber. They’re best eaten on their own, but you can concoct a million quick and simple snacks with the creamy yellow fruit. Slice a banana over oatmeal or dip slices in almond butter for a flavor-packed, healthy bite. My favorite use for them is baking, they are great for substituting the oil in your baked desserts.
- Your favorite frozen green vegetable – If you like it you’ll be willing to incorporate it in your meals. Having frozen vegetables in the freezer for a quick and easy side or ready to add to soups is a great time saver.
BDO: What were the biggest obstacles for you growing up?
Chef Monica: We lived in a food desert, so if my grandmother didn’t grow the vegetables in our back yard, fresh produce was scarce. We had to travel far out of our community to buy groceries and fresh produce.
BDO: Favorite unhealthy dish?
Chef Monica: I really like spicy foods, so I love Thai and Mexican dishes—the spicier the better. Chicken Panang with jasmine rice or chicken and green chili enchiladas.
BDO: Favorite healthy dish?
Chef Monica: I make an amazing healthy grilled shrimp and asparagus Alfredo.
BDO: What’s the key to getting kids to make and eat healthy food?
Chef Monica: I’ve found if they have a say-so in the vegetables they are going to eat and help prepare the meals, they are more willing to try new vegetables. Give your child the choice between three or four vegetables you’d like for them to try.
What’s next for Tasteful Manners Culinary?
Special for Chicagoans:
Expanding our services beyond Chicago.
Providing meal prep service to individuals and families who want to eat healthier but may not have time to do it all themselves.
Distributing my new marinade, which is sodium-free, all natural and can be used to season and tenderize any protein.
BDO: Where can people find you?