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Healthy food creation is a family affair

A restaurant-owner's young son gets involved in the family business by creating a healthy kids' menu. The results are fantastic!

Chef and son outside family restaurant

When nine-year-old Maui Passarello saw his dad, Michele, creating menus for his Waikanae restaurant, Waimea, he thought he’d like to do that too.  So he did, asking his Dad if he could create the kids’ menu.

Waimea has adopted the Heart Foundation’s Kids’ Choice programme which supports food services to provide healthier children’s menus that meet a set criteria.

Michele, an Italian chef, business owner and father is right behind his son’s endeavour. Having seen many children without basic knowledge of healthy foods Michele beams with pride at Maui’s passion to help turn this around.

“It’s really cool to have a kids’ input into the children’s menu, especially when it’s my son,” said Michele. “Maui knows all about healthy eating and the importance of having vegetables and protein foods on the plate.” 

Maui took a methodical approach to developing the new children’s menu.  First, he checked the old menu and identified the healthy items which could stay on the menu. His next step was to approach some of his classmates at Kapiti Primary School to see what foods they liked. 

The kids at Kapiti Primary suggested some basics like rice, pasta and scrambled eggs which Maui expanded into more exciting dishes such as chicken, pea and parmesan risotto, pasta with meatballs and peas, and scrambled eggs with toasted ciabatta. 

The Passarello family has a strong culture of enjoying good, healthy food sitting together around a table whenever possible. Michele recognizes the importance of offering appealing, healthy menu options to children, helping them grow into adults with mature palates who will eat more than just deep-fried foods.

The Waimea restaurant in Waikanae has joined a growing list of food services to treat their younger customers with respect by offering interesting and healthy dishes alongside the treats, just as they would for adults.