Back to School

Brown-Bag It Like a Chef’s Kid


Boston Public Schools are back in session this week, which means it’s time to stock up on cold cuts and juice boxes. Tired of turkey-and-cheese sandwiches? So’s your kid. For alternatives, we asked some chefs what they packed for their children. Sure, you might not have access to leftovers from the kitchens of Aura, Sportello, or Temple Bar, perhaps you’ll find some inspiration from the simple, healthy lunches created by Rachel Klein, Barbara Lynch, and Michael Scelfo.

Rachel Klein, chef at Aura; mother of two year old Ethan: Ethan is just starting pre-preschool so I went out and specially bought him a Star Wars briefcase style lunch box at Pottery Barn Kids and now I’m thinking about what I’ll make him for lunch. He likes fruit, so I want to give him lots of fruit salads, which we make together, but nothing too messy or that needs to be refrigerated. His favorite things are boxes of clementines, so there’s always an orange in his bag. For a snack, I have these fruit crushers from Trader Joe’s. It almost looks like a Capri Sun pouch, but it has a little twist top and spout so they can suck out the vegetable and fruit puree. He likes the apple and carrot flavor. I’ll probably do some turkey sandwiches on whole wheat and cut them in long rectangles. I might do some cheese: he likes aged Gouda, Havarti, and goat cheese. In the winter, when it gets colder and he’s a little better with a spoon, I’ll probably pack him beef stew or chicken noodle soup. He’s definitely that kid who’s going to eventually bring sliced steak and caramelized onions, but I don’t want him to be that goober who looks like his mom is obsessed with packing his lunch.

Barbara Lynch, chef/owner Sportello, No. 9 Park, B&G; Oysters, The Butcher Shop; mother of five year old Marchesa: My daughter is in kindergarten this year. I do these little sandwiches with mascarpone and Concord grape jelly and I cut them out with a letter cookie cutter, because she hates the crust. She can choose a different letter every day. Sometimes we’ll do our own pseudo-Crustables with Mimolette cheese. She loves apples, so I’ll always do a little bag of apples, usually with big chunks of cheddar. I usually make her Mimolette cracker wafers. Last year, she had snack day in her French class and I was more nervous about that than about the James Beard dinner I had to cook. I went way overboard. I made yogurt panna cotta and went to Ikea and got these little milk bottles to serve it in. All the kids didn’t care, but the French women loved it!

Michael Scelfo, executive chef, Temple Bar; father of six year old twins Joshua and Mae: Joshua and Mae are starting first grade this year. We let them buy lunch on Fridays and we pack for them the rest of the week. For lunch, if we have something really good the night before at home, like pizza or noodles, we’ll pack that for them. They love tuna fish sandwiches and tomato sandwiches. They love hummus and carrots, so usually I’ll include that. They get a little dessert, usually a cookie or some type of sweet. We really don’t do the junk food thing, so nothing too crazy. We also pack a healthy snack, usually fruit, whatever’s in season right now. We have a farm stand near our house, so we usually grab stuff from there. Sometimes we’ll add crackers and cheese slices. Munster is probably their favorite, but they also like, feta, cheddar, dill havarti. They love cheese. Mae is super adventurous. If I packed headcheese in there, she’d gobble it up, but Josh would go crazy if he saw even a flash of green stuff or a pepper.

What else are chefs putting in their families’ lunch boxes? We surveyed cooks throughout the Grub Street network. Get some school-lunch ideas from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Brown-Bag It Like a Chef’s Kid