User's Guide

Brown-Bag it Like a Chef’s Kid


Lights are flipping on in schools across the Bay Area right now, and chefs’ kids will be packing their lunches to class right along with their peers. As we face a fresh semester, Grub Street tracked down some chefs from around the region to ask what they’re sending off to school with their little ones. Fresh fruit and peanut butter and jelly seem ubiquitous, but check out what else Todd Humphries, Gayle Pirie, and Annie Stoll pack in their kids’ brown bags.

Chef: Todd Humphries, of St. Helena’s Martini House
Kid(s): Wyatt, 6, and Desmond, 9
Lunch Staples: [Wyatt] usually likes peanut butter (organic, from Whole Foods) and homemade jelly (that my wife makes—could be peach or nectarine or grape) or cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise. We usually buy cheese from one of the local vendors here. Then Desmond a lot of times likes salami with mayonnaise. Right now we’ve got Columbus Salumeria from San Francisco. We use a sprouted whole-grain bread.
Other Favorites: We have a garden so there’s always usually fresh peaches and little cherry tomatoes from the garden. There’s usually some different nuts for them to snack on.
Idiosyncrasies: My wife makes fresh sushi, with cucumber and avocado—a vegetarian thing.

Chef: Gayle Pirie of Foreign Cinema
Kid(s): Magnus, 10, and Pearl, 4
Lunch Staples: Magnus is, luckily, involved in [Berkeley’s] Edible School Yard project. For Pearl, we do a lot of fresh fruit… She loves yogurt and I’ll give her some berries. She likes nuts—walnuts, peanuts, pecans. Dried fruit, she likes, and it packs well… She also likes proteins like jerky and chicken. [Last year] Magnus basically got an apple a day. He didn’t like an orange because he couldn’t peel it well… He loves ham and turkey sandwiches on whole wheat. But toward the end, he got a little bored of it because he’d gotten them for so long. He loves pickles, and he loves chips, and he likes those fruit leathers and energy bars.
Other favorites: Pearl loves honey sticks—it’s unfiltered honey so it’s good. It’s got pollen.
Idiosyncrasies: [Pearl] and Magnus, too, like tofu with a little soy sauce and seaweed. I know it sounds “Berkeley,” but if you go to Japanese restaurants with your kids, it’s just the greatest comfort food.

Chefs: Annie Stoll, of Delfina and Pizzeria Delfina
Child: Lucy Rose, 7
Lunch Staples: She loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches… We make the pizzeria meatballs from the pizzeria here. Any time Lucy has a sleepover we always have the pizzeria meatballs. Kids love them Family dinner leftovers will be big… Hard boiled eggs. She loves fruit, so any kind of fruit… I’ve got this amazing kitchen and we’ve got Bi-Rite (grocery) next door, so if I remember to go to Bi-Rite, then it makes it easy for me than most parents who don’t work in a restaurant and have Bi-Rite next door…
Other Favorites: She could have house-stretched mozzarella… [Husband and Delfina co-owner] Craig offered her pizza, but she said, ‘no, I don’t like it the next day.’
Idiosyncrasies: She wants it to be a surprise. I’m sure I’ll get my critique when I pick her up.

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

Brown-Bag it Like a Chef’s Kid