Food Network's Guy Fieri Reveals His Secret for Getting Kids to Cook

The celeb chef gives advice for easy meals and shares how he deals with picky eaters

I caught up with Guy Fieri, host of Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and NBC's Minute to Win It, at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival's Food Network beach party. He told me about his latest beef jerky experiment, shared how he unwinds after a long day, and revealed how he gets his kids excited about the kitchen.

iVillage: Give me a super-easy yet impressive dinner recipe.

Guy Fieri: If you want to make something simple, easy and fun for the family, just buy some pre-roasted red bell peppers, from a jar, pre-made polenta, a chicken breast, artichoke hearts, garlic, Dijon mustard. This is running with the idea that you have no time to make anything labor-intensive. Polenta is such an easy medium.

iVillage: But polenta sounds daunting!

GF: But I’m talking the pre-made stuff. And let me explain, I’m not a pre-made fan, but if you want to make something you’re proud of, polenta is a good “I made this!” starting point. I personally never buy anything pre-made, but I think this would be a good starting point if you were short on time, money or skills. Here’s the deal—don’t try to jump the Grand Canyon your first time. Take baby steps.

iVillage: What was the first thing you ever made?

GF: We all have to learn from scratch. The very first thing I learned to make was granola. When I was a kid, I was never allowed to have sweet cereal. My parents were hippies. So it was dates, raisins, cashews, almonds, coconut, rolled oats and honey. I learned to make granola with my mom. My job was making sure it didn’t burn.

iVillage: Are you the type of chef who doesn’t want to cook after a long day?

GF: No way! I make tons of food at home. My foundation, my sanctuary is to cook. I’d rather eat at home than any restaurant in the world. I’ll cook with my kids, cook with my wife, cook with my parents, cook with my friends, I’ll cook with anyone. Those are the best meals to me.

iVillage: What do you crave when you’re exhausted from work?

GF: If I’m beat, I make something simple—pasta or stir-fry. To me, making food is my way of unwinding after the day.

iVillage: What’s in your freezer?

GF: I love the idea of not wasting, but the truth is, if I freeze it, I lose it. It’s such a sad state. We call it the mystery experiment. We go through our freezer trying to remember what’s in there and how long it’s been.

iVillage: What do you do with leftovers?

GF: We never have leftovers. Usually when we have dinner parties, we put all the food in our to-go boxes and it all disappears. Between my friends, my parents and our huge, fat Rottweilers, there’s nothing left.

iVillage: What’s your morning food ritual?

GF: An Americano and a banana, if I’m home. If I’m on the road for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, I have a new, amazing habit. I bought a juicer. One of my assistant's job is to buy organic vegetables every day, so that when I show up to set, I have a 16-ounce glass of delicious, healthy, freshly-made juice, usually with beets, carrots, strawberries, blueberries, celery, parsley, you name it.

iVillage: Are your kids picky eaters?

GF: No, we don’t play that game. I won’t let them be picky. They’ll eat when they’re hungry. I want my kids to eat real food and explore real foods. If I’m making Thai food with lots of heat, I’ll dial back the chili pepper, but other than that….they’ll eat what’s for dinner.

iVillage: What’s the secret to getting kids to cook?

GF: Cooking together creates eating together. Ask everyone in the family, the night before, “What would you like for dinner?” Be loose with it. Maybe your son wants macaroni and cheese. Maybe your daughter wants asparagus salad. Buy your ingredients that day, and have a little cooking party at night. Everyone can eat what they want. Who cares if the menu "flows" or not. The kids are proud. Empower kids to make good food because it empowers them to eat good food.

iVillage: Any junk food rules in your house?

GF: Eat what’s provided, and if you’re still hungry after that, we’ll discuss a snack.

iVillage: What’s your pig-out food?

GF: Everything salty. Beef jerky! I made 13 kinds of beef jerky a month ago. I had to wrap it up and hide it in the garage refrigerator so the kids wouldn’t eat it. I made maple syrup and Jack Daniels beef jerky…Oh, man, that was wild.

iVillage: Are you leaving the cooking world with your new show Minute to Win It?

GF: I’m always going to be a chef. But I like anything that gives us a chance to witness real people be in real situations. I’m all about that. To see someone win a million bucks, to facilitate something that life-changing, how cool is that? I’m loving it. The show is out of bounds.

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