I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Josh Kroner

Chef and owner of Terrapin Restaurant in Rhinebeck teaches kids to give peas a chance

I am a Hudson Valley Parent, Josh Kroner, Chef, Family cooking

“Slow down.” How many times do we say that to our kids?

Yet, when it comes to food and convenience, most of us fall prey to the fast lane — either in the drive-thru or at the grocery store in disguise (we’re looking at you, organic chicken nuggets).

However, according to chef and real food proponent Josh Kroner, it is possible to quickly and easily cook real, healthful food for our families.

Kroner is the chef and owner of Terrapin Restaurant in Rhinebeck and a Rhinebeck father of two girls — Bella, 11, and Juliette, 9. He is helping his community by teaching children — and their parents — how to slow down and enjoy real, healthful food, all without breaking their stride.

“When Bella was in the second grade, I went in to talk to the kids about the history of food in Rhinebeck itself, which was settled in the late 1600s,” Kroner says. “I made them a dish of succotash, which is typically corn, beans and tomatoes. I explained where the food comes from and I was struck because so many of the kids just eat food out of a box. Kids have to understand that macaroni and cheese boxes don’t literally grow on trees — but unless we educate them about real food, how are they going to learn?”


High price of fast food

After all, the convenience of fast food comes with a hefty price tag, and not just at the cash registers.

In the United States, “fast” food provides 13 percent of the total calories consumed by 2-18 year olds; it is the second largest source of energy in the diets of children, according to a recent study conducted by Arizona State University.

In New York State, the number of children who are obese has tripled in the last three decades, according to the state’s Department of Health.

Many schools in the Hudson Valley have alarmingly high rates of obesity, including Poughkeepsie City Schools (27.7% of middle and high school students are obese) the Northeast Central District (26.4% of all students are obese) and the Tuxedo Union Free School (26.1% of elementary school students are obese), JAMA Pediatrics reports. Higher obesity rates lead to increased rates of heart disease, depression and even cancer.

Read more: Being healthy. Buying local.

Read more: Hudson Valley farmers help us eat healthier food


Picky eaters

At first glance, Kroner doesn’t seem like a candidate to spearhead a children’s food program. His fine dining restaurant, located in a renovated church built in 1825, churns out beautifully presented classical French fare, with influences from Asia, Italy and the American Southwest.

But while Terrapin may seem like the last place to take your picky eater, according to Kroner, feeding little ones dumbed-down food or grease-laden gut bombs, creates health problems and a nation of fake picky eaters.

“Look, I’m not saying don’t feed your kids boxed mac and cheese,” Kroner says. “But sauté a little fresh kale in butter to go alongside it. It doesn’t take long. Unless you introduce your children to fresh, real food, they’re not going to understand what it is and how delicious it is. They’ll never give it a chance; the health consequences of not eating fresh food, ever, are devastating.”

Read more: Picky no more!


‘Taste and talk’

Kroner enjoys his occasional forays into his children’s classes, he says that creating a real children’s menu at his restaurant and hosting his bi-monthly kids cooking classes at Terrapin is where he focusing much of his energy.

At Terrapin, Kroner offers a kids menu that caters to their sometimes simple tastes, without sacrificing quality or imagination, like his mahi-mahi crispy fish sticks, uncured hot dogs and mini cheeseburgers. All ingredients are organic, free-range and hormone and antibiotic free.

He also runs quarterly “Taste and Talk” events open to children ages 8-12. Every event includes cooking demos, conversations about what good food is and how to find it. (Reservations are required, so email info@terrapinrestaurant.com or call 845-876-3330 to get details for the next one and save your spots!).

Not even Kroner is immune to the picky eaters, he admits.

“My eldest daughter eats more widely and adventurously than most adults,” he says proudly. “She’ll try any form of food on any menu, and most of the time, she’ll love it. She even comes in once a week to work in my pastry department. But my youngest? She’s … a bit fussier. More motivation to keep her trying new things and pushing her boundaries though. She’s getting there!”

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