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Gian Luca Demarco and his team will take care of catering for the students of Erudito Licėjus in Vilnius

The famous Italian chef Gian Luca Demarco is starting a new activity from September: he will take care of catering for the students of Erudito Licėjus in Vilnius. The Head Chef will be responsible for menu planning, new recipe development, kitchen team work and quality assurance. With this partnership, “Erudito Licėjus” and Gian Luca Demarco aim to change the approach to children’s nutrition: healthy, varied food should not only satisfy hunger and provide energy, but also lay the foundations for a complete diet, develop the taste of young people, and introduce them to the culture of food and eating.

Children are the harshest critics

Gian Luca Demarco sees the new activity as an interesting challenge: “Feeding young people is very interesting. If they eat and like your food, that’s the biggest achievement. Adults can be consciously interested in food, want to try different tastes and cuisines, while children are not very interested in this, they care about other things. That’s why it’s so hard to please them. If I succeed, we all win: the children, their parents, and me.”

When asked if he knows a recipe for getting kids interested in food who just don’t seem to like anything, the chef believes that it’s not only a matter of food, but also a matter of education. “Let’s not hide it, there are simply spoiled children who don’t eat anything on principle. However, the line between such children and tasteless food is very thin. I will try to make the food tasty, and if it turns out to be a matter of showing off, it will be necessary to grow: both for the child and for his family, as well as for me,” Gian Luca shares his point of view. In the school’s newly constructed building in the capital, new restaurant-level kitchen equipment has already been ordered, which will ensure high quality and variety of food, and reduce the amount of wasted food. The dining area will also stand out with its modern aesthetic environment, its furniture is made in Germany.

Dividing food into healthy and not is a wrong approach

When talking about feeding children, Gian Luca singles out three main principles that he believes are important – complete nutrition, a variety of tastes and the culture of eating itself. “I want to get children used to tasting a variety of foods and change the attitude that if a vegetable is not tasty, it will not taste good. I am convinced that unless a child is a vegetarian or does not follow other dietary regimes, he must learn to eat everything – vegetables, fruits, and meat,” says the chef. When asked if the pizzas so loved by children will appear on the school menu, Gian Luca laughs that it will: “There will definitely be days when we eat pizzas. We all deserve a little celebration. Eating healthy doesn’t mean no pizza or burgers, that’s the wrong attitude. The food must be varied, there must be everything.”

Discovering, trying and getting to know different tastes, expanding children’s horizons through food, getting to know the cuisines and culture of different countries is another goal for both parents and the school. Sometimes adults themselves are to blame for a child’s reluctance to try new dishes or refusal to eat the food served. “From my environment, I have noticed that sometimes we look too casually at what and how we prepare for children. Many people think that it is enough to mix different vegetables, put them in the oven and the children will eat them. It certainly won’t happen, because children are very intelligent personalities, if the image of the dish is not “delicious” for them, they will not eat it. Children pay particular attention not only to the taste, but also to the aesthetic appearance”, – says the chef, noting the mistakes of adults.

Eating culture is much more than just food

The culture of eating has recently become no less of a challenge. “I would like us to sit at the table without phones, tablets, and turn off the TV.” It is a great achievement if a child is able to sit at the table and eat while interacting with others. We have similar problems in Italy, it is not even a problem of our countries, but of this era – how to win back children’s attention, so that the time at the table is not only a time for eating, but also a time for communication, the pleasure of discovering new tastes”, says the chef.

According to “Erudito Licėjus” founder Dr. Nerijaus Pacėsa, it was precisely the same approach to food and nutrition that led the school to decide to cooperate with Gian Luca. “At school, we educate children comprehensively, so for us, the dining area is the same place for education as the classroom – food can be a great part of experiential learning, how to communicate, taste, behave at the table, so that in the future, in the company of colleagues or friends, you will not feel uncomfortable and refuse to eat alone because you don’t know how to do it. A fully educated young person should not face such problems”, says N. Pacėsa. The search for new solutions and partnerships has also been stimulated by the slowly changing attitude of children’s meal suppliers: here still dominating fast food-type presentations and the desire to reduce costs as much as possible. As a result, the menu often lacks variety, and the goal of developing children’s taste is not set.

 “I believe in our cooperation with Gian Luca, although I understand that there are many challenges ahead. To overcome them, we will involve the whole school community. After all, in every home, the kitchen is traditionally a place that unites everyone,” N. Pacėsa is convinced.