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Kids, local chef jump into the healthy-eating stew

Stephen Henry Executive Chef Palmer House Hiltshows Illinois Child Development Center student Madeleine Plew5 (center) Park Ridge other students how

Stephen Henry, Executive Chef Palmer House Hilton, shows Illinois Child Development Center student Madeleine Plewa 5 (center), of Park Ridge, and other students how to make english muffin pizzas during a "Culinary Kids" cooking demonstration about healthy

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Updated: October 15, 2013 7:08AM

They put on their towering white chef’s hats and gathered around the precisely chopped ingredients at a work station inside the Palmer House Hilton’s vast banquet kitchen.

One of the nine trainees licked his fingers. Another turned up his nose at the sliced mushrooms.

For an hour or so Thursday, Executive Chef Stephen Henry suspended his normally rigid rules, as nine Chicago-area preschoolers and kindergartners joined him to test a range of dishes from a new recipe book aimed at getting kids to make healthier choices.

“Eating healthy can be and should be fun,” said Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, who is promoting the “Culinary Kids Initiative” along with Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.

It’s unacceptable, Mendoza said, that so many kids in Chicago are seriously overweight.

“One in five kindergartners are characterized as obese,” she said. “That should be shocking.”

But can a dish truly be “fun” if it involves sneaking raw spinach into a fruit smoothie?

Madeleine Plewa, 5, certainly had her doubts, as she simultaneously eyed Chef Henry’s concoction and tried to keep her hat from slipping down over her eyes.

But one taste, and she was a believer.

“I like it because it’s sour — and I like sour,” the little girl said.

In a sense, the adults Thursday were preaching to the choir. The healthy food message seemed to have been drummed into most of their brains.

“I like zucchini because it tastes like nothing I know,” Madeleine said.

Other recipes in the book include: Butternut squash mac and cheese; grilled peanut butter and banana quesadillas with strawberry salsa; and corn flake french toast with strawberries and honey Greek yogurt sauce.

To check out the recipes, go to


Twitter: @slesposito

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