| François Payard. Photo: Alex Van Buren
A world-renowned chef consoling kids about the charms of pizza? There's a role reversal. But many of them had folded their arms and were eyeing the pastry czar as he basted a whole wheat pita with sauce, lentils and -- gasp -- tofu. New Yorkers, even young ones up, know their pizza pies. Tofu is not usually part of the bargain.
The reaction to those pizzas and soy chocolate mousse, after the jump.
|Kale smoothie. Photo: Alex Van Buren|
| Vigil Chime and son Jidobi.
Photo: Alex Van Buren
Tuesday night was Payard's first time visiting (although his partner Fernanda Capobianco has been working with the program for years). To drive home the importance of eating plant-based foods, executive director Amie Hamlin gave a speech introducing Payard (and fellow chef Joy Pierson of the vegan restaurant Candle Café) saying that "it's very important that everyone understands that disease is caused by diet" -- diabetes in particular. She also touted veganism as the best diet option for everyone.
We were curious to see what the kids would think -- and how they'd like their tofu pizzas.
Before any child was allowed to eat, he or she had to visit three nutritional centers. At one, we watched a volunteer pop a huge leaf of kale into a blender and inform the students that kale is a "superfood -- a superhero food!" She combined it with pineapple juice and bananas. The students' expressions changed when they were allowed to taste samples.
"Oh, my, God, this is good," reported one. "Tastes awesome!" cried another.
Science teacher Josh Dormant admitted to being surprised by the extent to which children had taken to their healthy food training. He now sees his students bringing in carrots and grapes for snacks, and reports "kids are asking parents to go out and shop for things." It's amazing, he said, what "a little education and a lot of taste" will do.
Indeed, one mom was inspired by these dinners and her son's enthusiasm for them. After a recent meal that was "very good," Vigil Chime "ran out and bought a book." She'd felt low in stamina, and she and her son were trying to transition to eating more plants. Was it working? She thinks so.
Finally, the feast began: a tasty artichoke and sundried tomato salad and a rather bland "white bean paté from Candle Café, and those pizzas.
|The tofu-lentil pizza emerges. Photo: Alex Van Buren|
|Pizza after an encounter with a student. Photo: Alex Van Buren|
Thankfully, all was not lost. The silky, decadent soy mousses Payard made at his shop from dark chocolate, soy milk and tofu found one heck of an audience, and we have a feeling not a single one was left behind.
|Naomi, 3, enjoying her chocolate mousse. Photo: Alex Van Buren|