Chef Marcus Samuelsson Shares Cooking Tips Even the Busiest Parents Can Use

Marcus Samuelsson is not a chef you'd normally associate with kid-friendly fare. But that doesn't stop the James Beard Award winner from working with children across the country. Samuelsson has teamed up with Uncle Ben's to promote Ben's Beginners, a contest where families record themselves cooking a tasty meal together. Aside from providing the opportunity to win $15,000, Samuelsson hopes the contest brings families closer together — especially in the kitchen. But you don't have to participate in the contest to benefit from the chef's culinary expertise. Here, Samuelsson shares his tips for getting kids in the kitchen and making the most of meal prep.

Utilize What You Already Have
Never underestimate the power of leftovers. Samuelsson suggests using protein from the night before, be it chicken or beef, to create a whole new meal for your family. "Add some broth, boil the chicken in it, and you can have a great chicken soup," he says. "Or do a great chicken salad lettuce wrap with a little bit of rice." If all you can muster is putting the meal in the microwave, Samuelsson says adding lime juice or herbs can make it "feel fresh."

Make Meal Prep Memorable
"I grew up cooking with my grandmother," Samuelsson says. "And one of the reasons I am a chef today is because the energy and love of cooking in the kitchen with her." Foster that same feeling and have your children help you in the kitchen. Whether it's measuring ingredients or (if they're old enough) chopping vegetables, these tasks will build a love of cooking and food that kids carry throughout their lives.

Watch Your Words
While it's important for parents to encourage healthy habits, they shouldn't make it their main message. "Kids don't want to come home and be told, 'We are dieting this week,'" Samuelsson says. The chef suggests parents stop using words like "diet" and "healthy" to describe food, and focus on other aspects like taste and color. And as for hiding vegetables in dishes, Samuelsson says, "If you're a good chef, you don't have to hide it."

Peter Ross