By: Cathy Polley, RPh, Vice President, Health & Wellness, FMI & Executive Director, FMI Foundation
With National Family Meals Month™ on the horizon, the FMI Foundation sat down to chat with Foodland’s Chef Keoni Chang, winner of the 2014 Supermarket Chef Showdown family meals category and Grand Champion of the 2012 Supermarket Chef Showdown.
Family meals played an important role in Keoni’s life growing up in Hawaii. He greatly values having experienced the ritual of dinner at home every night with his two sisters, parents and grandmother.
“Every night we set the table, putting everything in place, and then sat down together for home-cooked food and robust conversation.”
Keoni’s culinary training and lifestyle have changed what he prepares and eats with his own family today, but it is still important to him to share meals with his wife and two-and-a-half-year old son. His approach, and advice for customers and neighbors struggling to fit in more family meals, is to take the stress and formality out of it.
“Meals are important to strengthen family bonds, but it’s not about making a five-star, award-winning meal. It can be on paper plates. What’s important isn’t the cooking, it’s the caring.”
We asked Keoni what criteria he and Foodland focus on to help families get more meals on the table. He shared these three keys to family meal success:
Keoni’s first key: Keeping meals affordable. He knows his Foodland customers are always looking for ways to get more value from their dollar. He often gives humble ingredients interesting twists, like his winning recipe from last year’s Supermarket Chef Showdown for Korean Hillshire Farm Dogs with Kimchi Slaw and Garlic Alexia Sweet Potato Fries. The creative recipe adds interest and excitement to family mealtime without sacrificing affordability. It’s also super easy for time-starved families to prepare at home, which leads us to Keoni’s second key.
Keoni’s second key: Giving customers speed-to-table, their way. That means minimizing ingredients, reducing prep time and giving people choices that allow them to get to the table in a way that works for them. He sees a lot of family meal makers today doing some combination of prepared, prepped or scratch. Speed-to-table also means finding ways to minimize work and maximize efficiency—like cooking two chickens at a time instead of just one.
Keoni’s third key: Keeping it family-friendly. As we all know, it’s hard to please everyone in the family. Even Keoni admits that his wife can be his biggest critic when he is creating new meal ideas. Like most kids, Keoni’s young son can also be quite critical—or shall we say skeptical—when it comes to trying new foods. Keoni’s trick is to add new ingredients and flavors to foods his son is already accustomed to eating. Wish your kid would learn to love kale? Keoni recently found success by sneaking kale into one of his son’s favorite foods, pizza.What is your store doing to prepare for National Family Meals Month in September? Find resources, tips and more at. www.FMIFamilyMeals.com.