Claus Meyer is checking IDs at the door of his latest socio-culinary enterprise, and anyone born prior to the year 2000 will be turned roundly away. That’s because—in addition to an upcoming culinary school in Brownsville, a bakery in Williamsburg and a Scandinavian food hall in Grand Central—the prolific Noma co-founder is readying to import yet another ambitious project from his native Denmark—Kids Table.
On Tuesday, April 26, from 4-5:30pm, some of the city’s most celebrated restaurants (Per Se, Del Posto, Franny’s, Colonie, Blue Hill, Atera, Rebelle, Vaucluse and Telepan, as well as Meyer’s own upcoming eatery, Agern) will launch a three-course service for an exclusive gathering of notoriously hardened critics, i.e. kids aged 7-14 years. For only $30, pint-sized ticket holders will enjoy a unique, potentially challenging menu crafted around turnips, lamb and rhubarb; and to sweeten the pot even further, they’ll be entirely free of parental supervision (for that same $30, adults can avail themselves of compressed watermelon salad—and that’s about it—in Per Se’s salon).
“I truly believe that if we want to change our food systems and the way we eat—today and tomorrow—we need to start with the younger generation,” Meyer said. “With Kids Table, we want to serve them new flavors that they might not be accustomed to as part of a unique and fun experience, to ignite an interest in what they put in their mouths.”
We spoke with the endlessly innovative restaurateur about his original inspiration for the project, how he plans on turning pre-teens on to turnips, and why seven-year-olds will score the first look at his anticipated New Nordic establishment.
What was your impetus for starting Kid’s Table in Denmark?
CM: We wanted to expand the culinary minds of young children by introducing them to wholesome ingredients, and encourage an exploration of how healthy food can be delicious to kids in a world where so many items that are marketed and advertised towards them are processed. We believe this journey cannot start too early in a child’s life and the inspiration cannot come from too many angles. We also wanted them to experience “elevated hospitality” and the concept of being a good citizen and taking care of others. A meal and a restaurant can be a mind blowing “space” to start learning that.
What made you decide to bring Kids Table to NYC, and did you adjust anything in its format?
CM: We wanted to provide city kids with an opportunity to taste new and exciting ingredients, but we are also introducing them to the social components of dining that we believe will carry on into their lives. The format is similar, although in Denmark we have more than 90 participating restaurants, and 4,000 tickets are sold. We hope to keep expanding this event in New York annually as well, ideally to other cities if we can. We will learn as much as we can from this first year’s event, and from listening to the phenomenal colleagues who help us execute it.
Since there are no parents involved, how are the children supervised?
CM: Kids Table staff will be supervising the kids. But we wanted to do this event in a largely adult free zone, as part of an educational yet fun experience that goes beyond just “eat your broccoli.” Hopefully, the children will come home to their parents more curious and courageous. We hope their learnings will trickle into their families and spark more home-cooked and healthy meals. Several studies indicate that kids who grow up in families that cook at home, live a healthier life.
Your three selected ingredients— turnips, lamb and rhubarb—are a potentially a tough sell. Can you give an example of how participating chefs plan to transform them?
CM: Well, we want the menus to be a surprise. The chefs will definitely have the audience in mind and adjust it somewhat to younger taste buds, yet still challenge them and introduce them to new ingredients, flavors and textures.
Why is it that kids get to preview your restaurant, Agern, before the adults do?
CM: While we are a fine dining establishment, we’re not a stuffy restaurant; rather an engaging space where children and adults are welcome. This is an especially exciting way to open as all proceeds from Kids Table will be shared among Meyer’s Melting Pot Foundation, currently establishing a culinary school, cafeteria, bakery and community center in Brownsville, Brooklyn, as well as a second charity of each participating restaurant’s choosing. We liked the win/win aspect—that the proceeds benefit kids in need and that the participating restaurants get great exposure.
When did cultivating kid’s palates become such a passion project of yours?
CM: I did not have anything like this as a child. Until the age of 18, I thought the best thing in the world was a hot dog or a wiener schnitzel with frozen reheated carrots and melted margarine. When I went to France as an au pair, I experienced GREAT food. I was totally blown away to the extent that I went home with the ambition to change the food culture of my country. Maybe it’s naïve, but I believe that where food is served with love, affection and empathy, there will be more love, affection and empathy for the ones around the table. So let’s build that world together.
For more information and tickets, visit Kids Table.