Celebrity chef Miguel Maestre chats family & food

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1. With all your TV commitments and work pressures, how do you balance life and family?

For me, it’s very easy and it comes down to prioritising and organisation. These are my two keys to success. The most successful thing to happen to me is having my kids. I look at life from that lens – if they’re the most successful things I’ve done, how do I fit everything around them? I’m lucky that I can do what I want to, not what I have to. My wife and manager help me balance everything, but family always comes first. If my daughter has a concert that’s on the same night as The Logies, I’m going to my daughter’s concert. You must put a limit on what is important to you. When I’m driving down my driveway, that is my real success. I also chose not to have a restaurant so I can spend more time with my family.

2. You have always been very committed to quality time with your children, is that still the same? Do you still get to cook their meals and drop them at school?

Absolutely! It’s my favourite thing in the world! Now they’re fighting about who’s dropping who! We have two cars, so there’s arguments about who’s in the front, who’s going with papa. I love the contact with their teachers to find out how they’re doing. I make their lunches and special things for them to eat. It’s such a highlight for me to be so involved.

3. Do you and your children cook together? Do either of them have an interest in cooking like dad?

It changes every day! Sometimes they’re excited, sometimes not. Claudia is quite curious and loves doing the little jobs – buttering her toast, cracking the eggs. My son Morgan is very interested in the eating! For Morgan, his favourite ingredient is broccoli. We all just enjoy really delicious food.

4. What do you like about being a parent? What has surprised you? What have you found most difficult?

Every day is a challenge, but I love it. No one can prepare you. You’re dealing with two little human beings who are the best of you (times a million) and your partner. They are your kids and that’s so special.

5. How was your childhood growing up and has that influenced your parenting style?

My childhood influenced everything in my life and growing up made me who I am today. I was so lucky to grow up in a house that was all about love and respect. You had to respect yourself to respect others. My parents also valued hard work, which I teach in my home. My parents are so very much in love, so in my home we live and breathe love. Growing up I just remember seeing my parents holding hands, kissing each other each morning, making breakfast together. You just need to focus on making sure your kids are good people, and everything else will come after that.

6. What is the key to being a good dad?

You need to spend time, and listen to your kids. So often we confuse being a good dad with providing material items, but it’s about the quality of time spent with your kids.

7. Do your children both speak Spanish? Is that something that is important to you?

Both of my kids are quite advanced. They’re not quite fluent as it’s a hard language, but I speak to them and they understand a lot. It’s very important to me that they have this connection with Spain.

8. How important is family history to you? Does the family go back to Spain often?

Very important. Both children have been to Spain a few times now, and we try to go back when we can. I also try to bring my family here once a year. If you can’t move the mountain, bring the mountain to you! There are many Spanish traditions, especially around Christmas that I incorporate. They’re important to me and I want my kids to know them.

9. What sort of food do you cook for your children? What advice do you have for parents on getting children to eat certain things like vegetables?

Kids need to get involved. At home, we cook one meal, but so often people get caught up in making a meal for the adults and then another for the kids. You need to make them part of the process and cook together. Start at the beginning, so they’re part of the shopping, helping tick things off the list. Once home, find age appropriate tasks, like cracking eggs, or peeling broccoli leaves, and make it fun. If you have the ingredients at home they’ll start to appreciate and understand where food comes from, like a whole ham that they can slice. Once the meal is ready, eat together, with devices away and the TV turned off so you can engage together.

10. Any advice on how we help our children to eat healthy? With a lot of takeaway fast food, there is a larger amount of overweight or unhealthy young kids; how do we avoid this?

A quarter of our kids will be obese before they’re 5 years old. The main thing is to stay away from pre-packaged lunchbox foods. Keep it fresh where possible. Sweets, chocolate and ice cream are a treat; not something they ‘deserve’ because they’ve done a good job. Cook more at home, and avoid fast food. You can cook an equally delicious burger at home that’s fun, tasty and healthy. There’s 24 hours in a day so there’s always time for cooking. You can get a handful of mushrooms, spiralised veggies, some soy sauce and you’ve got a tasty and healthy stir-fry in just minutes. We need to be better at prioritising food. It’s also so much cheaper.

Peninsula Kids – Summer 2019/20

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