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Chefs at 57 Ritz-Carlton Hotels Tackle
Childhood Obesity by Revising Kid Menus


CHEVY CHASE, Md - April 30, 2004 -- With concern spreading among pediatricians and parents about the growing threat to the younger generation's future health from poor diets and junk food habits, the chefs at 57 Ritz-Carlton Hotels & Resorts around the world have taken matters into their own hands...and kitchens! Totally revised "Healthy Taste" Ritz Kids Menus will debut on Mother's Day, May 15.

Many of the chefs are also parents and understand better than most the importance of eating the right foods. "We know how to make food that is good for kids and tastes good, too," said Lawrence McFadden, the company's executive chef. "We want to make sure that our Ritz Kids Menus provide healthy, yet tasty, alternatives to the dishes we have offered in the past. This does not mean taking hamburgers or macaroni and cheese totally off the menu and substituting bean sprouts....we want them to eat their meals. What it does mean is taking another look at what we cook, how we cook it, and ways we can appeal to kids' appetites, while not adding extras they don't need like fat, sodium, and food additives."

Over the past two months, Ritz-Carlton chefs have been challenged to experiment in their kitchens at work, and at home, to look for new ways to offer up healthier foods for the peanut butter & jelly generation. Troy Thompson, executive chef at Jer-ne in The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey, has recreated his signature Japanese-style Bento Boxes to serve up pint-sized meals even adults would enjoy eating. "Sometimes with kids it's not what they eat, but how it looks, that can make them more willing to try something different," he explained. Thompson's "Healthy Taste" menu items will include entree choices of either "ants on a log" (celery stuffed with peanut butter and studded with raisins) or a chicken and veggie kabob, served with air-popped popcorn, fresh fruit, and low fat yogurt.

At The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun, a Mexican resort which attracts thousands of families every year, Executive Chef Rainer Zinngrebe wanted to give visiting youngsters a taste of the region on the kids menu. His offerings include "pescado al vapor la sirenita, arroz y vegetales" or "steamed fish with rice and vegetables" and "nino fajitas dedos de pollo a la parilla con jitomate y tortilla," better known as "kids' fajitas with grilled chicken strips on tomato and flour tortillas."

For youngsters with an early appreciation for gourmet food, Executive Sous Chef Mark Arnao, at The Ritz-Carlton, Central Park South has created dishes including a grilled chicken and apple burger and a "baby cassoulet," made with turkey and white beans. "When our guests bring their children in for a meal, I have found the kids have been brought up to order what their parents eat. This is grown-up food, but made for little ones," he explained.

At The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner in McLean, Va., Executive Chef John Coleman looks to his four year old daughter Caitlyn for inspiration when it comes to planning healthier menu items for youngsters. "She has been raised since a baby to eat things that are good for her and not junk food. For instance, her favorite snack is steamed edamame beans, with all the natural benefits of soy. Among the items I am adding is a whole wheat lavash pizza, topped with Maryland crab and roasted bell peppers," he said. Dessert has not been left off the new menu. At Tysons Corner, Chef Coleman crushed granola, placed it in a mini plastic sand box, with tiny shovel to use in place of a spoon.

All Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Resorts worldwide will begin offering their new "Healthy Taste" menus beginning May 15, Mother's Day. The new items will be marked with a special icon to help parents and children recognize them easily.

"With the episode of childhood obesity becoming such a serious concern for parents, Ritz-Carlton wanted to be the first hotel company to revise their traditional kids menu and create some healthy, but tasty options," said Eric Steinboch, vice president for food and beverage.


The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC
Vivian Deuschl, 703/941-6225

Also See: Novotel Hotels in Australia and New Zealand Remove Junk Food from Kids Menus; Fries and Pizza Out / Feb 2003
Room Service Goes Airborne as Hotels Cater to Air Passengers / April 2002

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