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G Force

Coach de cuisine

German Lam has brought his experience in restaurant kitchens to his work in getting healthy, colorful, appealing food into school lunches. “Kids eat with their eyes,’’ he says. German Lam has brought his experience in restaurant kitchens to his work in getting healthy, colorful, appealing food into school lunches. “Kids eat with their eyes,’’ he says. (Erik Jacobs for The Boston Globe)
By Sheryl Julian
Globe Staff / September 2, 2009

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German Lam is a professionally trained chef who left restaurant kitchens and became a food coach. “Mine is all about health and wellness,’’ says Lam, who lives with his wife and two sons in Waltham. There he consults to the public school system, teaching kitchen staff, then talking to students. Lam, who will turn 45 this weekend, was born in Chile of Chinese parents, and raised in Boston. He studied culinary arts at Newbury College, worked at the Harvard Club, the Ritz-Carlton, the Charles Hotel, and Chatham Bars Inn, and now runs Glam Foods (www.glamfoodsllc.com), which offers private lessons and helps parents in a rut.

Q. What do you feed your boys?

A. Jonathan is 8, Steven is 6. My own kids, I would say they’re my guinea pigs at home. After four years, they’ve embraced the pyramid - the USDA pyramid, the different food groups, all the colors. You’re talking Swiss chard, kale, broccolini, French green beans, pea pods, carrots, root vegetables, butternut squash, beets, parsnips, tricolored couscous, adding brown rice to it, risotto, whole-wheat pasta. They’re good eaters. I take macaroni and cheese and make it healthy.

Q. How?

A. Using whole wheat pasta, using butter made with sweet buttermilk, using fresh Parmesan cheese, adding frozen green peas, corn, tomatoes; you could use fresh basil or dried oregano. Now you have this gourmet mac and cheese. I add grilled chicken to it. For the whole summer, they had couscous with grilled chicken breast, with corn, with cucumbers, with tomatoes, with broccoli. It’s not just broccoli and pasta, you’re adding a lot more ingredients. You have a lot of flavors, and you have a lot of colors.

Q. Is it important to add color?

A. Kids eat with their eyes.

Q. What did you do in the Waltham school system?

A. They have a lot of commodity items: They have corn that needs to be used up, frozen corn kernels, they have dried cranberries, brown rice. It’s teaching them to create something that’s healthy and the kids will like to eat.

Q. What do you make?

A. Turkey cobb salad. I took a variation from working at the Ritz. [The schools] have a lot of turkey. Let’s turn the cobb salad into something kid-friendly using cranberries, cucumbers, carrots, romaine lettuce. I made orange vinaigrette; now you have a lot of different flavors. And added peppers and celery.

Q. How do you actually get the kids to try something?

A. We play a game called Food Jeopardy. Can anyone tell me what’s in the salad? They say, there’s lettuce, there’s turkey. I say, there’s a vegetable that begins with the letter C. “Is it celery?’’ [someone says]. To see the joy when the kid gets the answer.

Q. Who cooks in your family?

A. I do all the shopping, all the cooking. I’m playing the mom’s role of taking care of the kids. I created a business to help families shop, budget, how to prepare food for their families, so now that they have kids, they eat healthy. The parents are traveling, the kids at the hockey rink are eating fried foods.

Q. What advice would you give them?

A. They have an opportunity to win. If you eat junk food, right off the bat you’re at a disadvantage.