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Denver chefs and kids at table

Sizzlin’ Denver Dads

Local chefs share ideas to get cooking with the kids.

There are dads who love to break out tools with their kids, ones who enjoy nature walks and camping, and those who teach their kids to play sports. Then there are these guys―four favorite Denver chefs who have mastered the professional art of cooking and, even more importantly, cooking with their kids. From making kid-friendly pizza to four-course meals, there’s nothing they won’t try. We challenged them to come up with four grill-centered recipes for our readers and their kids to try at home this Father’s Day.

Cristino Griego

Chef Instructor at Cook Street School of Culinary Arts

With a little more than a decade’s worth of culinary experience and even more as a dad, Griego knows a thing or two about combining his two passions at home.

“The days that I have off, my son and I will typically cook a wonderful meal,” says Griego. “We usually spend that time together making something really nice. He gets his hands dirty and gets involved with it. He’s a really good eater so there are no qualms with eating whatever we cook. It could be anything from grilled chicken to steak, lasagna, risotto, and any type of pasta of course. Those are the days I actually get to spend my time cooking for him,” says Griego. On the weekends, they make homemade pizzas together with several different toppings. Their most recent cooking endeavors have included making different types of potpies.

What Father’s Day Looks Like: Father’s Day usually consists of Luca, 14, taking Griego out to a restaurant where they can spend time together catching up while treating each other to a really great meal.

Family Cooking Tip: “The more involved kids are in the process of making food, the more likely they are to eat different things. If they touch the food, see the food, they help with the food they”re going to want to eat it as opposed to Mom and Dad just putting it together, throwing it on the table, and saying ‘here, eat your Brussels sprouts.” Show them what it’s like when it’s raw. Incorporate vegetables into dishes like meatloaf and lasagnas by finely chopping them in a food processor. There’s always a way to sneak those healthy items into a meal for even the pickiest of eaters.”

Clint Wangsnes

Chef/Owner of Chop Shop

Beginning his career in the food industry at age 14, Wangsnes, dad of Luella, six, and Taytum, four, shares how he manages his time at home.

“I’m pretty busy all the time between the two restaurants and the two kids at home, so we enjoy quality family time by going to the park or grilling when we can,” says Wangsnes. “(The kids) always like to do what I’m doing. My son is very adventurous with his palate, whereas my daughter is a little bit more picky of an eater. They love getting their hands dirty and getting into food, of course. They love making cookies and things like that. We make pies and cakes and cookies, but always from a young age they would get their little step stools and jump up to help me with whatever I’m doing,” says Wangsnes.

Since the kids are fairly young, Wangsnes tends to avoid intricate recipes when they are in the kitchen togther.

What Father’s Day Looks Like: This year, Wangsnes hopes to barbecue outside and spend quality family time with his children and wife.

Family Cooking Tip: “Get your kids involved just to make them feel like they”re a part of it. I think a lot of (parents” cooking fears) come from the unknown. Trust that they are okay to grab a knife and get into it. Even my young son loves to get into stuff with me, whether I’m fixing stuff or cooking.”

Brian Vaughn

Chef/Owner of Low Country Kitchen

Vaughn began his journey in the restaurant industry at age 14, and is a father to Neilly, age four. With two successful restaurants, he aims to spend all his downtime sharing his passions with his daughter.

“We tend to enjoy spending our time together skiing all day and then cooking curry together. Neilly has her own kitchen set with a little whisk and knives. She puts on her little apron and chef hat and will help me with whatever I’m making,” says Vaughn.

Neilly loves to help her dad make large batches of lamb curry with lots of vegetables that she is always eager to help chop up, such as cauliflower and cucumbers. His family will often eat curry throughout the week when they are busy with work and don’t have time to prepare meals.

What Father’s Day Looks Like: Vaughn hopes to spend Father’s Day at their home in Steamboat Springs, most likely grilling on the deck and enjoying some much needed downtime together after opening their second restaurant in LoHi.

Family Cooking Tip: “Start them early, even if you’re just encouraging them to do prep work with you. Sometimes the stuff (they prep) won’t always make it to the pot but it’s important and a good way to start conversations about food and where it comes from. Whisking French toast batter and teaching them to crack eggs can be fun.”

Ryan Witcher

Executive Pastry Chef/Partner of Sugarmill

Witcher began a lifelong love for the food industry at age 16, and has since found more to love in his two children, Eisol, three, and Eaden, one.

“They help out a lot, especially with breakfast. My oldest son always wants to mix everything up. He”ll drag the bench over so he can reach the counter to help with the eggs. He likes pancakes, which is a dessert for him, so we make those a lot. He also loves to lick the frosting off cupcakes when we make those,” says Witcher.

What Father’s Day Looks Like: Witcher hopes to enjoy a “low key” day with his family grilling on the back patio and taking his kids to the park nearby.

Family Cooking Tip: “Have patience. Allow a lot more time than you think you”ll need. Know that you”ll definitely make a mess. It’s always a lot of fun because they”re so excited to help you make something. It’s important to let them see something from start to finish―something they put some work and time into.”


Check out the tasty Father’s Day Grilling Menu these chefs created for Colorado Parent.

Family Food

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