Panera Bread: How Head Chef Feeds His Family and Yours

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

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Looking to clean up your eating out? Panera has even more big news! The last time we talked about Panera, we were excited about their announcement to remove all artificial ingredients and flavorings from their menus by 2016, but Panera is not stopping there.  In mid-June, we had the opportunity to attend Panera’s Pantry, a pop-up space in Soho, only opened for two days. At their event the first night, Head Chef, Dan Kish, and Head Baker, Tom Gumpel, presented to us a demonstration and sampling of some new sandwiches and salad recipes from their upcoming Fall menu!

As we tasted, listened (and took lots of pictures of our plates!) Dan and Tom explained the trajectory of Panera’s journey and how they had designed the beautiful space where the event was held.  Displayed along the walls and shelves of the space were all 450 ingredients used in Panera’s dishes–the ones they love and the ones they are phasing out–total transparency.

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Panera has been a leader in the food industry, from one of the first to announce their removal of articulate ingredients and flavors, to working with registered dietitians to formulate ensure their meals not only tasted great, but were balanced and provided healthy choices for a individuals and families eating out. We’re giving Panera another big thumbs up as they continue on their journey, and can’t wait to try what they come up with next!

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But what does a Head Chef like Dan, feed his own family after feeding hundreds across America each day? We had the opportunity to catch up with Dan on his family’s favorite meal and what is important to him when making food choices.

MDIO: What’s your family’s favorite meal to make/have together?
Dan: Thanksgiving comes to mind first. That said, there occasions all year ranging from simple grilled bread panzanella enjoyed al fresco in the summer, to slow cooked meals on weekends in the winter that perfume our home with a delicious anticipation.

MDIO: “What’s your child’s favorite food at home?”
Dan: “Simple roasted chicken, roasted vegetables and really good artisan bread with butter.”

MDIO: “What are the most important things you look for when eating out or grocery shopping with your family?”
Dan: “We do our best to know who our food is coming from. Trusted sources are always the best.”

MDIO: “How do you get your kids involved in the kitchen and in learning about the foods that you and they are making and eating?”
Dan: “Our kids know and understand food because they were involved from a young age. When my children were little, we found it best to make them a part of the shopping process. Most effective was to go to local farmers markets and farm stands so they could engage with the people who grew, raised or harvested the ingredients that became the meal.
Salads are a great way to engage kids. Washing ingredients teach care. Making a simple vinaigrette teaches about ratios and balancing flavor and tumbling the ingredients together is fun.”

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