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Meet the Melbourne dad on a mission to make healthy food fun for kids

Child sitting at a dinner table
Photograph: Supplied

Chicken nuggets are everywhere. They appear on every second kids’ pub menu, they’re a happy meal favourite, and they’re quick and easy to heat up at home.

Unfortunately, they’re also often nutritionally barren – which is where Death to Nuggets comes in. Jonathan Pangu is a Melbourne father of Bo (5), Arlo (7) and Noah (9), and he’s on a mission to change the way that families relate to food by running fun and educational dinner parties for kids and their parents. Say goodbye to nuggets, and hello to imaginative, tasty and nutritious meals.

The idea for Death to Nuggets came to Pangu last year, when he left his role as an advertising executive to become a stay-at-home dad. “I started comparing the food that surrounds many kids to the stuff that I was seeing on TV,” he says. “I was a bit addicted to the Netflix series Chef’s Table – it’s full of these amazing stories of chefs pushing boundaries and being highly creative with food. When I juxtaposed the kinds of things those chefs were doing with adult food with the things many of our kids are eating I thought, ‘This is two different planets here – why is no one thinking creatively about kids’ food?’ Kids are highly imaginative creatures… so it seems like a real missed opportunity.”

Laura Neville and Jonathan Pangu

 

L-R: Laura Neville, Jonathan Pangu
Photograph: Andy DiProse

 

With his target firmly set on processed, factory foods that are high in salt, fat and sugar, Pangu came up with the idea of launching a series of themed dinner parties for families. “I felt it was really time to push for fresh food, for wholefoods, for cooking from scratch… by engaging and relating to kids on their level.”

The next step was to bring a chef on board. Pangu teamed up with Laura Neville, who has worked in top-tier restaurants in London, and Bistro Moncur and Code Black in Australia. Together, they ran their first event in August – The Edible Garden – which saw 60 people feasting on four courses of veggie-packed meals, including rainbow pasta and a garden-themed chocolate and zucchini sponge made with chocolate mousse as ‘soil’, plus sweet carrots, strawberries and edible flowers.

“Everyone said their kids had tried something new, so I was really proud of that,” says Pangu. “We created a positive environment, made it fun, and it was a shared experience with a parent, which is really important.”

Children sitting around tables at Death to Nuggets event

Photograph: Andy DiProse

Just prior to this interview, Pangu had been tasting dishes with his daughter Bo for his upcoming event: Eating Nemo!?. This four-course dining experience, which will be held on Saturday September 9 at My Son, Joy in South Melbourne, will be seafood-themed (hence the cheeky name).

 

Colourful dish at Death to Nuggets

Photograph: Andy DiProse

And if you’re worried that your kids might not want to sit still for a four-course meal, then fear not: Pangu has thought of everything. “Kids don’t like to be stuck at a table for too long, so we don’t make them. They’re free range… there’s a craft area where they can do colouring in and cutting out,” he says. Between courses, kids also hear from chefs about the ingredients they’ve just tried, and can even enter the kitchen to see where the magic happens.

The result, Pangu hopes, is a positive experience that will ignite a passion in children for experimentation with food. “I think food is the best – it’s a never-ending journey of discovery,” he says. “Trying things from around the word… re-inventing ingredients into new dishes. Love of food is a love of life, and I think that’s one of things that we’ve been losing a bit recently. I know it takes extra effort, but I think if we can change some of our behaviours and eat fresh food, we can get our kids having a better relationship with food.”

Children learning about food in a kitchen

Photograph: Andy DiProse

 

Death to Nuggets has two upcoming sessions:

Eating Nemo?! (5.30-8pm. Sat Sep 9)
Bugg Power! (5.30-8pm. Sat Sep 30).

Death to Nuggets events take place at My Son, Joy (315 Coventry St, South Melbourne 3205). Tickets are $45 a head , and include kids’ drinks and a glass of wine for adults.

Book tickets online.

Find more great family friendly ideas with our list of the best things to do with kids in Melbourne.

Strapped for cash? Here are some cheap kids' activities in Melbourne.

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