Dennis K Littley
Chef Dennis K. Littley

A Chef's Secret

Introducing Grains to Picky Eaters

Dennis K. Littley, executive chef, Mount St. Joseph Academy, Flourtown, PA, plans menus for high school girls who can be picky about what they eat, shying away even from basic ingredients such as onions and beans.

As you could imagine, something like Chinese black rice in a rice bowl (delicious as it may be) might be a tough sell.

“it all goes back to that old adage that you eat with your eyes first,” Littley says. “i could serve the most delicious dish in the whole world, but if it doesn’t look pretty, forget it.”

For the southwest chicken rice bowls, Littley has introduced different grains by combining them with familiar white rice or mild orzo.

“Wild rice or wheatberries or quinoa, some people would not eat that on its own, since they’re just not familiar with it,” Littley says. “But as a blend, they try it.”

He also finds that lentils—red or green—with their more delicate size, are great for picky eaters who might otherwise eat around kidney beans. Rice bowls themselves are a way to introduce new flavors, overall, Littley says, a safe place to discover new flavors.

“i can add different salsas on top of a chicken and rice bowl; i can do something Middle-eastern, with some yogurt,” he says. “With a rice bowl, they know what they’re getting, but then again, they don’t know. that makes it more exciting.”