As a chef, I'm in a very lucky position in that I work on a popular TV show called The Restaurant where I get to meet all types of food critics.

 

Although I’m always intrigued to hear their feedback of my food, there is only one food critic in this world that I fear more than Marco Pierre White.

 

This person even makes Gordon Ramsey look like a timid pussy cat.

 

His name is Alex Hayden and he is my 4-year-old son.

 

Until I became a mother, I never fully understood how frustrating and stressful dinner time could be.

 

When Alex was a baby I had romantic visions of spending hours creating culinary masterpieces in my kitchen and eating them with him.

 

I couldn’t wait until he was a little older to come on this exciting food venture of discovering new tastes and flavours.

 

This was short-lived as my son, like so many other children. became a picky eater.

 

As adults, we take for granted that we know how to eat and just expect children to be the same. I certainly did.

 

Babies must first learn how to hold up their head, sit up, crawl and then eventually walk; eating is no different and is a learned skill.

 

 

Anyone reading this who has never suffered the instant food rejections, tantrums, “I don't like that” being screamed across the table, food thrown on to the floor, I envy you. I started dreading any meals times with Alex.

 

I was devastated and felt so frustrated as my whole life and career has been based around food.

 

I studied it in college, worked in restaurants, then specialised in teaching children about food. I couldn’t understand why my son suddenly became a picky eater. I’m talking really picky.

 

Up until 18 months old he ate everything. One minute I was bragging to my friends about what amazing foods he was eating, then in the flick of a switch he changed.

 

Alex suffered chronic constipation, weight loss, mood swings, and became so anxious at the sight of food that he’d cry. I felt helpless.

 

I brought him to doctors, specialists and even enrolled him on a hospital programme. Parts of it helped but no major breakthroughs.

 

With the help of my friend and business partner we decided to develop our own food programme and I had the best test subject: Alex.

 

 

We looked at child psychology, science, play-based learning, and then Foodoppi was born. In Finnish this means food learning. I couldn’t believe how successful it was.

 

Alex is like a different child, I couldn’t believe his progress - he has even become very curious about food.

 

Last night I was cooking duck. "What’s that?" Alex asked poking at the packaging.

 

I decided to tell him exactly what it was and just wait to see what happens.

 

"It’s duck" I replied, keeping my head down and avoiding eye contact.

 

The reason I was a little reserved was because we had been in the park the day previously feeding the ducks.

 

I was surprised how matter of fact Alex was about it. He said “so yesterday the duck was swimming in the pond and now it's dead on my table”.  

 

I was amazed he got the concept of where food comes from, although that duck did not come from the pond!

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