Death to Nuggets is a fun and bold campaign aiming to combat childhood obesity and the prevalence of processed food in children’s diets. It’s the brainchild of Melbourne father of three and former advertising executive Jonathan Pangu, in collaboration with chef and consultant Laura Neville, formerly of Racine and Soho House in London, and Bistro Moncur Woollahra and Code Black Melbourne.
Death to Nuggets is currently a series of themed pop-up dinners for kids and their adults at My Son, Joy, with the eventual aim to open a bricks and mortar cafe/restaurant. Their mission is to inspire kids with imaginative, nourishing food of the sort that you’re currently unlikely to find in any kids menus, where bland beige processed food like chicken nuggets abound.
Let me get this straight – I actually have no inherent problem with chicken nuggets! I even make them at home with chicken breast and panko breadcrumbs. Plus if you have a look at my Instagram feed it’s obvious that I am not an acolyte of ‘I Quit Sugar’.
But what I do support is better food choices for kids, minimising food that is high in salt, sugar and trans-fats and improving the relationship our kids have with food. It’s concerning that Australia’s obesity rate has doubled since 1980, with 27% of children now overweight or obese.
As such, I’m curious to experience a Death to Nuggets dinner. I am invited to take Lady AB to ‘Eating Nemo?!’ with a theme – you guessed it – centred around fish.
Lady AB is generally pretty good with food – she’s willing to try even if she may not like the same broad range of food that I do. And she’ll happily sit somewhere for hours wrapped up in a good book.
The fun starts with a Death to Nuggets red carpet, a nice touch to make the dinner a special occasion. Along with the dinner there are craft activities and books to read – and a seafood-themed playlist in the background (Rock Lobster!).
Chefs talk to kids as they eat and kids can watch chefs in the kitchen.
First course is a riff on fish and chips, with crispy polenta chips accompanying a fish and caper mixture that resembles mashed potato. There’s also a large plate of crudites.
Lady AB eats the chips, the raw zucchini (thinking it’s cucumber) and tries but does not like the fish – capers put her off. The 10 year old boys next to me demolish the crudites and chips too.
Second course is a Japanese-inspired make-your-own seashore!
On the plate is salmon sashimi, pickled whitefish, parmesan crumb then kids are invited to add other elements to their plate – seaweed, greens, pickled ginger.
Lady AB loves salmon sashimi normally so eats most of that off her plate then tries the rest of the elements. It is my favourite dish of the night, with an imaginative palette of colour, textures and flavours melding together.
Third course is the most ‘familiar’ in that its tomato-sauce based and comes with fluffy potato rolls. Inside the sauce are prawn and fish dumplings. Lady AB maintains that she does not like prawn (even though she’s unwittingly eaten prawn before) and refuses to eat the dumplings after an exploratory nibble.
The dessert course is an edible fish tank! It’s like a trifle layered with cake, jelly, fruit in fun shapes, pearls and garnished with tiny Chinese salted fish. It’s a visual feast and it’s just a shame that I don’t have the appetite to eat more.
At the end I ask Lady AB what her favourite food is. She says ‘bread’ (sigh). I ask other than bread what she likes and she says ‘salmon sashimi’. Which indicates that maybe with enough constant exposure and an instiling an ‘attitude of trying’ a child just might happily eat raw fish.
I’m not saying that Death to Nuggets has a magic wand. A kid that will only eat chicken nuggets won’t suddenly love sushi after one dinner. But I think food-loving and creative Melburnians are ready to try something different for their kids that doesn’t involve beige, boring and overly processed food. The high-quality food at Death to Nuggets is imaginative, colourful and encourages kids to get hands on.
Death to Nuggets’ next dinner is their most challenging yet – bugs. I’m going to put aside my mental block against eating insects in order to lead by example. I hope to see you there!
Death to Nuggets: Bugg Power, My Son, Joy, 315 Coventry St, South Melbourne
Saturday 7 October 5-7pm
Tickets are $45 a head including drinks for kids and a glass of wine for adults. Age range is approx. 5-13 but child dependant.