Skip to main content

Let’s Get Cooking…with David Fishman

July 21, 2009  • 

David Fishman may be just shy of thirteen years old, but that’s not stopping him from becoming a big-time foodie. "All my life, I have been an aspiring food critic, gaining more experience all the time by eating and writing," says David. "I’ve been to many restaurants – both in New York City and in other parts of the world – and I have experienced rejection just for being a ‘kid.’ I feel like I can offer other kids, grown-ups and the restaurant world a different perspective on food. One from the eyes of an almost teenager."

Read on for David’s advice to parents on packing the ideal school lunch, as well as his perspective on the restaurant experience. And be sure to check out his blog, Middle School Food Critic.


Lunch. School lunches are awful. Take it from me, I’m 12 years old and have been eating school lunches, or rather, not eating school lunches, for some time. This general rule is important to keep in mind when packing your child’s lunch: Your job is to beat your kid’s school’s lunch by packing something better. 

Step One: Find out what dishes are served – try and get a lunch menu. You need to figure out what dishes are being served so that you know what your kid will eat and which ones he/she won’t.

Step Two: Begin override of your kid’s lunch food. To create an ideal lunch, you must know your kid’s food likes and dislikes. Here are some ideas that might be well-received by your child:

  • Pack a wrap instead of a sandwich. Overall, a wrap looks and sounds better then a sandwich.
  • If you pack carrots, pack some kind of dressing to go with them. Carrots become cooler and more hip if ranch dressing tags along.
  • If you put fruit in, add some kind of dip.
  • Each lunch that you pack should have at least one of your kid’s comfort food favorites so that he/she will be encouraged to branch out. You may ask, "What are comfort foods?" Comfort foods are foods that people can count on liking. Along with the comfort food, you should include your new food, too, so that your kid can have both something like an old favorite and a new dish to try alongside.

Editor’s Note: For some delish dip ideas, check out these Yum-o! dip recipes!

Step Three: Test foods bit by bit – ease healthy, not-so-comfort foods into your kid’s lunch life. It’s very easy to see if your method is working. Peer into your kids lunch bag after school and see what was eaten. 

Keep trying. That’s what my mother did, and it worked eventually. As they say, if you don’t succeed, try try again.

Do you have other ideas? Share them with David!


Going out to eat is a treat, right? So, you may as well try your hardest to get the best experience possible. Whether you are dining alone or with other friends (be they teens or adults), here are a few of my tips that anyone can use.

Tip One: Skim the menu and pick out new dishes that look interesting, but still appealing. Picky eaters: you must stand up against your fears! Try things, and if you don’t like the food, try something else. Look around at what others are eating.

Trust me, my cousin was once a picky eater. Then he started to broaden his palette and everyone is happier going out with him. 

Tip Two: Waiters should be the most knowledgeable people you interact with in the restaurant (unless they just started at the restaurant). It is REQUIRED that they know a lot about their restaurant’s food, particularly what’s good on a given day. So push them, see how much they know.

When your waiter comes to take your order, don’t let the waiter take advantage of you by rushing you. Remember that you are the one paying for the meal and your waiter is getting paid more the more money you spend. Take your time and think about your decision, force him/her to suggest favorite dishes and to let you know what the restaurant is known for. Note: You do not have to agree with his/her suggestions. 

Tip Three: Attention, children! Don’t let your waiter turn to your parents to order for you. Be independent; it shows that you are still part of the meal and teaches the waiter a valuable lesson: to respect everyone he/she is serving.

Tip Four:  Always be a critic, but in a nice way. If the food is not cooked the way you like it, send it back. There are times to send food back and times not to. If you order a dish and decide you don’t like it, that’s not a valid excuse to send it back. Only if something is wrong with the way you ordered your dish do you send it back. Keep Tip Three in mind when doing this, because you will get dirty looks from your waiter.

A Tip on Tipping:
Tipping is very complicated and controversial. Waiters have a difficult job and aren’t paid much by the hour. They rely on tips. Follow this chart for most circumstances.

Tipping Percentage
10-15% Tip
Service is not good and you feel left in the dirt.
15-20% Tip
Service is acceptable and you are
somewhat satisfied with your experience.
20-25% Tip
Try and only tip this much if the service is
impeccable or you personally know your waiter.

Note: Tip before the tax.

For more from David Fishman, check out his blog, Middle School Food Critic.