The Food Issue

Applebee’s executive chef tempts kids with a fun and healthy menu

Jessica James of Kansas City knows that kids like her son, Race James, 3, want fun foods like Ninja Pancakes.
Jessica James of Kansas City knows that kids like her son, Race James, 3, want fun foods like Ninja Pancakes. The Kansas City Star

What kid wouldn’t jump for Ninja Pancakes?

Jessica James flips a golden pancake onto a cutting board and presses in a cookie cutter she bought on Amazon. Her 31/2-year-old son, Race, reluctantly leaves his toys to gobble up the flapjacks before pleading with a visitor to come see his life-size pirate ship.

James, an executive chef of culinary innovation at Applebee’s, knows kids need foods that are fun. As a mom, she also wants that food to be nutritious.

In December 2013, James created a healthier kids menu that includes wonton tacos, Caesar salad, high-protein chicken mac and cheese and lot of sides to “dip and squeeze.” To promote the new items, James starred in ads that aired on the Food Network.

James grew up the daughter of a single parent, and she learned to cook at an early age. She graduated from Johnson County Community College’s culinary program and was a proud member of the school’s award-winning 2002 Culinary Olympic Team.

A year ago, after completing a graduate degree in journalism, James started her own food blog, realfamilykitchen.com, which focuses on simple, direct, family-friendly recipes using fresh ingredients.

James also is working on a business plan for Baby Foody, a line of organic, all-natural baby food delivered direct nationwide.

Look for her weekly posts and find her recipe for Ninja Pancakes on The Star’s Chow Town blog.

Jessica James, Real Family Kitchen: KansasCity.com/chowtown and realfamilykitchen.com; Facebook; Twitter @realfamkitchen; and Instagram @realfamilykitchen

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