The XX Factor

If You Don’t Have a Consultant for Your Nanny, Your Children Will Never Succeed

Children play with their nannies, who should be home making a roux, in New York City.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

According to the 2011 Park Slope Parents Nanny Compensation Survey—a comprehensive poll of more than 1,000 Brooklyn residents on how they find, pay, and treat their child care employees—84 percent of respondents expect their nannies to cook for their children. Of all the responsibilities of the job, from schlepping kids to extracurricular activities to folding laundry to giving baths, meal preparation is the most common duty a nanny must fulfill.

So what do you do if your nanny can’t cook? Sorry, I mean, what do you do if your nanny can’t cook gluten-free kale salad or falafel made from organic chickpeas?

What parents haven’t asked themselves this question? Luckily, today’s New York Times Style section has the answer: Hire a nanny consultant! For a cool $2,500, marc&mark, founded by the former personal chefs of Steve Madden and J.Crew chairman Mickey Drexler, will devise a cookbook of 30-40 recipes based on your child’s specific eating habits and “areas for improvement”; teach your nanny how to shop for these recipes (“ ‘It’s knowing how to pick a ripe avocado or peach, really simple stuff you might not think of,’ Mr. Boquist said”); and then come to your home for a two-day cooking demonstration, during which your nanny, who up until now has been eating all the wrong peaches, will learn how to debone a fish, cook Tunisian couscous with braised carrots, and make cinnamon ice cream with toasted almonds.

Reporter Caroline Tell relays the sad tale of 5-year-old Erela Yashiv, who “likes pizza and cupcakes” but doesn’t know her regular chickpeas from her organic chickpeas:

[H]er mother, Stephanie Johnson, 46, who lives in TriBeCa and runs a cosmetics-case and travel-accessories line, wanted her daughter to adopt a more refined and global palate, whether it’s a gluten-free kale salad or falafel made from organic chickpeas.

As working parents, she and her husband, Dan Yashiv, 42, a music producer, do not have time to prepare such fare. And their nanny, from Wisconsin, does not always know the difference between quinoa and couscous.

Oh, snap! A person from Wisconsin hired to care for your children who only sometimes knows the difference between a trendy grain-like substance and a Middle Eastern pasta-like substance? That’s almost as bad as having a cleaning lady from Minnesota who doesn’t know her yoga from her Pilates, or a dog walker from Iowa who doesn’t juice. It’s hard to find good help.

So, if this flyover-state nanny isn’t making little Erela kale salad, what is she making?

“Some of these nannies already do the cooking in the family, but they’re throwing chicken fingers in the oven, or worse, the microwave — they’re doing the bare minimum,” Mr. Leandro said.

THE MICROWAVE? You mean that appliance that you bought and installed under your cabinets as if its purpose is to cook things? Some nannies use that? Gross. As for chicken fingers: Everyone knows that those are in the freezer only for the rare occasion when parents actually have to cook for their own children. They are not for the nanny, who should have plenty of time to build flavor profiles and knife skills while changing little Milo Phoenix’s dirty diaper and teaching him baby sign language in Mandarin. (I once had a friend who installed a nanny cam in her freezer and caught her nanny giving store-bought Popsicles to the kids instead of making her own from fresh fruit. You put all your trust in these people and then…you just never know.)

So how did Erela’s parents even let it get to this point, where their young child actually likes pizza?

“We were too basic with her food in the beginning, so we want marc&mark to help us explore more sophisticated food that has some diversity and flavor,” [Johnson] said. “I don’t want her growing up not liking curry because she never had it.”

That would be a real shame and also probably hurt her test scores if we’re being honest here. Thankfully, Johnson and her husband caught the curry deficiency in time and were able to get the outside help they need. (But what if you want your children to have worldly appetites and don’t have $2,500 to spend on a nanny tutor? One option, which certainly isn’t ideal but I just want to throw it out there in case anyone’s desperate, is to hire a person who was born in another country to take care of your kids. I imagine there are some women from the Caribbean, Guatemala, or Tibet who are looking for work, have good resumes, and can cook.)

As for the Wisconsin nanny, I can think of worse on-the-job training than a two-day cooking class (though perhaps nothing worse than having it documented in the Times Style section). As my colleague Matt Yglesias notes, the training might even help her demand higher wages when looking for her next gig. But, man, I do not envy her job. If parents can’t do it all, why do we expect our nannies to be able to?