Soleil Moon Frye on food in her 40s, cooking with kids

Soleil Moon Frye says her kids are more adventurous eaters thanks to a beloved family activity. (Photo: Ask2BSure; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a heaping plateful of table talk with people who are passionate about what’s on their menu in Deglazeda series about food.

Actress and public health advocate Soleil Moon Frye grew up before our eyes, spending the majority of her life dashing between film and television sets. While she’s come a long way from her lovable ’80s persona, Punky Brewster, she’s always appreciated food and the connections a good meal allows her to make.

“Food is the way we have always celebrated our love,” the mom of four tells Yahoo Life. “It really is a chance to talk about gratitude and what we’re grateful for.”

The 45-year-old multi-hyphenate grew up in the entertainment business, and her early journey is documented in 2021 documentary kid 90which Frye directed and executive produced alongside Leonardo DiCaprio.

But where did Frye hang out when she wasn’t working as one of Hollywood’s favorite starlets? In her mother’s kitchen. “My mom was a chef and a food artist,” she says. “Literally, food is such an important part of our lives. It was so amazing because so many of my early memories are sitting there watching her or her letting me stir and bake with her. She would just create the most stunningly beautiful foods and I was always very impressed by it.”

She recounts elaborate holidays with incredible feasts as some of her favorite childhood memories. “She was a single mom raising us and working these crazy hours, but food was a way to bring us all together,” shares The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder star. As a mom, she now carries on that tradition, with her own kitchen acting as a centerpiece for her family.

“We love cooking together,” she says. “It’s really important to us. We love doing family barbecues and morning pancakes with chocolate chips. They love for me to make this special maple syrup with butter being my secret ingredient — and lots of love.”

Having grown up with a professional chef as a mom, Frye has an adventurous palate and enjoys many different types of cuisines, from Asian to Italian. Hoping to rub off on her children, she implemented a foolproof plan for raising non-picky eaters.

“Since they were little, we’d do these ‘mystery taste tests,’ which was always a fun thing for me to do with them,” she recalls. “I had friends that had kids who were picky eaters, and I feel like this really got my kids into exploring food more by making it fun for them.”

Thankfully, it worked and now the family enjoys dining on a multitude of globally-inspired cuisines. She lists her homemade mussels, Korean barbecue, chicken masala and even spicy Cajun food as some of her kids’ favorites.

As for the latest food trend in her home, it’s all about her new favorite kitchen gadget: a rice cooker. “Lately, I’ve been really working on perfecting rice — which has been hysterical. I was very grateful for the Mother’s Day gift of a rice cooker. I’m so excited I just stare at it.”

Although the busy mom has eclectic tastes, she has had to adapt her diet as she has grown older. “I still feel like a teenager, but at the same time as I’ve gotten a little bit older, I find that when I am working or really just running around after the kids, I definitely need protein,” she says. “My body has changed.” She lists jerky, protein bars, almonds and string cheese as her go-to snacks for staying fueled.

Still, going out to dinner is a favorite pastime. She has a long list of go-to spots, but counts two California spots — Jon and Vinny’s in Los Angeles and Gjelina in Venice — as her favorite restaurants. “Those are spots that make me so happy and my heart sings with joy,” she says.

“I could eat everything off that menu all day long” she says of Jon and Vinny’s, an East Coast-style Italian restaurant loved by both locals and visitors alike. Her order at the posh eatery? The restaurant’s signature spicy fusilli, pizza, chopped salad and chocolate chip cookies … with salt.

Her family can’t get enough of In-N-Out, the popular West Coast fast food chain known for their animal-style burgers. “We indulge in it once in a while,” she shares. And, her kids love IHOP, the US chain known for pancakes. “It reminds me of my dad taking me,” adds Frye.

Frye chatted with Yahoo Life about her work with public health awareness, a cause the actress is fiercely passionate about. “Growing up being of service was always really important to our family,” she shares. “Next to my kids, the work that I have the honor of doing with CORE is what I’m most proud of.” The organization, Community Organized Relief Effort, was co-founded by Hollywood A-lister Sean Penn.

Her most recent project includes work with the Ask2BSure campaign, a public health awareness campaign dedicated to educating parents on meningitis B. The vaccine, which has only been available since 2014, can prove to be life-saving against meningococcal disease. While the disease affects people of all ages, it peaks in adolescence, specifically in teens and young adults.

“It was something I was really not aware of,” Frye admitted. “I think like many families, I had the assumption that when kids are younger, they get vaccinated for meningitis. I didn’t realize that meningitis B was completely different and how life-threatening it was.”

Frye hopes her partnership with GSK will encourage parents to engage in open dialogue, both as a family and with their health care professionals. “I think it’s important we get to educate ourselves, have these conversations and make choices that are right for our family,” she says. “Everyone is different, it’s just about making the choice that is right for you.”

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