Even the kids of Denver chef Frank Bonanno end up with a menu of cereal at breakfast and a good-ol’ PB&J in a lunch bag every once in a while. Just last week, the culinary mind behind nine Denver mainstays, including Mizuna, Luca, Bones, and Salt & Grinder, was told by his two teenage sons they were tired of their school lunches—no more sandwiches. If that can happen in the Bonanno household, what about the rest of us? Bonanno offers three tips and tricks to help you avoid a brown bag burnout.

Switch up the sandwiches: Even when the Bonanno brothers declare their distaste for standard lunch box sandwiches, Frank Bonanno makes a couple subtle changes. “My boys will always go for a BLT on toast.” If sliced bread is old news, Bonanno says opting for a pita wrap can make a sandwich new again.

Snack pack: When it comes to picking the supporting cast of a lunch, let you kids have a say in the options and maybe they won’t try to trade them away. Bonanno says his sons never get tired of apples, and tossing in some caramel is a sweet treat. Other picks include Halo oranges, Lara Bars, and yes, Gushers.

Hot lunch: Bonanno’s number one tactic for stalling the lunch box blues is to get and use a Thermos. Somedays, especially on cold days, a warm lunch can make all the difference. Bonanno scoops in ladles of ramen or leftovers from last night’s soup or stew. He even gave us one of his favorites—Moroccan Lentil Soup—to try.

Moroccan Lentil Soup

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 gallon chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic head
  • 1/2 lb. lentils
  • 1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Harissa (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Dice onion and garlic and chicken breasts.
  2. Heat up oil in large pot over medium heat.
  3. Add onion and garlic and diced chicken. Sweat for three minutes until tender.
  4. Add all ingredients besides chicken stock. Cook for 4–5 minutes.
  5. Add chicken stock and simmer for 45 minutes until lentils are tender.
  6. Make sure to season soup with salt and pepper after lentils become tender.