Chicago chef Stephanie Izard and her son, Ernie, invite some of their pals over for an easy, breezy outdoor brunch.

Stephanie Izard with friends at picnic table
Stephanie Izard and her son, Ernie (far right), welcome their friends over for brunch.
| Credit: Photography by Lucy Hewett

"My parties used to revolve around making a house cocktail," says chef Stephanie Izard. "Now they revolve around nap time." The Top Chef champ and chef-partner of four Chicago restaurants has four-year-old son Ernie to thank for this shift, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

Stephanie's love of food, cooking, and entertaining comes directly from her own mother, who was an adventurous home cook and a meal planner long before meal planning was cool. "My mom cooked food from around the world," she says. "She had every Gourmet magazine." Every Sunday, she would sit down and sort out the meals for the week, with the help of Stephanie and her sister. Once the lineup was nailed down, the girls would let their friends know so they could decide which night they'd like to come over for dinner. 

Stephanie slicing cantaloupe
Ernie will devour any kind of fruit, but cantaloupe is his all-time favorite.
| Credit: Photography by Lucy Hewett

But menu planning wasn't the end of the girls' kitchen contribution. Stephanie remembers doing prep work like pulling apart tiger lily bulbs for moo shu pork, which was one of her favorite dishes.

Fast-forward a few decades and Stephanie is trying to instill that same culinary love in her son. "He's an awesome egg cracker and a whiz with the rolling pin," she says. He's also a fruit fiend and loves to use his toddler-friendly knife to cut up apples and cantaloupe. With that skill set (plus the afternoon nap thing), brunch is the perfect meal for Stephanie and Ernie to make together. 

Ernie greets Adriana and her mom
Ernie greets his buddy Adriana and her mom, Julie Lee.
| Credit: Photography by Lucy Hewett

For today's meal, Stephanie invited a couple of her mom friends and their kiddos over for a laid-back hangout on the patio. Before the guests arrive, Stephanie and Ernie whip up a fruit salad and bake off some bite-size frittatas, with Ernie expertly cracking those eggs. "Frittatas are a great grabable food, which is perfect for kids," says Stephanie. "And they're good served warm or at room temperature." The duo also makes a batch of rosemary-scented scones to serve with strawberry jam spiked with tangy sumac alongside a pitcher of strawberry lemonade. 

Once everyone arrives, Stephanie fires up the grill to cook sweet-potato-and-breakfast-sausages skewers. The sweet potatoes are always a hit with kids; the spicy maple syrup glaze adds a grown-up touch. When the skewers come off the grill, the group sits down to eat. While the moms catch up, the kids load up on whipped cream for the scones. At one point, Ernie digs straight into the cream with a spoon. And who can blame him?

Stephanie grilling sausage skewers
Stephanie grills up the sausage skewers while her guests chill at the outdoor table.
| Credit: Photography by Lucy Hewett

Moments like these are why Stephanie adjusted her work schedule after she became a mom. "Since having Ernie, I've forced myself to take one day off a week," she says. When she has to be on the clock, Ernie will often tag along. Not surprisingly, the cute little guy has made lots of friends at Stephanie's restaurants. One of his favorite spots is the butchery station. "When he walks in, he'll often ask, 'Where's the pig's head?'" says Stephanie. 

That's a question only a chef's kid would ask (or, OK, a butcher's kid), but Stephanie hopes that exposing Ernie to different foods and cuisines will pay off later in life, for both of them. "I don't want to push him to be a chef, but I want him to know how to cook and appreciate food," she says. "I want him to be a well-rounded, self-sufficient person—and be able to make me dinner." 

Ernie helping place raspberries
Raspberries are a fun, surprising addition to the mini frittatas.
| Credit: Photography by Lucy Hewett

Stephanie Izard's Mini Frittatas Two Ways 

Mini Frittatas Two Ways
Credit: Photography by Lucy Hewett

Stephanie Izard's Breakfast Sausage Skewers with Spiced Maple Drizzle

Breakfast Sausage Skewers with Spiced Maple Drizzle
Credit: Photography by Lucy Hewett

Stephanie Izard's Strawberry-Mint Lemonade

Strawberry Mint Lemonade
Credit: Photography by Lucy Hewett

Stephanie Izard's Rosemary & White Chocolate Scones

Credit: Photography by Lucy Hewett

Stephanie Izard's Strawberry Sumac Jam

Strawberry Sumac Jam on scone
Credit: Photography by Lucy Hewett

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2020 issue. Get the magazine here