No offense, cooking school, but the best kitchen wisdom comes from Mom. This Mother’s Day, top chefs share their favorite advice and recipes from that one special lady.
Anne Burrell and her mom, Marlene, at home in upstate New York in 1999.
Author of Cook Like a Rock Star; host of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef
Mom's Signature Recipe: “Every year for my birthday, my mother would send me to school with her aniseed cookies for the class. Today I still love to munch on them. I even made a version during an Iron Chef battle that helped us win!”
Teaching Moment: “When I was little, I was so excited to cook that I would tear into a recipe and combine all the ingredients. Mom taught me to read the entire recipe first.”
A 2-year-old Edward Lee, second from left, and his mom, Soon Ja, right, at home in Brooklyn.
Chef and co-owner of 610 Magnolia, Louisville, KY; star of The Mind of a Chef
Mom's Signature Dish: “Mom started cooking later in her life, when I was a teenager, which is also when I started to become fascinated by food. We cooked a lot together back then, two amateurs fumbling through unknown territory. In those early days we made these egg custards often because they are easy, fast and delicious.”
Teaching Moment: “Not knowing a recipe never stopped her from trying. We’re talking pre-Internet days, so there was a lot of guesswork and mistakes and hilarious outcomes, but I learned from her to never let not knowing be an obstacle.”
Viola and Geoffrey Zakarian in 1986 in his apartment in New York City
Chef at the Lambs Club, the National and the Plaza’s Palm Court in New York City; star of Chopped and The Kitchen
Mom's Signature Dish: “My mother was always making something from nothing. She knew that simple things like caramelized onions or fresh parsley always made food better. One of my favorite dishes was a casserole of layered onions and potatoes topped with pork chops. It was a one-pot meal that went from the oven to the table and was at least a once-a-week staple for us.”
Teaching Moment: “My mother showed me how to never waste a thing. We’d go to the store and ask for day-old bread—usually they gave it to us for free—and make bread crumbs or bread pudding.”
Marcela Valladolid, on the left, with her family, including mom Maria "Lucha" de la Luz Rodriguez, right, in Tijuana, Mexico in 1980.
Co-host of The Kitchen
Mom's Signature Dish: “Mom was a practical cook. She would make beef pozole for family gatherings and parties because it’s great for big crowds. Set out all the toppings and let people pick and choose!”
Teaching Moment: “Mom couldn’t have cared less what was ‘in.’ She just made sure everything she cooked was darn good, and that when you sat at her table you had everything you needed and didn’t have to ask for a thing—from the salad course to the coffee you sipped for hours over sweets.”
By Rachel Wharton