Like Father, Like Son: For Father and Son Chefs, Cooking Is a Family Affair

Being a great cook might not be a genetically inherited trait, but having a parent who is a gifted chef definitely helps. In honor of Father’s Day, we talked to a trio of father and son chefs, the latter of which credit their dads’ work in kitchens for their own culinary success. These three sons are shining brightly as they carry on the family business.

Father and Son Chefs

Fabio and Luca Trabocchi

Fabio Trabocchi has a James Beard Award and has been named Food & Wine’s Best New Chef. But the chef-owner of Fiola, Fiola Mare, and Casa Luca in Washington, D.C., didn’t want to push either of his children to become chefs. Nonetheless, when his son, Luca, turned four, Fabio put him to work doing small tasks to help make Sunday suppers at home. By age six, Luca was using a dull knife to cut up ingredients. A year later, he asked his father if he could join him in the kitchen at Fiola. “I saw how hard he worked,” says Luca, who is now 12-years-old. “I thought what he was doing was pretty cool.”

The young toque started working the pastry station because his mother, Maria, didn’t want him next to open flames and hot grills in the kitchen. The pastry team taught him how to make a multitude of treats, including macarons, ice cream, chocolates, and bomboloni. The experience proved equally enriching for Fabio but on a different level. “Luca reminds me of the joy of being in the kitchen,” he says. “It’s refreshing and energizing.”

As Luca grew up, he helped his father with more complex cooking, such as grilling fish at the end of service when the kitchen calmed down or coming in early to help him make pasta from scratch. As they worked together side by side, his father has taught him culinary skills and imprinted his overriding philosophy of never giving up. “Cooking is an art,” says Luca. “There are mistakes you have to make in order to learn how to do it right.”

Luca still isn’t sure if he wants to pursue a career as a chef, but Fabio is content knowing his son will know how to cook a meal – and a good one, at that – after his training. “I just want him to be happy,” says Fabio. “I found ‘my voice’ through what I do. If he feels the same way, he’s more than welcome to have a career in the kitchen. If he doesn’t, that’s okay, too.”

Father and Son Chefs

Martial and Mathieu Noguier

Growing up, Mathieu Noguier spent a lot of time in the kitchen with his father, three-time James Beard Award nominee Martial Noguier and chef-owner of Chicago’s bistronomic. His dad would place him up on the pass, so Mathieu could watch the action unfold. When he was six-years-old, his father gave him a more active role by moving him to the pastry kitchen, where Mathieu would be charged with making macarons, madeleines, and soufflés. Occasionally, when he was bored with baking, Mathieu would be placed on salad duty. He helped out in this capacity until he was a teenager, but it didn’t inspire any desire to follow in his father’s footsteps. “I didn’t want to work in the industry,” he says. “I saw how hard it was and I knew the hours he was working. I wanted to stay away from all that. Plus, everybody who was doing it told me not to do it, so I figured they knew what they were talking about.”

When it came time to think about a career, he enrolled at King’s College in New York City and began working toward getting a degree in economics. However, the coursework didn’t ignite his interest. Mathieu began cooking at home to relax after class and finally decided to take a break from school to try his hand at cooking professionally. Back at his father’s restaurant, he began helping out with the morning prep work and doing the dishes. “My father is an old school guy, so he wanted me to start at the bottom,” he says.

He didn’t want his first full-time culinary job to be with his dad, though, so he pulled some strings to score at job at Melisse in Santa Monica, California. After that, he began a two-year stint working under his father at bistronomic.

His father likes to dole out lessons to the now 22-year-old chef, who recently took a break from the family business to do stages at In de Wulf in Heuvelland, Belgium, and Pottoka in Paris. “He’s entered his sage era,” says Mathieu. “The one piece of advice he’s given me that has made the biggest difference is that people who are successful are the people who are on time. He’s also always told me that cooking is easy; managing is the hard part.”Continue Reading

Talking Shop with Stephanie Izard: On Goat, Being Recognized at the Airport + ‘Reasonably Authentic’ Chinese Food

Talking Shop with Stephanie Izard: On Goat, Being Recognized at the Airport & “Reasonably Authentic” Chinese Food

Chef Stephanie Izard is not short on accolades. In addition to being named winner of Bravo’s Top Chef — along with being named fan favorite (she had my vote) — she earned James Beard’s Best Chef: Great Lakes award in 2013 and Food & Wine’s Best New Chef title in 2010.

The awards are well deserved. Izard is the Executive Chef/Partner of three beloved Chicago restaurants: Girl & the Goat, Little Goat (a diner and bakery), and her latest, Duck Duck Goat, an ode to what she calls “reasonably authentic” Chinese food. The menu boasts a menu of delights including Duck Eggrolls Nom‎ Wah style; Sichuan Eggplant & Goat Sausage; Sanbeiji (Taiwanese 3-cup chicken); and Slap Noodles with shrimp, goat sausage, eggplant, and mushroom. Bring it.

Andrea Strong spoke to Izard, who was very pregnant with her first baby due in late May, about becoming famous, naming her restaurant after a goat, and what to eat when you’re expecting.

Talking Shop with Stephanie Izard: On Goat, Being Recognized at the Airport & “Reasonably Authentic” Chinese Food

Growing up in Connecticut, how did you get into food?

I always think that chefs either grew up eating really good food or really bad food and had to learn to cook in order to eat. In my case, luckily, my mom was a great cook. She was always making things from all over the world. She was really into Asian food and would make tempura, moo shu pork, even sushi, alongside things like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. We would make a menu for the week and hang it on the fridge. My friends could look at it and decide what looked good and when they wanted to come over.

When did you know food would be your life?

I was the kid who was always watching Julia Child, but back in the early ’90s being a chef was not what people think it is today. It was not really a career. So my plan was to go to college and get a business degree.

And I guess looking back on it, I found a roundabout way to get into business. I went to the University of Michigan, and let’s just say it was a lot of fun (maybe a little too much fun for me) and I didn’t get into business school. I graduated and I felt lost. My dad actually suggested cooking school. He was the one who said, ‘You’ve always loved to cook, why not try it?’

Did you have an ‘Aha!’ moment where you knew it was the right decision? Continue Reading

12 Fresh Spring Dishes Showcasing the Best of the Season

Chefs love spring. Can you blame them? The days grow longer and warmer, and menus are finally doffing their comforting winter finery for lighter and brighter fare. Root vegetables and hearty braises are giving way to lighter offerings featuring a range of tasty, tender greens. Here are some of the best fresh spring dishes, sprouting up on menus near you.

Peas and Carrots, Finch & Fork, Santa Barbara, California
Finch & Fork typifies the casual, produce-forward cuisine of Santa Barbara and so do chef Siao’s Peas and Carrots. It’s the classic vegetable pairing like you’ve never seen it before, with burrata, golden oranges, Marcona almonds and green goddess dressing. It’s a playful dish, but also drop-dead gorgeous. Make a reservation at Finch & Fork.

Spring Dishes

Kale Caesar Salad, The Kitchen Step, Jersey City, New Jersey
Executive chef Ryan DePersio says, “With its peak season approaching, you’re probably seeing mint pop up at your local farmer’s markets or in your grocery store. Mint’s hardy, cool, and sweet flavor profile makes it one of the most versatile of herbs and one that plays perfectly in both sweet and savory dishes.” Mint is the unexpected green in the Kale Caesar Salad. The combination of the kale’s slight bitterness with the buttery nuttiness of Gouda and the bright, clean coolness of mint transforms the more traditional heavy Caesar salad into something much more refreshing. Make a reservation at The Kitchen Step.

Spring ingredients

Saffron Chitarra Pasta, Navio, Half Moon Bay, California
Dungeness crab season finally opened the end of March in Northern California, and Navio at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay offers a dish by Chef Jason Pringle, Saffron Chitarra Pasta with fresh-caught Dungeness crab, confit fennel, and lemon. According to executive chef Xavier Salomon, “We are thrilled that we are able to serve fresh, local-caught Dungeness crabs again. Our guests love and appreciate them, and they are easily our number one selling item on the menu when they are in season.” Make a reservation at Navio.

Navio

Poulpe Grille, Gaspar Brasserie, San Francisco, California
One of the best dishes on the menu right now at this intimate French spot downtown is the octopus. The Poulpe Grille features charred-yet-tender octopus, and the bright green accents to the dish add clean levity. It’s served with spring peas, fresh dill, and green garlic. Make a reservation at Gaspar Brasserie.

Spring ingredients

Tomato and Burrata, HEXX Kitchen + Bar, Las Vegas, Nevada
Executive chef Matthew Piekarski’s favorite springtime dish is Tomato and Burrata. Piekarski roasts Campari tomatoes to concentrate the flavors. The dish is served with creamy burrata, sourdough toast, olive oil, and a truffle honey reduction. “Every ingredient is light and simple,” says Piekarski. “But together, the flavors sing in perfect harmony — the perfect complement to a warm, spring day.” Make a reservation at HEXX Kitchen + Bar.

Spring dishes

Spring Citrus and Olio Nuovo Salad, Shed, Healdsburg, California
Fine dining Chef Perry Hoffman has landed at the more casual Shed in Healdsburg where he enjoys sourcing ingredients from local gardens and uses lots of fresh herbs and greens. His love for foraged ingredients is so great; he’s even teased by his staff for his propensity for adding blossoms to almost every dish. His Spring Citrus and Olio Nuovo salad features Hass avocado, and the first of spring greens. Make a reservation at Shed.

Spring Dishes

Lamb Belly with Huckleberry and Cipollini, Oriole, Chicago, Illinois
Lamb belly paired with huckleberry and cipollini is the final savory course in the 15-course tasting menu at Oriole and features an ingredient that is a true harbinger of spring — ramps. This tender green is a member of the wild onion family. The lamb is brined for 24 hours and then cooked for three days confit-style, so the result is meltingly tender. Make a reservation at Oriole.

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Heroes in a Half Shell: 9 Unique Tacos for #TacoTuesday (or Any Day)

Tacos are so awesome that they get a day of the week – Taco Tuesdays. This means there are dozens of days a year when you’re practically required to down a taco (or five; we won’t judge). But why content yourself with shells packed with the usual suspects, like pollo asado or ground beef? Chefs are filling their freshly griddled tortillas with far more interesting ingredients – from duck and Wagyu steak to vindaloo sausage and grasshoppers (really). Here are 9 unique tacos you won’t find on the menu at your local Chipotle.

Johnny Sánchez, New Orleans, Louisiana
Remember make your own taco night? Your mom or dad would put all the components out on the dining room table and you got to play taco chef? Chefs John Besh and Aarón Sánchez have created a similar setup for this DIY dish. Starring fire-roasted amberjack served whole, it arrives with charred avocados, crispy sweet potatoes tossed in jalapeño vinaigrette, and more, so you can make yours just the way you like it. Make a reservation at Johnny Sánchez.

JohnnySanchez-Amberjack800w

Nacional 27, Chicago, Illinois
Hawaiian poke – raw fish salad – is having a moment. This secret off-menu taco features tuna poke dressed up with oil, red wine vinegar, ginger, and chipotle powder. It’s topped off with avocado and jicama salsa and served in a gyoza shell. Make a reservation at Nacional 27.

Unique Tacos

Sushi Garage, Miami Beach, Florida
The Far East meets South of the Border in this inventive taco. Chef Sunny Oh uses a perilla (sesame leaf) instead of the traditional tortilla. He folds into it minced toro, kizami wasabi salsa, and sushi rice mixed with crispy shallots. It’s both delicioso and oishii. Make a reservation at Sushi Garage.

Unique Tacos

Kuro, Hollywood, Florida
Chef Alex Becker didn’t want to use your average Angus in his tacos. So, he upped the ante by subbing in Wagyu instead. They’re brightened with spicy cilantro, soy shallots, and aji amarillo aioli. Guests can squeeze on some fresh lime juice to add an acidic pop. Make a reservation at Kuro.

Unique Tacos

Oyamel, Washington, D.C.
Trust José Andrés to come up with a taco that defies stateside convention. He piles a corn tortilla high with chapulines, which sounds dainty and delightful when you say it in Spanish. Before you take a bite, let us translate. It means “grasshoppers.” Let us reassure you though, the crunchy insects taste like what they’ve been sautéed with – shallots, chipotle purée, and tequila – more than anything else. Also, if you were in Mexico, downing a few of these tacos would be no big deal as they’ve been enjoying the little hoppers for centuries. Make a reservation at Oyamel.

Unique Tacos

Kachina Southwestern Grill, Westminster, Colorado
The kitchen crew found inspiration in Native American cuisine when they conceived the Mojave Navajo tacos. Rich duck confit, crispy duck skin, and Manchego cheese get a lift from pickled cactus and spicy sweet chipotle agave. In keeping with the theme, the taco forgoes a tortilla for housemade fry bread. Make a reservation at Kachina Southwestern Grill.

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