Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.
On top of everything else they do, the moms in our lives often play the role of meal magician — deftly delivering mains, sides and desserts, to boot — so there’s no better time to give them time away from the kitchen than Mother’s Day. Here are some mom-inspired creations that chefs around the country are dishing up to celebrate the occasion.
When she’s not at the helm of The Hourly Oyster House in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Executive Chef Taryn Bonnefoi loves spending time with her family. And on Mother’s Day, she really brings it with restaurant-caliber homemade dishes — like the same Brioche French toast she serves at The Hourly. Thick slices of brioche are dipped in a vanilla-spiked creme brulee batter, then cooked until golden and served with a medley of mixed berries, a dusting of powdered sugar and a side of maple syrup. To make mom feel extra special, Bonnefoi recommends serving the dish with a mimosa and fresh flowers.
Chef Joey Campanaro of New York City’s Little Owl is known for simple yet thoughtful dishes that celebrate the season, and he follows this philosophy for special occasions, too. For Mother’s Day, he suggests sprucing up brunch with a bright spring beacon: fava beans. One easy way to serve them is as part of a salad: blanch the beans and then toss them in with escarole, pecorino, mint and chile flakes. You can also turn this spring staple into the main event by spooning the beans on crostini or pairing them with fluffy scrambled eggs.
Every year, Chicago-based chef Danny Grant prepares a magnificent meal for his mother, complete with celebration-worthy seafood like lobster and king crab. He starts them on the grill, then once the seafood caramelizes, Grant bastes it in a cast iron pan with lemon, chile oil and herbs. The leftover lemony lobster stock then becomes a luxurious base for a course of homemade pasta. This special meal for mom inspired his popular Fire Roasted Seafood Tower at Maple & Ash, an upscale steakhouse where seafood gets equal billing. Diners in the know can order a “pasta back,” an off-menu upgrade featuring hand-rolled conchigliette tossed in the buttery leftover broth.
Stoke’s Executive Chef Chris Coleman honors his mother’s memory and Cajun-Creole heritage by cooking her legendary shrimp gumbo as often as he can. Coleman still has the original, handwritten recipe, which he follows to a tee. The Charlotte-based chef starts by building a rich roux, then cooks aromatics, bell pepper and okra in tomato sauce before simmering the shrimp (preferably local North Carolina or South Carolina green shrimp) until tender. Coleman finishes the dish with a half-capful of liquid crab boil — which punches up the gumbo with a kick of spice and a kiss of smoke. He presents it with hot sauce and simple sides, like white rice, French bread and a chopped iceberg salad. Gumbo is also the gift that keeps on giving — leftovers taste even better the next day.
Some Like It Hot
Chef Jason Dady’s San Antonio restaurants range from Italian trattorias to barbecue joints. No matter what he dishes up, though, Dady’s mom is always his top fan. When he created a green papaya salad for a Thai-food-meets-Kanye-West restaurant pop-up, his mom fell in love with the spicy yet fresh dish (Kanye’s music, not so much). Green papaya ribbons and smashed cherry tomatoes are tossed in a bright dressing anchored by tamarind, fresh lime juice and fish sauce to create a salad that brims with vibrant flavors. It’s a dish that Dady and his mom make and enjoy together often, typically pairing the salad with a glass of crisp white wine.
At his seasonal American eatery Gristmill, Chef Jake Novick has an ever-present reminder of mom in the form of housemade hot sauces crafted with peppers from her upstate New York farm. Instead of chile flakes, Novick offers habanero vinegar and habanero hot sauce to drizzle over signature wood-fired pizza in options that include pepperoni with burnt honey and housemade mozzarella. He also incorporates the sauces into his farm-focused dishes, using a healthy pour or two to wake up classic brunch dishes like eggs and potatoes.
Go All-Out Spread
For Chef-Restaurateur Anthony Pino, the force behind New Jersey gems Anthony David’s and Porter Collins, Mother’s Day is an “all men on deck” family affair. In a nod to their South Philly roots, he and his relatives prepare an Italian-American feast. The special spread typically includes homemade lamb and pork sausages served with hot and sweet peppers, as well as other dishes like roast pork with spinach; arancini; and stuffed shells with braciola — a favorite of Pino’s mom. Linen tablecloths, fresh flowers and a ’70s-themed soundtrack set the scene, with dessert as a worthy grand finale. The meal ends with an icebox cake of chocolate pudding, graham crackers and sliced bananas.
Photography courtesy of The Hourly Oyster House, Maple & Ash, Jason Dady Restaurant Group and Kaylee Dopkins