The Continental's chef Richard Torres welcomed his son Richard Hely Torres into the world about two months ago. With many milestones ahead, including first words and steps, there's one other thing Torres can't help but anticipate: cooking his son's first meal.
It's no secret that being a chef is tough, and adding fatherhood into the mix is even tougher. Father's Day is this Sunday, June 19, so Torres, along with seven other chefs, talk work-life balance, cooking with family, and advice to youngsters who dream of running their own restaurant one day.
Though all eight chefs said being in the industry and raising children is far from seamless, they've found unique ways to fuse the two, like teaching their children how to cook deviled eggs, keeping weekends work-free, and savoring every moment. And while there's no expectation that their children grow up to be chefs or own restaurants, this batch of chef-fathers has a few tips to share too: Don't be picky, stay in school, forget celebrity chefs, and, above all, make sure you're wildly in love with the craft just like they are.
Cook with the kids or for the kids?
"My son turns 2 in October, so he isn't quite cooking yet. But he mimics me with his small spoon, bowl set, and spatula." — Chef James Seyba, Miam Cafe
"My daughter Isabela helps out in the kitchen, especially for Saturday-morning pancakes with fresh fruit." — Chef/owner Jamie DeRosa, Izzy's Fish & Oyster Bar
"My oldest son has started cooking with me in the past couple of months. He does the bread station at Pubbelly, and this summer he will spend some time in the kitchen — at least that’s what he says. His favorite thing to make is truffle pasta." — Chef/owner Jose Mendin, Pubbelly
What's the recipe for balancing your roles as a chef and father?
"I’ll let you know when I figure it out. I’m not perfect at it yet, but I’m working on it." — Chef Michael Lewis, Kyu
"It's hard. You miss out on a lot, especially weekend nights. But it's very fun as well, like hanging out with them at the restaurant. It balances out in the end." — Chef/owner Jose Mendin, Pubbelly
"Sometimes I'm on call 24 hours a day. The same can be said for many professions, but when most people are getting home, my restaurants are just getting going. For me, it comes down to a focus on the quality of time spent doing things when I have that time. I enjoy every second of the time I spend with my family and try to never forget that." — Dennis O’Connor, director of Starr Restaurants South Florida
"I'm honestly not sure of the formula for this one. It's hard. For me, I found a place where the hours of operation work well with having a kid. I think you also have to be able to function on very little sleep." — Chef James Seyba, Miam Cafe
"Living directly above my restaurant has been a major help in seeing my family and daughter more. The commute always keeps you away. It's so easy to take breaks — like breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just a quick dip in the pool with my daughter — and then get back to the kitchen for a bit if necessary." — Chef/owner Jeff McInnis, Sarsaparilla Club
"I wasn’t around for much of my daughter Isabela’s first year. I was always in the kitchen. Now I try to be home for dinner each night and have dedicated my weekends to my family. They appreciate it, it brings us closer, and I’m able to watch them grow." — Chef/owner Jamie DeRosa, Izzy's Fish & Oyster Bar
"Enjoy the time you have with your family as much as you can and make the most out of your days off. Mentally separating yourself from work is a big help." — Chef Anthony Galleno, Ariete
What advice would you give to kids who want to be chefs?
"Work hard and learn as much as you can at all times. And spend an equal amount of time growing those around you too. The people side of what we do is the most important, so you need to be vested in seeing others succeed as well as yourself." — Dennis O’Connor, director of Starr Restaurants South Florida
"Learn from Mom or Dad or whoever cooks at home. I wish I knew how my mom cooked all of the stuff she did. The more you learn as kid will serve as an advantage when you grow up." — Chef/owner Jose Mendin, Pubbelly
"Make sure you absolutely love it. You can be anything you put your mind to. But whatever you decide — be it a chef, doctor, or lawyer — you will spend the majority of your life doing it." — Chef Michael Lewis, Kyu
"Stay in school, follow your heart, and find something you're passionate about. If cooking is truly what keeps you up at night, and you find yourself in the kitchen playing with ingredients, then follow your instincts. Just be prepared for a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and a long road. Not everyone becomes a great chef." — Chef/owner Jamie DeRosa, Izzy's Fish & Oyster Bar
"Buy cookbooks, travel, and eat. Really focus on food and the business aspects, not trying to be a 'celebrity chef.'" — Chef James Seyba, Miam Cafe
"Follow your dreams and do what makes you happy. If you find a career that is fun and feels like 'play time,' then you’ll always feel like you’re at recess. Also, don’t be a picky eater. You’ll need to have a well-rounded palate if you want to be a chef. Vegetables, seafood, liver! Eating grownup food at a young age instead of ordering from the kids' menu is a big jump-start in becoming knowledgeable about real food." — Chef/owner Jeff Mcinnis, Sarsaparilla Club
What's the best part about being both a chef and a dad?
"I get to bring my daughter into the kitchen and cook with her often. She’s mastered deviled eggs, grilled cheese, and many other dishes that don’t require a knife. And since she eats a gluten-free diet, it's a simple pleasure when we get customers in who have gluten intolerance because cooking for her has taught me so much. I’ve always found nutrition important, but now more than ever, I think about every ingredient’s nutritional qualities that I put in my body, my daughter’s, my family's, and my guests'." — Chef/owner Jeff Mcinnis, Sarsaparilla Club
"Definitely the adorable Snapchats I get of my daughter when she stops by the restaurant and wants to help wrap chicken wontons." — Chef Bee, NaiYaRa
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
"I think the best part is knowing I can prepare a healthy meal and know exactly what is in it. It also allows me to expose my son to different foods." — Chef James Seyba, Miam Cafe
"Definitely sharing those first-time food experiences with them. Their reaction to something new, like the looks or expressions of enjoyment when my daughter tries something that has never been introduced to her before. For instance, a Milano cookie, they're her favorite now." — Chef Anthony Galleno, Ariete
"Doing what I love for who I love is definitely the best part about blending both." — Chef Richard Torres, The Continental