Chefs must be strong enough to do back-breaking on-your-feet labor for upwards of 12 hours a day. They play with knives and fire. And yet, they must also tap into their sensitive and creative side, working with the most delicate ingredients, using all their senses to perfect a dish.
What, on earth, would set a person on course for such a challenging career when they could do something easy like brain surgery or nuclear engineering? We asked several chefs and most agreed that the impetus for their obsession with creating beautiful food was watching (and helping) their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers in the kitchen.
In honor of Mother's Day, we asked some of Miami's most-loved chefs to share with us their favorite memory of their moms in the kitchen. We hope you enjoy them.
Kris Wessel of Florida Cookery
My mother was (and is) a fantastic cook, especially in the baking department. Half of my childhood was spent in Florida and the other half in New Orleans where she is from. My father had a big family, so in order for my mother to impress his mother and sisters she used her French-Louisiana heritage to master any baked good or dessert they could put out. One of those was "mango pie" that she brought back to New Orleans. Many a summer nights in New Orleans we would end a meal with a blackberry or peach cobbler and on the hottest, most humid nights, we'd have a cool mango parfait pie! My mother impressed her Miami Beach mother-in-law and made an eternal impression on her only son, who would later become a chef.
Jamie DeRosa of Tongue & Cheek
My mother is someone who I want my own daughter to be like one day. Growing up wasn't always easy, but she made it happen for us no matter what. I do not have one single memory of any one special moment. I have many!
Giorgio Rapicavoli of Eating House
I think I came out of the womb wanting to be a chef. My mother is convinced it's because she only used to watch cooking shows when she was pregnant with me... kind-of like the theory of playing music for your baby in the womb. Except I didn't hear Mozart, I heard Julia Child. I always loved being in the kitchen with my mom. As a kid, I would sit in front of the TV watching as much Emeril as I would Sesame Street. Eventually, I went from peeling the potatoes to actually cooking them alongside her. Growing up in an Italian household, my love for pastas and cured meats was deep. I was only enabled by mom who always had prosciutto in the drawer and made pasta pomodoro on a weekly basis. Being raised in a family where food was almost as important as the family itself, really paved the way for my life. Mom never deterred me, nor once discouraged me from following my dream. She encouraged me every step of the way. My mom raised me and my sister by herself. She's my mother, my father, my best friend, and my inspiration. Every interview is for her, every three minute minute news clip filmed at 5:45 a.m. is for her. The reason I went on Chopped was for her. Because after everything she's given me -- and continues to give me -- it's the least I can do. And I'm thrilled to make her so proud.
Todd Erickson of Haven
My mother & grandmothers have been instrumental in making me the chef that I am today. Ever since I was a toddler I had the need to be under foot in the kitchen, learning what my grandmothers and mom were up to. From hearty noon meals on the farm in Iowa prepared by my "G-Ma" Lois to swanky plated dinners inspired by Julia Child and Larousse Gastronomique prepared by my grandma Nancy in Arizona and the feel good, often healthy meals prepared on a nightly basis by my mom Julie, I was surrounded by women who knew their way around a kitchen. I am grateful to them all for inspiring me to cook and apply my imagination and love for food into a career.
Ralph Pagano of Alba Seaside Italian
My mother continues to influence me in the kitchen every day. I am often asked as a chef, "what would my last meal be." For me, the last meal would be with the person I had my first meal with. My mother. Bottom line? All the meals that I have had pale in comparison to the first, as it gave me life, set me up for success and probably was good for me. I come from a diverse ethnic background of Italian and Lebanese heritage. In my life, I have eaten things that most people have not: moldy cheese, ant eggs, rotten corn, larva and an assortment of indigestible things just to make a buck or for a ride home. But when I choose to eat, I eat Lebanese and Italian comfort food. My wife is not a mother yet, but when she is, I am sure our kid will feel the same way. I am looking forward to that day.
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Timon Balloo of Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill
As a child, I remember helping my mother roll spring rolls for her at-home catering business. We would sit around the table and talk about our days while making these rolls.