Your parents are some of your very first teachers in the kitchen. They’re your cheerleaders, advisors, and inspiration. When you’re struggling to figure out a new recipe or trying to replicate one of your favorite dishes, you can always count on your parents to help you out.
Last month, we shared some advice from the mothers of famous chefs. Today, in honor of Father’s Day, we’re looking to dads around the world for cooking wisdom. And don’t forget to call your dad!
1. A great chef needs a great team.
Chef Thomas McKenna of Public Kitchen in New York City says his father taught him the importance of having a good team supporting him in the kitchen.
“He understood that kitchens and restaurants are a team effort. No matter how good of a chef I can become, my kitchen wouldn’t produce great food unless I was able to build and inspire a group of people to do it with me.”
2. It all starts with a good breakfast.
Drew Dzejak, chef at Caliza Restaurant, credits his dad with teaching him how to make a good breakfast of eggs, hash browns, and bacon. This simple act of self-care helped him become more independent and confident in the kitchen, and he’s passing the lesson to his own children.
“And as a father now, I can say this is the same that I taught my children. It starts with cracking and mixing eggs, cooking and cutting potatoes, frying them in a pan, laying out the bacon, and putting it in and taking it out of the oven.”
3. How to cook a good burger.
Robb Levitt remembers how his father taught him to make a good burger—a fitting lesson, considering Levitt is now the head butcher and chef at Publican Quality Meats.
“He used cast iron, but the real innovation was that he packed a cold pat of butter in the middle of the patty to keep it from overcooking while getting a deep sear on the outside. . . Not only does it help keep the burger juicy and pink in the middle, it adds a ton of flavor.”
Levitt uses the same technique in his work today, sometimes substituting butter with foie gras or marrow.
Matt Griffin, executive chef at Simon & the Whale, says his father showed him how to improvise in the kitchen. On one occasion, Griffin’s dad was making his favorite linguini with fresh clams, but the clams would not open. Griffin recalls his father using canned clam juice to open the clams, and the dish was a success.
“A recipe can help guide the culinary process and provide a framework for a dish, but it can also be looked at as a jumping off point. Trust your culinary instincts and don’t be afraid to shake things up.”
5. Make your food with love.
Chef Jonathan Olson’s father was a pastor, but he nevertheless taught his son valuable lessons in the kitchen. Olson says his favorite lesson from his father was the Golden Rule, which he tries to uphold in his workplace.
“Treat others as you want to be treated. I find that leading a kitchen with respect for everyone is infectious, and creates an environment where people enjoy coming to work, which affects the way the food looks and tastes. Food made with love somehow tastes better.”
6. Combine new flavors.
Matthew Hyland, co-founder and chef of Emily and Emmy Squared, recalls how his father encouraged him to try unexpected flavor combinations, like putting cheddar cheese on apple pie.
“When I was very young, I found that odd and my father would encourage me to try it. When I finally did I loved it and I haven't stopped experimenting with fun flavor combinations.”
7. Patience, multitasking, and love.
Oliver Lange, a chef at Zuma, was 13 when his parents divorced. His mother had done most of the cooking in his childhood, and his father found himself suddenly in charge of preparing meals.
“My dad never gave up and really wanted me to have the same standard as with my mother––food made with quality products and love.”
It wasn’t an easy process, but Lange’s dad grew more and more comfortable in the kitchen. Lange and his father bonded as they both learned to cook together.
“Making good food at home takes time and you shouldn’t try to juggle too many things at once when you’re learning. I chose to be a chef because I always admired how much work and love my mother put into preparing meals and entertaining, and I had even more respect for my dad when he had to take on that role.”