My dad does not cook. The extent of his cooking was always 1. Microwaving a hot dog; 2. Microwaving frozen White Castles or 3. Calling for pizza. La Rosa’s. Double extra cheese, original crust. My most vivid food memories with him include his standard steak order (butterflied, well-done… really.) and his dislike of tomatoes (except in aforementioned La Rosa’s).
In all of my dealings with chefs, on the other hand, I have heard so many stories of how their dads influenced their cooking and made them the men (and women) they are today. I asked a few local chefs and food entrepreneurs to share some stories about their dads, and if they have kids, what they’re cooking for their kids.
Peggy Shannon, Queen City Cookies: ”Fried Mush with fried green tomatoes. As best I remember I hated both, but he was so excited to make them it was fun to be in the cacophony of bands, sizzles and yelps of glee from the kitchen. And yes, he had heart bypass 2x. Fried fried fried!”
Jean-Francois Flechet, Taste of Belgium: ”My dad could not fry an egg or even use a microwave. He can fix the stove, the microwave and build a house. If I talk about cooking, his answer is : Why don’t you talk to mom! Jacques (Flechet’s 7-month-old son) is too small. I can’t cook for him yet.”
Josh Campbell, Mayberry: “My step father made the best fried okra, silky smooth mash potatoes and slow cooked green beans with a ham bone in them. My daughter and I have cooked everything from a whole pig to cupcakes. She also, for some odd reason, loves doing dishes at the restaurant.”
Matt Buschle, Virgil’s: “My father was well known in family folklore as the inventor of ground beef and beans, yep canned Campbells baked beans and browned ground beef with onions, served with potato chips, still one of my favorites. He also brought the whole world to our house as he traveled with his work with General Electric. [He] experienced a lot of stuff from great bread to snails. My daughter like pork belly, [She's] absolutely nuts over it. She and I like to experiment and make what she likes to call a “Nelleh Special”. Most of the time inedible science experiments, but we do have fun.”
Tom Acito, Cafe de Wheels: ”I make Alessandra, my almost 4 year old, pastina. [I] add a touch of olive oil and either parmagiano or locatelli. It’s what my Nana made me. Comfort food!”
Erin Swing Romanos, The Sensitive Epicure: “My dad was a great cook! Two meals that he made on a regular basis that I remember clear as day:
1. Perfectly medium grilled steak w/ charred fat (that we’d wrestle over); pan-fried canned new potatoes; LeSueur peas.
2. Pan-fried ham steak w/ hominy
My stepfather, here in Cincy, was the Old German Jew who was a self-proclaimed born-again Italian. We would cook a lot together. Lots of handmade pasta in all forms, raviolis, etc. And hit up the Farmer’s Market at Lunken.”
Dan Wright, Senate: “My pops was pretty old school. He didn’t like to mess up a lot of dishes, so he would always cook bacon in a cast iron skillet and then fry eggs in the left over fat. Obviously, this has influenced me in countless ways (Bacon Fat Friday). His other go-to dish that rocked my world was Stewed BBQ pork chops. Being a new father, currently wifey is cooking up all their food.
Jose Salazar, The Palace at the Cincinnatian: “Dad did not cook. My son and I make things together. Mostly pizza Margahrita, pancakes, salads and eggs.”
So what are your favorite memories of your father cooking, or what are your favorite things to cook for (or with) your kids?