Thomas Keller, Giada De Laurentiis and More on Mom's Most Inspiring Dish

Chefs talk about their mothers' cooking and more from Las Vegas Uncork'd
May 11, 2014
by Lesley Balla

If you can't spend Mother's Day with whomever you call mom, one of the best ways to honor her is through food. Since the celeb chef extravaganza Vegas Uncork'd takes place over Mother's Day weekend every year, it gives us the perfect opportunity to ask culinarians like Thomas Keller, Giada De Laurentiis, Mary Sue Milliken and Cake Boss Buddy Valastro what most inspired them from their mothers' kitchens, whether their mom was a great cook or not. Here's what they had to say.

Thomas Keller: "My mother didn't cook much. When she did, it was usually for holidays, but there was this one dish that she made a lot, and it was kind of strange. She would take some onions and chop them up and cook them in some oil, boil some spaghetti, drain it, and toss it all with some cottage cheese. I started to think about it a couple years ago, without really knowing or researching it, I figured my mother probably read that in a magazine. I think it came from a journalist who probably just got back from Italy, and had this wonderful dish to do with pasta, some onions and probably some ricotta cheese. And they probably said if you can't find ricotta cheese, use cottage cheese. So that's what she did." The pasta dish doesn't show up on his menus at the French Laundry or any Bouchon Bistro, but it is a fond memory. You can find his version of the recipe here.

Giada De Laurentiis: "Probably the lasagna," says the Food Network star, who's getting ready to open Giada at the new Cromwell Hotel on the Las Vegas strip. "You know, my mom was not the best cook on the planet, but she had four mouths to feed, so her go-to were layered baked dishes. You know, lasagnas, baked pastas. Anything that she could just use leftovers, layer it with sauce, top with cheese and bake. I'll definitely have lasagna on the menu at Giada, and it will be similar in flavors but just a little elevated." De Laurentiis' first restaurant opens on June 3.

Mary Sue Milliken: "My mom was a very good cook," says the Border Grill co-owner. "When I was a little girl, she cooked everything, including beef tongue. And I didn't know the difference between beef tongue and steak, so I would ask for beef tongue for my birthday. I love tongue! I still love it now, and I make at home an serve it at the restaurant for specials. I like to braise it with a bunch of chile peppers, and put it in a taco or something." Milliken and Susan Feniger will open their second Border Grill in Las Vegas at the Forum Shops at Caesars this summer.

Buddy Valastro: "I grew up with four older sisters, and every Sunday our extended family got together for dinner," TLC's "Cake Boss" says. "Now my wife, Lisa, and I have the whole family over on Sundays. We have my Mama's gravy with meatballs, sausage, lamb, and pork in tomato sauce and served with lots of rigatoni. We take a lot of pride in our dinners. Nothing brings families together like food." When it came to pulling together recipes for his Vegas restaurant, Buddy V's Ristorante at the Venetian's Grand Canal Shoppes, of course it had to be on the menu. But you don't have to wait until Sundays - it's available every night.

mother's day
mary sue milliken
thomas keller
las vegas
buddy valastro
giada de laurentiis