My Dad's Best Dish: Culinary Children Sound Off on Their Father's Cooking

By Amber Ambrose  |  June 10, 2014

In honor of the upcoming Father's Day, we sought out six well-known chefs across the country who also happen to be fathers...and then we talked to their kids. From California to Connecticut, from infants to adults, we found out what the children of chefs Michael Chiarello, Michael Cordúa, Brian Landry, Rick Bayless, Jacques Pépin and Bryan Voltaggio love their dads to prepare. A few of them were even honest enough to disclose their least-favorites. Either way, the most important ingredient to any of these dishes—or relationships, for that matter—is love, which is abundant on both sides of the kitchen. Happy Father's Day!

  • Jacques and Claudine Pépin

    As a child, Claudine Pépin, daughter of the legendary chef and TV personality Jacques, never knew there was anything special about her family meals until she visited a friend’s house and came to realization that, “Wow, they don’t eat like we do.”

    “Food was much more of a focus in our house than it was in other people’s homes,” says Claudine. “For me, the simplest things are the ones I go back to. My father has potatoes in the garden and we go and get them, rub off the skin and fry them in butter. And then he roasts a chicken—which is definitely a family staple—and you have those little potatoes and a green salad with a garlicky vinaigrette. I’m in heaven.”

    The tradition continues with Claudine’s 10-year-old daughter, Shorey, whose favorite is her grandfather’s crêpes. She requests them every time the family visits the grandparents in Connecticut, though she does have a few dislikes. She tells Claudine, “Mom, there are four things I don’t like: asparagus, head cheese, tripe and sweet potatoes.” And Claudine is just fine with that.

  • Rick and Lanie Bayless

    For Lanie Bayless, daughter of Frontera Grill's Rick Bayless, the best thing about having a chef for a father was the importance given to family meals. It also means making great memories in the kitchen with her dad, like preparing crêpes with him in France or even writing a cookbook together (Rick and Lanie's Excellent Cooking Adventures).

    Even though her dad is best-known as a master of Mexican cuisine, her favorite dish of his is definitely all-American: strawberry shortcake. "He would always make it for me when strawberries were in season. He even put it on the Frontera menu, where it's still offered every spring—in fact, it should be going on the menu any day now."

    As for fessing up to Dad's dishes that she's not so keen on, Lanie says, "There is no way I'm answering that." 

  • Credit: Julie Soefer

    Michael and David Cordúa

    David's father is Houston chef Michael Cordúa, who started the family empire in 1988 with Churrascos, a restaurant that brought Latin American cuisine to an elevated level. But it’s nothing fancy that David prefers when his dad is cooking for him at home:

    “Gallo Pinto is my favorite dish prepared by my dad. It’s a Nicaraguan staple of small red beans and rice that's eaten with just about every meal in Central America. As simple as it sounds, watching the love and hours of process that he puts into it makes it all the better. After initially boiling and chilling small red beans overnight, he makes a confit of onion and uses that aromatic oil to refry the beans until they are glossy and easily turned in a pan. Chilled white rice then gets painted by the beans, and it's finally seasoned with chiles and vinegar while it's still hot enough to absorb them. He's perfected the dish over decades. It was always ready on the stove waiting for us whenever we got home with friends at any hour.  In college he'd ship me vacuum-sealed packs of it. Some nights I'd sell it out of my dorm room in tacos with creamy cilantro sauce.”

  • Bryan, Ever Maeve, Thatcher and Piper Voltaggio 

    Chef Bryan Voltaggio became a household name after becoming a finalist in Top Chef Season 6 alongside his brother, Michael. But to his three young children, he's just dad. While he's got more restaurants (VOLT, Family MealRANGE and Aggio) to oversee than children (Thatcher, Piper and Ever Maeve), his family remains more important than ever.

    Though she's the youngest of the bunch, Ever Maeve (pictured on the far left)—who is just shy of one year—will eat just about anything. Her parents tell us foie gras and pork belly are some of her recent samplings. Piper (far right), Voltaggio's three-year-old, says enthusiastically that "cupcakes!" are her favorite food from dad, and seven-year-old Thatcher (middle) is most impressed by dad's ability to cut orange slices for him without the skin. 

  • Michael, Giana and Aidan Chiarello

    California chef Michael Chiarello (Coqueta, Bottega) grew up making pasta with his mom. "Making gnocchi with her is one of the most vivid memories I have; I can really remember how her arm would reach over my shoulder as she taught me to roll the gnocchi over the board with my thumb, and I have shared that with my kids. Giana, who recently graduated from the CIA in Hyde Park, has mastered this dish and is terrific at making the gnocchi with old hen brodo sauce. My youngest Aidan (pictured) loves a dish we invented for a simple breakfast. It's one egg on top of a Parmesan crisp and one on top of a piece of toasted bread."

  • Brian, Cullen, Corinne and Elise Landry

    When he’s not preparing local seafood at Borgne in New Orleans, Brian Landry's kids keep him busy cooking up all sorts of meals.

    "My youngest, Corinne, is four and she is pretty sophisticated. She loves my blue crab risotto-stuffed shells with burrata, though she’ll turn her nose up at anything he makes that she deems 'too spicy.' Elise (seven) likes my meatballs and spaghetti the most, but is not a fan of the green-pea purée with mint. The oldest, Cullen (nine), definitely embodies his Louisiana heritage with a taste for sautéed black drum fish with blue crab and a pecan meunière."