5 Chefs Share Father’s Day Recipes and Favorite Memories and Lessons From Dad

June 15, 2020 7:00, Last Updated: June 19, 2020 5:08
By Crystal Shi

In honor of Father’s Day, chefs from around the country share their favorite food memories and lessons—in cooking and in life—from Dad, plus plans and recipes for this year’s celebrations.

Matt Moore

Cookbook author, ‘Serial Griller’

Nashville, Tennessee

Cookbook author Matt Moore. (Andrea Behrends)

Favorite Food Memories

Mama is and always will be the chef of the family, but it was my father who best knew his way around the grill. Growing up as kids, we always enjoyed meals cooked on the gas grill out on the brick patio Mom and Dad had laid by hand.

It wasn’t until my teens, however, that my father rediscovered his old charcoal grill in a Florida hardware store: Old Smokey, from his college days. I’ll never forget learning from him how to light and cook on charcoal—and the taste of everything on that grill. Grilling opened up to me a whole new world of flavor, technique, and atmosphere.

Matt Moore (L) with his father. (Courtesy of Matt Moore)

Most Valuable Cooking Lesson

My father spent most of his life working in the cattle industry, specifically Angus cattle. There’s an old saying that a meal will only be as good as your ingredients, and that mantra plays true with sourcing quality beef for steaks, burgers, and all of our other favorite grilled fare.

Most Valuable Life Lesson

Excuse my Southern slang, but I grew up hearing the words: “‘Can’t’ never could do anything.” In other words, I think I can, I think I can, I know I can.

Celebrating Father’s Day

My parents have a beautiful home on Lake Oconee outside of Greensboro, Georgia. It’s there that we do what we do best: cooking up delicious food to share and enjoy with each other.

Now that my father has some more down time, he’s grilling more than ever. He’s up to four grills at the lake, and we fire them all up over the course of a weekend to enjoy some great meals.

RECIPE: Triple Cheeseburge


Quiaufa Royes

Chef, Quiaufa’s Kitchen and HUNGRY NYC

New York City

Chef Quiaufa Royes. (Courtesy of Quiaufa Royes)

Favorite Food Memories

My grandfather filled in as a father figure for me in many ways. He cooked breakfast in the morning and drove me to and from school. He would let me go grocery shopping with him and my grandmother and help pick out food. He made sure I had good manners and would check me if I didn’t. He was very big on family, making sure holidays were extra special.

The fondest food memories I have with him are of him cooking breakfast for me and my six siblings. He is from Sumter, South Carolina, so his dishes were always down-home cooking. He would make things like cornbread with bacon and eggs, or grits with liver and onion gravy.

Quiaufa Royes (L) with her grandfather. (Courtesy of Quiafa Royes)

Most Valuable Cooking Lesson

The most valuable cooking lesson my grandfather taught me was how to make his chicken soup. Everyone in the family loves his soup, so I asked him to show me how to make it. I was shocked to find out that he cut up biscuit dough and dropped it in the soup to make dumplings. Years later, I was able to make it for him, and I was so happy when he approved it.

Most Valuable Life Lesson

My grandfather taught me to be self-sufficient. He was in the Air Force, worked as a cable splicer and a cab driver, and worked with Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) for many years. There wasn’t a job that he couldn’t do. He was a handyman and did all the repairs around the house.

This showed me that I could do anything I put my mind to. It also gave me the incredible work ethic I have today.

He was a role model because he led by example. If a family member was down on their luck, he would help them get back on their feet. He would go as far as allowing them to live with us until they could get their own place. He showed me that you can make a difference in people’s lives simply by using what you have.

And my grandfather wasn’t just an amazing father figure; he was also a great husband. He was very loving and supportive toward my grandmother. He set the standard for me for how a woman deserves to be treated.

Celebrating Father’s Day

My family celebrates Father’s Day by acknowledging the men in the family and the impact they’ve had in our lives. We usually do this in church during the testimony service. After that, we cook a big meal and give gifts to all of the fathers. My grandfather loved grape soda and peanuts, so he would get that along with other gifts.

This year, we will be celebrating via Zoom and exchanging gifts in our homes, rather than all together.

RECIPE: Southern Potato Salad


Mark Ellman

Chef and owner, Honu and Frida’s Mexican Beach House

Maui, Hawaii

Chef and restauranteur Mark Ellman. (Courtesy of Mark Ellman)

Favorite Food Memories

My father (Mickey—he was named for Mickey Rooney!) was a meat salesman in Los Angeles when I was growing up. Every once in a while I would go to work with him at the meat processing plant, and then I would make the rounds to all the restaurants with him. I was about 9 or 10 years old.

My absolute favorite memory is of when my dad would take me into the big walk-in chiller where all the meat was stored and let me grab a cold knockwurst. I would chow down while we drove around to his customers.

My dad got me my first job at age 13, right after my Bar Mitzvah. On weekends, I was a janitor at a great burger joint where I learned the art of a great burger. I quickly moved up to the grill.

I loved that job. And I guess that’s why I am still in this crazy hard business. I thank my dad every day.

Mark Ellman (2nd from L) with his father, grandmother, and sisters. (Courtesy of Mark Ellman)

Most Valuable Life Lesson

My parents divorced when I was 12, and unfortunately, my dad died when I was 20. After the divorce, I would only see him on weekends in his studio apartment.

He didn’t cook much then, but we went to all of his customers for lunch or dinner, and that’s where I learned the most important lesson: to be loyal to those who are loyal to you. Going into these restaurants—Mike’s Pizza, Nibbler’s, Barone’s, Sportsmen’s Lodge, Hamburger Hamlet—we would usually eat with the owners, and they would always send out extra food.

He also taught me red wine with meat, white wine with fish, and oh yeah, we live in a free country and we can be whoever we want to be.

Celebrating Father’s Day

We celebrate with brunch with the kids and grandkids. My daughters will make all sorts of goodies: soft scrambled eggs; lox, bagels, and cream cheese; a Greek salad; and lots of fresh fruit. This is Maui, after all!

RECIPE: Lemon Ricotta Pancakes


Tracy Wilk

Lead recreational chef, Institute of Culinary Education

New York City

Chef Tracy Wilk. (Maggie Marguerite Photography)

Favorite Food Memories

As a kid, I discovered I had a knack for baking, and my dad was always ready to be my first taste tester. We both had a big sweet tooth, and my household had a big health focus, so it was kind of like our own inside joke. I knew if I was making anything with chocolate (which I usually did—it was a shared favorite) I had to measure out some extra chocolate, because he would always grab some.

Every Saturday, my parents went out for their weekly date night, and almost always I would convince whichever friend I had over that we should bake something. My parents would return and smell the baked goods before they even walked through the door. My mom would be slightly disgruntled—because of course the kitchen was a mess—but Dad just honed in on what I made, ready to dive in.

In one of my cookbooks I got as a kid, I found these delicious white chocolate macadamia nut brownies. I used to make them for him for every occasion. I made them recently for the physical therapy team at NYU Langone, to thank them for their dedication and hard work during the COVID-19 crisis, and to honor my dad on the anniversary of his passing. I have been baking to thank those on the front lines since the beginning of the pandemic, and I chose the PT team on that day as he was an accomplished PT.

Tracy Wilk, age 4, with her father. (Courtesy of Tracy Wilk)

Most Valuable Life Lesson

I lost my dad very suddenly, and having that big shock moment really gives you clarity on what in life is important. Up until my dad’s death, I allowed my career to be the most important thing in my life. I sacrificed seeing family, big celebrations, my mental and physical health … the list could go on.

Losing my dad gave me a lesson in re-prioritizing my life. Cooking is important to me, and I love my career—but it doesn’t always have to come first, and putting my health first doesn’t make me a bad chef. Actually, putting my health first makes me a better chef. This improved mindset opened the doors to my culinary teaching career, which gives me a better work-life balance as well as a more rewarding career.

Celebrating Father’s Day

Sunday was the night of the week my dad would cook, even on Father’s Day. He would still make dinner, and I usually made some form of dessert for my family to enjoy.

This year, I’ll make sure I eat something chocolate and listen to some of his favorite music, which is usually how I connect when I am missing him.

RECIPE: Dark Chocolate Cupcakes


Michael Schenk

Culinary director and executive chef, Farmer’s Table

Boca Raton and North Palm Beach, Florida

(Bernd Juergens/Shutterstock)

Favorite Food Memories

Growing up in Bavaria, Germany, our family had restaurants as far back as I can remember, so it was normal for me to be around food all day. Holidays were big and so were the family celebrations. One of our favorites that was always served on Father’s Day was roasted pork shoulder with cracklings, bread dumplings, sauerkraut, and a lot of gravy.

For a late breakfast/early lunch, my father and I would make a gröstl, which consists of caramelized onion and the leftover dumpling and pork roast diced up, then slow-roasted in a skillet until everything gets a little crunch. Scraping the crunchy bits and pieces from the bottom of the pan is crucially important, my father always said. Crumble up the pork cracklings and crack some eggs over it, and—delicious!

At night, we would have brotzeit (a traditional German snack) together, with thinly-sliced pork and just salt and pepper, and fresh rustic bread dipped into the gravy. My grandfather, my father, and I used to wrestle over the schmaltz on top of the cold gravy, to spread onto the bread.

Michael Schenk’s father. (Courtesy of Michael Schenk)

Most Valuable Life Lesson

As my father would say, “Most of the time, you’ll find that the best things in life are very simple, and family is most important.”

Celebrating Father’s Day

Nowadays, since I am a chef, Father’s Day is a busy day in this business, and I look forward to getting home at night to be with my wife and two daughters. We usually eat something simple, but overall, it’s always very good and memorable. After all, I’m with my family.

RECIPE: Bavarian Pork Roast With Cracklings, Bread Dumplings, and Gravy


Interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.


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