Friday, July 20th, 2018

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Mothers are key ingredients in the success of top chefs


Behind every great chef there’s a mother whose expertise in the kitchen served as an inspiration.

It’s easy to see why Jonathon Sawyer, Jimmy Gibson and Nathan Sansone became outstanding chefs – they all credit their mothers with providing them with their first experiences in the kitchen. And they all use mom’s recipes to this day.

“My mom Becky instilled in me the value of Eastern European frugality and the enjoyment of impromptu large family dinner parties that appear out of nowhere,” says Sawyer, owner of Trentina, The Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat.

“There was always garden-minded food, ingredient worship and beautiful simplicity,” adds Sawyer, a 2015 James Beard Award nominee. “And having yesterday’s leftovers become tonight’s beloved entrée.”

Gibson’s mother Margaret Ann had a small cake business and made between 10-15 cakes per week for weddings and birthdays. “On top of that, she would cook dinner from scratch five or six times per week,” says the co-owner of Hungry Bee in Bainbridge.

Margaret Ann’s father was a butcher. “She could always pick out a great steak, she had an eye for it,” says Gibson. “And when she worked for Pillsbury she was an assistant in the test kitchens. She helped to come up with recipes and the ready-bake pie crusts that were used in the Pillsbury Bake-Off.”

Mrs. Gibson also worked for the Junior League of Cleveland and wrote many recipes for its cookbooks. “She’s a recipe-based person and I think they’re a great tool,” adds Gibson. “I’m more of a hands-on cook. I can follow a recipe, I just don’t like to.”

Sansone’s mother Louise did the cooking in the family’s North Chicago kitchen. “We never did the TV Dinner thing,” laughs the chef from Nighttown. “My dad was really big on Italian food and she used a few recipes that were passed down in his family.”

When other children were out playing, Sansone would often find himself in the kitchen, particularly during the holidays. “I always wanted to be in the kitchen and watch what my mom was doing. In the third grade I remember being at a friend’s house making mac and cheese.”

Sansone uses several of Louise’s recipes to this day, including her methods for making sugar cookies, tacos, pasta sauce and a chili dish which once graced the menu at Nighttown.

One thing is certain — when mom was cooking, these three culinary standouts were never late for dinner.



Yield: roughly 10 quarts

5 pounds ground beef

2 qt mixed peppers, diced (anaheim, poblano, red, grn, yellow,cubanelle, the more the merrier)

1.5 qt onions, diced

1/4 C chopped garlic

3 jalapenos, small diced, no seeds

1/2 C chili powder

1/3 C paprika

2 T cumin

3.5 qt tomato juice

3 pounds crushed tomato (canned)

3 pounds can kidney beans (cooked and drained but not rinsed)

salt/pepper to taste

Render beef to 85 percent cooked and drain out excess fat. Remove beef. In the same pot, saute onions, peppers, jalapenos, garlic, s/p for 5 minutes in oil. Add beef. Add spices. Cook 2 minutes. Add beans, crushed tomato, and tomato juice. Bring to a low simmer and reduce heat. Cook LOW HEAT for about 2 hours, stirring frequently to make sure it doesn’t scorch. Taste. Adjust. Enjoy


8 servings

Margaret Ann Gibson 

Meat Sauce

1      lb. sweet Italian sausage

3      (24 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce

(reserve 1 cup for bottom of  lasagna pan)

1      lb. lean ground beef


Cheese Mixture

3      large eggs

4      cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

1      container (15 ounces) ricotta cheese

1      cup shredded Parmesan cheese

¼      cup fresh chopped parsley (or approx. 1 Tablespoon dry)

½      teaspoon freshly ground pepper

12      “No Boil” lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 350°. In skillet over medium heat, cook sausage until just pink but not browned; drain. Set aside 1 cup spaghetti sauce. In a 13×9-inch baking dish, combine remaining sauce (approx. 8 cups) and cooked sausage. Crumble raw ground beef into dish; stir gently just to combine. Bake at 350° for about 40 minutes, or until ground beef is cooked through. Sauce will thicken as it bakes.

In a large bowl, beat eggs. Stir in mozzarella, ricotta and parmesan cheese, parsley and ground pepper. Set aside.

In ungreased lasagna pan or 13×9-inch glass baking dish, spread the 1-cup reserved spaghetti sauce. Layer 6 lasagna noodles over sauce, half of the cheese mixture and half of the meat sauce. Repeat layers, starting with noodles and ending with meat sauce.

Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until lasagna is bubbly. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.



Found in Jonathon’s book Noodle Kids in the section named: Stuffed.

Serves 4 people for appetizer

Time it Takes: – 60 minutes work – 40 minutes of rest

Classic Pierogi Dough Recipe

Ingredient List:

1                      Organic Egg (additional egg will be needed for the pierogi forming)

¾ cup              Grass Fed Sour Cream

4T                    Softened Whole Butter

4T                    Vegetable Oil (grapeseed preferred)

1T                    Chive, Scallion or Parsley Chopped Finely

2C                   AP Flour from King Arthur or another organic version

tt                      S&P


–        Combine all the wet ingredients: cream, butter, oil, herbs & a pinch of salt in your stand mixer or large mixing bowl. Paddle for approx. 3 minutes to get a nice even mix. They will not fully homogenize but don’t worry, its just the first step.

–        Add your flour in 3 parts — as with all fresh dough you’d rather it be a little stickier than dry. You can always add more flour.

–        Cover in plastic wrap & refrigerate for minimum of 1hour and up to 3 days

Pot Roast Filling Recipe

2C                   Pot Roast Meat

½ C     Hard Cheese Shredded (Parmesan & Dry Jack)

½ C     Onion Diced & Sautee’d or sofrito

2T        Chive, Scallion or Parsley Chopped Finely

¼ C     Sour Cream

2T        Whole Butter

¼ C     Pot Roast Liquid or hearty beef stock

¼                     lemon zested & juiced

tt                      S&P


–  Combine cheese, shredded meat, the sautéed onion & ½ the herbs. Season to taste with S&P. Then place the mixture in a pastry bag or ziplock.


–        Dust your workstation with flour & split your dough in half.

–        Each half will yield pieces of 2-3 inch circles. Hence the pint glass or ring molds

–        Roll your dough to a 1/6-inch thick,

–        Cut your pierogi rounds and stack in between pieces of parchment. Repeat until all the dough is gone on the first rolling.

–        Brush the inside of the dough rounds with egg wash lightly but completely. Add 1 TBSP of filling

–        Fold to half moon shape. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal completely

–        Store in fridge or freezer until you are ready to cook, on their sides. Do not stack these they are sticky

–        Blanch Pierogi in simmering pasta pot for approx. 5 minutes, only cook about 5 at a time.

–        Pull Pierogi out of water using the pasta basket

–        Transfer to sauce pan over medium high heat with some of the pasta water still clinging to the noodles & add 1 T. butter. Try and have the flat side of the dough facing the bottom of the pan. Allow the water to completely evaporate & the pierogi to get some nice GBD color (golden brown delicious), than turn them all over.

–        Add 2 T. of pasta water (or pot roast juice) & the remaining herbs & butter. Simmer over medium low, stirring gently until smooth & creamy sauce is formed approx. 3 minutes

–        This allows the pasta to fully stick to the sauce

–        Garnish with some additional herb clippings & sour cream

–        Yay!



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