by Betty Ho, Big City Chefs Food Writer
My mother is not a professional chef, but she mastered several Chinese specialties at a young age and continues to wow at family get-togethers and potlucks. And while it saddens her that I’m not as adept as she is in the kitchen, I appease her (and perhaps my own guilty conscience) by saying it is because of her that I love food and writing about food. Family, and mothers in particular, have inspired many a generation to continue culinary family traditions, and some of our private chefs at Big City Chefs are no exception. Three of our Los Angeles area private chefs and co-stars of Food Network’s hit reality series about Big City Chefs, Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, share how their mothers not only ignited their passion for food, but inspired many a successful chef’s career as well!
Chef Stuart O’Keeffe reminisces about life as a young boy in Irleand, when he helped his mom and aunt cook in the kitchen.
“They are the two who influenced me to start cooking,” he says. “I have always had a love for good food, and I got this from my mom.” Chef Stuart’s insistence on quality can also be attributed to his mother, who, regardless of how little or how much money she
“I love you Ma!” shouts Private Chef Jesse Brune, another of our expert private chefs in the Los Angeles area and co-star of Private Chefs of Beverly Hills. A fiercely “independent woman,” mom Tina Brune inspired him to become a chef.
“It’s a no brainer,” says Chef Jesse. “My mom was a southern gal who made the meanest fried chicken in the world.” Her love for cooking and preparation of
For Chef Manouschka, a Haitian grandmother and mother made a powerful pair, inspiring her to cook and learn the basics. It was also these two women’s limitless hospitality and generosity that inspired Manouschka to take her love for food one step further and pursue a culinary career. No matter what time of the day or who you were, whether you were the mail carrier, a family member or a long lost friend, Grandma Olga, despite her limited English, always knew how to ask, “Do you want something to eat?” and according to Chef Manouschka, that was all it took for people to fall in love with her. “When anyone stepped into her home,” Chef Manouschka recalls, “it was like magic: within minutes, you would have something fantastic to eat.” Realizing she was spoiled, she now laughs that at the time, “I thought this was normal!”
Mom Jacqueline did the same, and it was only natural for Chef Manouschka to continue the tradition, even after moving from Miami to LA. “My friends were blown away!” Anytime someone came over, Chef Manouschka would remember her grandmother’s words and provide a delicious meal. Carrying her mother’s and grandmother’s torch of hospitality made her transition to Los Angeles an easy one.
Her new friends joked that Manouschka should become a chef but she laughed it off. To make ends meet however, she began a “tiny” catering business but still refused to call herself a ‘chef.’ “Cooking was my therapy,” Manouschka says, “and like my grandmother and mother, I stubbornly called myself a ‘cook.'” It seems, however, that Chef Manouschka’s grandmother had a secret that she carried to the grave. This month will mark the three-year anniversary of Grandma Olga’s passing, but at her funeral, it was revealed that she had, in fact, attended a prestigious French culinary school in her hometown, making her a bona fide accredited chef! Learning this, Chef Manouschka could only accept her very delicious fate: “My foray into becoming a chef was the legacy she left me, and I am now proud to call myself a chef,” says Manouschka, “but I’m even more proud that my grandmother’s legacy can continue! With that, I’d like to thank Tom and Big City Chefs for believing in me!”