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For Mother’s Day, The “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills” Remember Their Moms’ Culinary Inspiration

May 6th, 2010

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 of Private Chefs of Beverly Hills Thanks his Mom for Mother's Day

Chef Stuart

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

had, always bought the best quality ingredients. “Mom believed that putting good quality food in your body would keep you fit and healthy,” Chef Stuart says. “I followed in her footsteps today by cooking whole foods and by buying foods in their most raw form.” Learn more about Chef Stuart’s culinary passions at his personal blog. He is also available for bookings by contacting us.


Chef Jesse Brune says "Thank You Mom!"

Chef Jesse

“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

“countless family meals (which often included a hungry childhood friend or two),” inspired Jesse to “leap into culinary school” and continue the tradition of cooking for family and friends.


Chef Manouschka of Big City Chefs thanks her grandmother for culinary inspiration.

Chef Manouschka

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!”

Thanks to our Big City Chefs for sharing their wonderful stories with us! Happy Mother’s Day from all of us at Big City Chefs!


The One Dish I’ll Never Tire Of

April 1st, 2010

By Betty Ho, Big City Chefs Food Writer

Recently, a friend ask me to list my favorite foods and I rattled off, without thinking, a list of breakfast foods: waffles, pancakes, French toast, steel-cut slow-cooked oatmeal. She raised her eyebrows and concluded, “So breakfast is your favorite meal of the day.” I thought about this and then corrected her, “No, brunch is.”

Breakfast for me, occurs before ten A.M.; anything later classifies as “brunch,” and this is when my need for something savory kicks in. On a normal weekday, I wake up around eight, and have, by nine A.M., breakfasted on a steaming bowl of oatmeal cooked with banana and topped with chopped nuts. This is breakfast. No need for something salty, just slightly sweetened hearty oatmeal and a nice cup of coffee. It is wonderful, necessary, and routine – but in no way does it compare to the riches of a decadent weekend brunch. Brunch normally occurs after nine A.M. and is best eaten in the company of good friends. It is a different affair entirely. I normally still opt for a sweet grain-based dish but am compelled to finagle a friend into ordering something savory.

“We’ll share,” I’ll say, pointing out which omelet sounds good. “That way, we can have both salty and sweet.”

It’s not so much an obsession with balance as it is the very human obsession of wanting it all. And I know I’m not the only one, which explains the popularity of and my personal fixation with the penultimate sweet and salty brunch combination: Chicken and Waffles. Much like Food Network’s popular program, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” this is my personal food fixation.

I was in high school when I first ate Chicken and Waffles at Roscoe’s in Long Beach, the branch supposedly frequented by Snoop Dogg. I had just gotten my driver’s license and with my friends, all budding foodies, decided to drive down to Long Beach to see what all the fuss was about. It was like love at first sight, followed by love at first bite, and right then and there a life long hunt for chicken and waffles began. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to eat the two together: I love fried chicken (as does my father – this sort of taste is inherited, I believe, though my mother despises the stuff) and I love waffles, but food innovation is not my specialty, which is why I’m sitting here writing about food rather than inventing recipes with staying power. And Chicken and Waffles does have staying power. If, like me, you’re wondering about the history of chicken and waffles, let me direct you to this informative article. The article does not clear up the origin of this heavenly combo as much as it provides hypotheses proving that some great culinary ideas are a combination of histories: attempting to pin them to one single source would be missing the point. This is, I think, the essence of chicken and waffles: to enjoy the savory-sweet dish in front of you without thinking about its roots.

This weekend, I took my hunt to 900 Grayson, a small brunch place in Berkeley, CA that serves a fantastic Chicken and Waffles dish with a fantastic appellation: “Demon Lover.” This dish contains Spicy Buttermilk Fried Fulton Valley Chicken Paillard, a Buttermilk Waffle and Old-Fashioned Cream Gravy or Vermont Maple Syrup. And truly, who can resist?

The sweet Demon Lover (with syrup):

Sweet Demon Lover

The salty Demon Lover (with gravy):

Salty Demon Lover

The Demon Lover Up Close:

Demon Lover closeup

900 Grayson Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
P: (510) 704-9900

Next on my Chicken n’ Waffles list:

* Little Skillet in San Francisco
* Home of Chicken and Waffles in Oakland
* Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland (Our friend Chef Tanya Holland used to have a show on Food Network, and also has her own cookbook!)

And…Highly recommended:

* Citizen Smith in Hollywood
* Roscoe’s!

What are some great chicken and waffle places in your city?

When Life Hands you Mud and Snow, Make Frozen Mudslides (recipe included)

February 9th, 2010

Although recent rainstorms have tragically brought down hillsides, we Californians are nothing short of resilient. Our sense of humor helps us rebuild time and again when natural disaster strikes, so while cleanup crews do their job, why not toast them with that eponymous libation, the Mudslide. Coupled with the mid-Atlantic’s crippling snowstorms, this frosty drink shows climactic solidarity and gives props to both coasts.

Here is a recipe for a Frozen Mudslide, or the ultimate adult milkshare as I like to call it.

Frozen Mudslide

In a blender, combine:
0.5 oz Coffee Liqueur
0.5 cup Crushed Ice
1.0 oz Vanilla Ice Cream
0.5 oz Irish Cream
0.75 oz Premium Vodka
Blend well at High speed. Pour drink into a tall glass and garnish with a Brandied Cherry.

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