A Sunday in the Lives of Three Chefs

Ahhh . . . Sundays. Quiet, peaceful, lazy Sundays. They’re all about slowing things down, spending time with those you love, and enjoying the day. For chefs, they’re also all about food—naturally.

So, when I asked three of the chefs featured in my latest cookbook, Chefs & Company, to share their favorite Sunday meals with me, here’s what they whipped up for a scrumptious Sunday brunch, lunch, and dinner.

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10:30am

We’re standing in the sun-filled kitchen of Chris Hodgson, chef/ co-owner of Hodges, president of Driftwood Catering, and consulting chef for Driftwood Restaurant Group. There’s a buzz all about as he’s prepping like mad, while his wife, Jacquelyn, tends to their two small children.

“Not much has changed on Sundays from the way I grew up,” Chris says. “It’s always a day of family for us. We go to church, come home, and then enjoy a huge brunch I cook for anyone and everyone who wants to stop by, from parents, grandparents, and in-laws to aunts, uncles, and cousins.”

Chris became well-known citywide as a pioneer in the local food truck movement. He owned the area’s first food truck, Dim and Den Sum, as well as the Hodge Podge truck. He earned some nationwide attention, too, thanks to his runner-up finish on the Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race show in 2011.

Today, Chris is making his popular Eggs in a Nest recipe. “I remember my mom preparing this dish for me on special occasions,” he says. “I found it to be so much fun. My favorite part was dipping the perfectly toasted round cut-out into the yolk as it first cracked and spilled over. Too few people make this anymore, but it’s one of my best childhood memories.”

Now he’s doing the same for his own kids.

2:00pm

We’re instantly hit with the delicious aroma of bacon sizzling on the stove as we enter the home of Douglas Katz, chef/owner of fire food and drink; chef/partner of Provenance, Provenance Cafe, and Catering by Provenance at the Cleveland Museum of Art; and owner of Fire Spice Company.

On the lunch menu? Longburgers with Sautéed Onions, Cheddar & Maple-Glazed Bacon served with Smashed Baby Red Potatoes with Sautéed Onions. Doug’s wife, Karen, lends a hand with the Baby Tomato Salad with Crumbled Goat Feta & Basil.

Doug admits that it was both his mother’s and grandmother’s influence that helped spark his interest in food. So much so that he started his own catering business when he was in high school. He went on to earn a college degree in hotel and restaurant management and a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. “I consider the CIA my graduate school,” he says with a smile.

After stints in Boston, Portland, and Aspen, Doug returned home to put down roots—and make a name for himself locally. His success is evidenced by his being named a semifinalist for “Best Chef: Great Lakes” by the James Beard Foundation.

“One of my favorite childhood memories is of going to visit my grandma in Bratenahl on Sundays,” he says. “She would make us tuna fish or egg salad sandwiches, which we ate by the pool while spending quality time together.”

Today, Sundays still include together time in the Katz household. “This meal is a fun family favorite in our house,” Doug says. “It’s really easy and delicious. Even the kids can help with the preparations.”

With 14-year-old twins, Doug is lucky enough to get twice the help, and twice the joy.

6:30pm

As the sun begins to set, Jonathan Bennett, director of concept development for Hyde Park Restaurant Group, is gearing up in his newly remodeled kitchen, getting his mise en place ready, shooing his cats away, and calling in his two sons to wash up—all at the same time.

Growing up on a 400-acre farm in Ellerbe, North Carolina (population: 1,000), Jonathan was only seven when his mom took him to a Japanese steakhouse for the first time. He was so awestruck that the next day he set up a makeshift hibachi and prepared stir-fry for his parents and brother.

After graduating from high school, Jonathan headed straight to the Culinary Institute of America, and after several notable stints, he landed in Cleveland, his wife’s hometown. While here, he’s rightfully earned several top recognitions, including a nomination for “Rising Star Chef ” by the James Beard Foundation.

“My mom would always make a nice Sunday dinner,” recalls Jonathan. “It was either a pot of beans with ham hocks and cornbread, a roast, or skillet fried chicken. But as my own kids were growing up with me being in the restaurant business, Sunday dinners had to meet two goals: good food and family time. That’s why grilling is such an ideal option.”

On Jonathan’s menu this evening: Grilled Leg of Lamb Steaks, Shaved Artichoke & Tomato Salad, and Chewy Brownies with Hot Fudge Sauce.

“I especially love grilled lamb steaks,” Jonathan says. “They’ve got such great flavor to begin with. And being a thinner piece of meat, they cook quickly. As for the salad, my wife and I especially love using raw artichokes to lend texture and flavor. And those brownies are super easy to make, plus so much better than store bought.”