What better place to find inspiration for Father’s Day—or pretty much any holiday—than from chefs? To help plan our own celebrations, we asked 11 chefs from around the country to tell us their favorite Father’s Day traditions, and, naturally, all of them center around eating.
Todd Pulsinelli, Restaurant August (New Orleans): Pancakes and catfish
“On Father's Day my son and I cook buttermilk pancakes from scratch in the morning. Hank loves cracking eggs, and he spoons most of the dry ingredients into the batter. We cook and then eat! It’s so fun for both of us. My brother-in-law and I have boys three weeks apart, so on that same day for dinner, we fried catfish outside on the porch and whipped up some coleslaw and remoulade while drinking beers into the night.”
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Nathan Duensing, Thompson (Nashville): Fishing
“A typical Father's Day for me is spent at a local state park where we take a long hike. Then we do some fishing on the bank of the lake. The boys will do most of the fishing, and I will put the worm on the hook, take the fish off the line and untangle their lines periodically. After we finish fishing, I fire up my Big Green Egg, drink a beer that’s local to my home town and grill up a couple of thick-cut ribeye steaks.”
My most memorable Father’s Day was my first. Noah was just two and a half months old, and I spent the day holding him and feeling incredibly proud to be a father.”
Michael Vignola, Life Restaurant (New York City): Beach picnics
“Since I grew up in a large Italian family, Father’s Day meant gathering with 100 to 140 of my closest cousins for a massive picnic out on Long Island Shore. One of my earliest food memories is eating my grandpa’s famous eggs—cooked over an open fire in a cast-iron pan—surrounded by generations of family. We’ve continued these gatherings over the years, and now that I’m a father, they’re even more memorable.”
Brian Landry, Borgne (New Orleans): His son’s birth
“The only tradition is that I usually work on Father's Day—not very exciting. I do have a story, however. I became a dad on Father's Day. My son was born on Father's Day 12 years ago. I had worked lunch and went to my parents’ house for dinner that evening. We all sat down to a huge steak dinner when my wife's water broke at the dinner table. We went to the hospital and my son was born that night. Happy Father's Day to me!”
Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery and Toups South (New Orleans): Sleeping late and po’boys
“On Father's Day I get to sleep late. When I wake up, I make a big family breakfast with my girls. Then we snuggle on the couch and watch a cartoon (my choice, of course.) Later, we head out to my favorite po’boy shop—roast beef for me and fried shrimp for my girls.”
Marcus Samuelsson, Red Rooster (New York City): Cooking in Aspen
“As a chef, you work most holidays, and I’ve worked every Father's Day for as long as I can remember. I'm usually at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, so that's what I think of when I think of Father's Day. I can say that I’m looking forward to this year because I'll be spending it with my son, Zion, who will be almost 11 months. It will definitely be a memorable day.”
Zachary Engel, Shaya (New Orleans): Fingers crossed for Russ & Daughters
"My family will celebrate our very first Father's Day this year with my daughter, Margalit, who was born this past March. I'm hoping we start the day with a big breakfast of Russ & Daughters smoked fish and bagels shipped from New York, which we order sometimes for special occasions. It'll be a usual Sunday summer day after that; a nice afternoon walk with the dog in Audubon Park after a stop at Hansen's Sno-Bliz for a sno-ball with strawberry, cream of nectar and condensed milk."
Joe Cicala, Le Virtù and Brigantessa (Philadelphia): Storytelling and pedicures
“My son Augustino and I have a Father's Day tradition that may sound strange to most dads, but it comes from when he was a baby. Because I’ve always worked nights and typically come home late, Augustino always had trouble falling asleep and would want to wait up for me to come home. When I would finally walk through the door, he would want to snuggle and would ask me to rub his feet and hear one of my funny bedtime stories. His favorite was my version of the Three Little Pigs, where I would go into detail about how the wolf would make porchetta out of them. I would even include a full recipe! The idea was to make the story as long as possible so he would finally fall asleep, and I would usually plan my menu additions for the next day through telling him stories.
On Father's Day in the late afternoon, we go out in the city and get pedicures because he still loves to have his feet rubbed. Then we get gelato; he's a purist and only likes vanilla. I get my usual of espresso, hazelnut and pistachio. Then we head home for a spaghettata. He loves short rigatoni with extra-virgin olive oil and salt. After dinner I tell him a story like I used to when he was a baby. But now that he's nine, I have to make it more interesting by adding zombies or aliens."
Galen Zamarra, Mas (Farmhouse) (New York City): Crawfish boil
“We used to go to New Orleans, where my wife is from, for Father’s Day, but lately we’ve been staying home in New Jersey, and we have a crawfish boil to celebrate. The tradition stems from our wedding—we had a crawfish boil for our rehearsal dinner in Nola with friends and family. Now, we invite close friends and family over to our house in New Jersey who enjoy crawfish and Abita beer all day. I get the crawfish shipped up from Nola, the kids have races with the ‘mudbugs’ before they hit the boiling pot, and then it’s a big ol’ party in the backyard.”
Fabio Trabocchi, Fiola, Fiola Mare, Casa Luca and Sfoglina (Washington, DC): Grilling
“One of my most memorable Father’s Days was the first time I grilled with my son, Luca, when he was seven years old. I still remember teaching him how to season the meat to grill and how to cook vegetables on the grill on our patio during breaks from playing soccer in the yard."
Bradley Day, Tullibee (Minneapolis): Fishing and carrot cake
"Last Father's Day, I spent the day on the lake fishing with the kids. Then we went home to smoke the day's fresh catch, barbecue some meat and devour my wife’s delicious carrot cake. There's nothing I enjoy more than hanging with the family and eating a homemade meal.”