Famous Chefs Get Nostalgic About Summer Foods
Suzanne Goin, Lucques, L.A.
THEN: "My dad didn't like bread, desserts or salads so I never got much of those, and they're like my favorite now. Ile flottante [a 'floating island' of meringue] was the one dessert he liked and sometimes we would add cut-up strawberries."
NOW: "I love the ice cream 'coupes' we would have when we traveled growing up—so at my other restaurant Tavern we always have two or three that are seasonal."
Barbara Lynch, No. 9 Park, Boston
THEN: "My mother had nine kids so every day was at the beach no matter what, and she made the most amazing tuna fish sandwiches with sliced Vlassic pickles, pickle juice, Cains mayonnaise and white bread—Sunbeam."
NOW: "I love lobsters, steamed with lemon and extra-virgin olive oil. There's another dish my friend makes up in Gloucester: Idaho potatoes peeled and parboiled, then cooked in a cast iron skillet. Once they're golden brown, she'll put Parmesan cheese on them. We have lobster fest up there."
Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin, NYC
Harold Dieterle, Perilla, NYC
THEN: "It would have to be all about blueberries. My mom makes this blueberry buckle that's out of control. We used to have a blueberry tree growing up in Long Island."
NOW: "My current blueberry fix is from Larissa Raphael, the pastry chef at Telepan. She makes a blueberry white chocolate dessert that's kinda like a bar."
Michael Symon, Lola Bistro, Cleveland
THEN: "My mom's Greek and Italian, so I loved Greek tomato salads with cucumber, feta cheese, mint, olives, and like a red wine vinaigrette."
NOW: "Tomato salad. In the summer, when our garden is rocking, we'll have them a couple nights a week over a grilled rib eye or roasted chicken."
Ming Tsai, Blue Ginger, Wellesley
THEN: "I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and for dessert: strawberry shortcake. Full disclosure: We bought the little shortcakes—spongy rounds with indentations. But we had delicious strawberries. Halve 'em up, add a touch of sugar, put a huge pile of that on, and then out-of-the-can, but real, whipped cream. I'd eat at least two at a time."
NOW: "There's a place called Sesuit Café in the Cape, and they have the most delicious, huge lobster rolls and boats of fried clams. That and a Yanjing beer or a good Sauvignon Blanc."
Mario Batali, Babbo, NYC
Scott Conant, Scarpetta, NYC
THEN: "My father was one of those guys who would go and get a bunch of corn on the cob and leave it on the stove to snack on. Very simple: Cooked in water with salt."
NOW: "Pasta alla Checca: A hot pasta mixed with room temperature mozzarella, olive oil, basil and tomatoes. That's the quintessential 'pasta salad' in Italy."
April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig, NYC
John Besh, Restaurant August, New Orleans
THEN: "Anything with Lake Pontchartrain blue crabs and Silver Queen corn—a white corn that's really sweet. Middle of the summer screams crab boil: It's the Creole equivalent to a clambake. Growing up around the lake that separated my hometown from the big city of New Orleans, life revolved around the lake and what you could catch."
NOW: "That was heaven. Consequently, it still is."
Stephanie Izard, Girl & the Goat, Chicago
THEN: "At my swim club we used to get Italian ices, and as soon as you got it, you'd flip it over, and on the bottom there's that quarter-inch of thick-icy-gooey stuff. I love lemon because it's supertart."
NOW: "We used to have races and swim with a watermelon floating down the middle of the pool, and we'd take it out and eat it. Then there was high school when we used to fill it with vodka… Now I just like slicing it for a salad."
Wylie Dufresne, WD-50, NYC
THEN: "For me it's ice cream. As a kid, I was OK with a pretty wide swath of flavors."
NOW: "My wife makes a pretty good ice cream cake, and ice cream sandwiches are also a favorite."
Marc Forgione, Restaurant Marc Forgione, NYC
THEN: "My mom had a garden, and I used to make cucumber-and-basil sandwiches, but there was no bread. You'd cut the Kirby cucumbers into two thick slices, then add basil, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar."
NOW: "I can't wait for the first local watermelon. Not to get all cheffy, but that first bite that drips on your chin—amazing. We do a watermelon soup with jumbo lump crab and Thai chiles."
Masaharu Morimoto, Morimoto, Philadelphia
THEN: "Japanese love all kinds of noodles: thin, thick, long, buckwheat, rice, flour. But during summer, it's definitely somen: very thin angel hair-like noodles made of flour, served cold."
NOW: "Unagi: grilled eel. Japanese believe eel gives people energy and stamina. So it's a tradition to eat eel during the hot summer, when people easily lose energy."
Tim Love, The Lonesome Dove, Fort Worth
THEN: "Watercress and mayonnaise sandwiches with blackberry milk shakes: I spent summers on my dad's farm in Tennessee, and we would go wading in the creek and pick fresh watercress. The blackberries grew on 'blackberry hill,' which was just to the side of the house."
NOW: "Roasted chickens from North Sea Farms in Long Island and grilled corn on the cob. Oh, and summer vegetable salads with fresh mint—it's the best."
Michael Tusk, Quince, San Francisco
Jamie Bissonnette, Coppa, Boston
THEN: "My mother used to buy Ken's Creamy Italian salad dressing and pour it over cucumbers from my grandma's garden, carrots and red onions and let it sit on the table. It was our snack we would eat all summer long before dinner."
NOW: "Catalan salad with romesco-marinated green peas, wax beans, cranberry beans and Marcona almonds. We have a community garden plot in the city."
Alex Guarnaschelli, Butter, NYC
THEN: "There were always classic desserts I waited all year for as a kid: Blueberry pie and strawberry tarts with pistachio cream."
NOW: "Hungarian yogurt cake, made with lots of lemon zest and lemon juice topped with roasted (pitted) plums, candied almonds and whipped cream."
Jason Franey, Canlis, Seattle
Tony Manutuano, Spiaggia, Chicago
THEN: "My mom's potato salad accompanied every summer meal and cookout: Potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, celery and a yellow mustard-mayonnaise-type dressing that was delicious. She still makes it."
NOW: "When it's summer, we sort of live on the patio and do a lot of grilling. The joke between my wife, Cathy, and I is that I'll say, 'Just go to the store and buy meat with bones in it.' I do a mixed grill with a dry rub: sea salt, black pepper, a little bit of Sugar In The Raw and paprika or an Italian pepper called Corno di Capra ground into a powder. It's more of a sun-dried peppery flavor."
Jose Garces, Amada, Philadelphia
THEN: "This may be unusual for a kid from Chicago: shrimp ceviche. For every family barbecue, I'd go food shopping with my dad, and my mom would mix up a batch of ceviche sauce. When we got home, the shrimp from our shopping list went right to her, and within minutes it would be turned into ceviche: A taste of Ecuador and the ocean in the heart of the Midwest."
NOW: "As a kid, I always loved corn on the cob because it made it OK to be a little bit messy. Now, I love it grilled and served with Mexican garnishes like chipotle aioli, lime, chile salt and queso fresco."