The women behind the chefs
Growing up in a strong, traditional Mexican family, Jesse Moreno, pastry and sous chef at Chaparral in Cordillera, was never allowed in the kitchen. His mother, Norma Saiz, did all the cooking, while the men in the family handled other chores around the house.
But when his mother was struggling through a divorce and lost the desire to cook, Moreno stepped up to the plate.
“She was depressed, so I started throwing dinner parties to maker her happy,” Moreno said. “That’s the way I got into cooking.”
Moreno had learned a lot about food from years of just watching his mother in the kitchen. Occasionally, when she let him, he would help with prep work or butcher meats.
“After 9/11, I got laid off as a construction foreman in LA, and I thought I should go to culinary school,” Moreno said. “My mother helped me. She really motivated me to enroll.”
There’s no denying a mother’s influence. A mother’s love is often the fuel that enables her children to succeed. Vail Valley chefs, like Moreno, who are planning extravagant Mother’s Day brunches on May 14, reflect on what role their own mother played in their culinary career.
“My mother was very influential in my cooking career,” said Richard McCreadie, executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch. “I was determined to go out and learn how to cook food properly.”
McCreadie said when he went to culinary school, he discovered how food was supposed to taste.
“She was terrible,” he said of his mother, Agnus’, skills. “All the green vegetables ended up being brown. I thought, ‘There must be something better than this.'”
Cooking is past down from generation to generation whether it’s wrong or right, McCreadie said. So when he returned with a chef’s degree, he taught his mother the right way to cook, and she loved the lessons.
“She learned new things,” McCreadie said. “She loves to experiment and I get that from her.”
Executive Chef for the Sonnenalp Resort Adam R. Roustom learned about multi-cultural cooking from his mother, Constance. An American New Englander, she married Roustom’s Syrian father and relocated to the Middle Eastern country. Growing up there, Roustom watched his mother cook daily, switching effortlessly from dishes like chicken and dumplings to kibbe, a dish of seasoned bulgur and lamb. She would send Roustom to school with peanut butter from the U.S. on top pita bread with homemade apricot marmalade they would preserve themselves made from fruit grown on their farm.
“She was fantastic,” Roustom said. “She learned from my grandmother, my father’s mother.”
Randy Belanger, executive chef at the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa, learned about the unmistakable taste of fresh food from his mother, Nancy, who, with his father, helped to maintain a small family farm and restaurant in Maine.
“There was absolutely no processed food in the house,” Belanger said.
Belanger’s philosophy to use only the freshest ingredients was solidified by his mother’s cooking.
“I remember the fiddle head ferns in the spring time,” Belanger said. “She had a way of cooking them with bacon that she cured herself, and in the fall she made partridge stew that was just incredible.”
Each of these chefs will host a pampering brunch at their respective restaurants for mothers May 14, and it’s no doubt during preparation, they will consider all the skills in which their mothers have equipped them ” or at least, as in McCreadie’s case, inspired them to learn.
Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14640, or email@example.com.
Brunch for Mother’s Day, May 14
1. Remington’s at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch ” 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
The menu: Breakfast station, carving station, buffet, seafood station, pasta station, dessert buffet and a selection of gourmet salads.
Chef Richard McReadie’s pick: “Australian sea bass soaked in brown sugar and rosemary over night and then roasted to a beautiful glaze, served with a crawfish and lobster sauce.”
Cost: $48 adults
Information: Kids 6 and younger are free, and all mothers will be given roses. For reservations, call 748-6200.
2. La Scala in Eagle ” 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
The menu: Two omelets, French toast and fresh grilled tuna salad, plus the regular lunch menu. Mimosas, bellinis (sparkling wine, peach nectar and a splash of chianti), housemade bloody mary and London bloody mary with gin.
Cost: A la carte.
Information: Guitarist Elisa Bernardo will play with violinist Susanna Porter. For reservations, call 337-7733.
3. Ludwig’s at the Sonnenalp Resort in Vail ” 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
The menu: Seafood buffet with shrimp, snow crab and shrimp ceviche, whole roasted fish, salad bar, eggs Benedict, Belgian waffles with berry compote, roast beef with apple horseradish sauce.
Cost: $45 per person, and young children discount
Information: Call 479-5429.
4. Chaparral at Cordillera ” 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
The menu: Classic brunch
Cost: $39.95 for adults, $16.95 for children ages 5-12.
Information: Call 926-5900.
5. Vail Cascade Resort and Spa ” 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
The menu: Classic brunch with buffet, pasta station, carving station and breakfast items.
Chef Randy Belanger’s pick: Crepe station. “We’ll have some really nice savory crepes and sweet crepes.”
Information: Call 476-7111 for reservations.
Brunch not your style?
French Press in Edwards will be open for dinner especially for Mother’s Day. Call 9264740 for reservations.
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