We Asked 14 F&W Best New Chefs for the Best Food Lessons Their Moms Taught Them

Use these chef (and mom!)-approved tips to elevate your home cooking.

<p>Courtesy of Kwame Onwuachi</p> 2019 F&W Best New Chef Kwame Onwachi and his mom, Jewel

Courtesy of Kwame Onwuachi

2019 F&W Best New Chef Kwame Onwachi and his mom, Jewel

There’s culinary school and there’s professional kitchen experience…but many a chef’s cooking journey started right at home. Ahead of Mother’s Day, we asked Food & Wine Best New Chefs to share the best food tips and tricks their moms taught them. Here’s what they shared.

Related: 24 Impressive Mother’s Day Brunch Recipes to Honor Mom

Fish sauce makes everything better

“Before I even started cooking professionally I would watch my mom eagerly in the kitchen when she would cook up traditional Vietnamese dishes. Whether it be soups, braises, or stir-fries, she always insisted on using a dash of fish sauce to make it taste better — especially if it was  missing that ‘umph.’ She also insisted on using rock sugar to balance out dishes versus using white table sugar because it brought on a more natural flavor and subtle sweetness.” — Viet Pham, 2011 F&W Best New Chef and chef/owner of Pretty Bird Chicken in Salt Lake City, Utah

Related: Our 21 Best Fish Sauce Recipes

Turn leftover rice into a new treat

“The best cooking tip I learned from my mom is how to cook the perfect pot of rice. We never owned rice cookers growing up, and we made rice in pots every night on the stove so we would get crispy bits on the bottom of the pot. Those were my favorite parts, and whatever is left that you can’t scrape up can be turned into a ‘rice tea’ by pouring hot water over it and allowing it to steep for an after-dinner treat.” — Calvin Eng, 2022 F&W Best New Chef and chef/owner of Bonnie’s in Brooklyn, New York

<p>Courtesy of Naomi Pomeroy</p> Naomi Pomeroy and her mom, Karen

Courtesy of Naomi Pomeroy

Naomi Pomeroy and her mom, Karen

Grow your own food

“My mom taught me that growing even just a little bit of your own food makes you treat it very differently —  we never waste foods we’ve grown ourselves. We had a big garden — we were pretty poor, but rich with soil, so we grew a lot of our own food. [I have] strong memories of pulling up fresh carrots and radishes and cutting them up to use in salads, or growing spinach that we used to make soufflés with eggs, cheese, milk, and flour provided by federal assistance. My mom was very good at creating magic with very little, which made me resilient as well.” — Naomi Pomeroy, 2009 F&W Best New Chef and chef/owner of Expatriate and Cornet Custard in Portland, Oregon

Chilled butter is the key to flaky pie crust

“My mum loved baking and stressed the importance of chilling butter when making her coconut pie. She would chill the formed pie crust [before baking], and I have never seen a flakier pie since.” — Nina Compton, 2017 F&W Best New Chef and chef/owner of Compère Lapin, Bywater American Bistro, and Nina’s Creole Cottage in New Orleans

<p>Courtesy of Paola Velez</p> Paola Velez and her mom, Lala

Courtesy of Paola Velez

Paola Velez and her mom, Lala

Clean as you go

“One of my favorite things that my mom taught me was to clean as I go when cooking. It’s a tip/trick that was very useful for my home cooking endeavors, but absolutely became a lifeline for me as a chef. It has been especially useful in the process of baking and testing multiple recipes for my upcoming cookbook Bodega Bakes —  cleaning as I went will be the bloodline of my cooking processes. Who wants to think about a messy gooey kitchen when there’s a slice of cake in front of you?” — Paola Velez, 2021 F&W Best New Chef, creator of Dōekï Dōekï pop-up, and founder of Bakers Against Racism

Related: 17 Memorable Mother’s Day Dessert Ideas

Use coconut cream for the best Thai curries

“My mom is a restaurant owner and chef, and we make a ton of curries and soups like khao soi and tom kha — something she taught me, which I’ll always remember, is to wait until the end to finish dishes with a dash of fish sauce when using it as a seasoning. Also, just a tiny bit of fresh coconut cream to finish Thai curries really sets them off with the perfect Thai flavors. So, take a page from my mom’s book and finish your Thai curries with a dash of fresh coconut cream and fish sauce!”  — Nick Bognar, 2020 F&W Best New Chef and chef/owner of Indo and Sado in St. Louis

<p>Courtesy of Ed Szymanski</p> Ed Szymanski and his mom, Hayley

Courtesy of Ed Szymanski

Ed Szymanski and his mom, Hayley

Curiosity is the best kitchen tool

“My mother taught me to have a curiosity with new foods — always to try something new, and to approach food with an open mind and palate. That’s served me very well as a chef, but is also great life advice. It’s especially helpful when traveling and exploring new cities, to eat off the beaten path and dive into the local culture.” — Ed Szymanski, 2023 F&W Best New Chef and chef/owner of Dame and Lord’s in New York City

Use correct measuring cups...

“I remember my mother teaching me how to measure at a really young age, probably seven or eight — how to scoop and level flour, which measuring cups to use for wet and dry ingredients. I took this lesson to heart so much that when my friends would come over and we would make cookies together, I was then the one constantly correcting their measurements. I loved the precision of following a recipe and having it turn out perfectly, every time.” — Katie Button, 2015 F&W Best New Chef and chef/owner of Cúrate and La Bodega in Asheville, North Carolina

<p>Courtesy of Warda Bougettaya</p> Warda Bougettaya and her mom, Fatiha

Courtesy of Warda Bougettaya

Warda Bougettaya and her mom, Fatiha

...but also learn to eyeball measurements

“My most precious advice from my mom was  “عينيك هم ميزانك,” which in Arabic translates to ‘Your eyes are your best scale of measure!’ She never measured salt or spices by the teaspoon but instead wanted me to learn how things should look, feel, and taste by using my own senses. It shaped my cooking and baking.” — Warda Bougettaya, 2022 F&W Best New Chef and chef/owner of Warda Pâtisserie in Detroit

Homemade chicken stock makes the best stuffing

“One of my favorite dishes [I learned from] my mother is a Southern-style cornbread stuffing. My mother makes her own chicken stock with whole chickens that she slowly cooks, then folds the poached chicken into homemade cornbread stuffing alongside some of that stock to give it a bit more depth and flavor — it’s by far one of my favorite dishes my mother makes because it’s been prepared with such love and care. It reminds me of home and how much passion my mom puts into her food.” — Angel Barreto, 2021 F&W Best New Chef and chef/partner of Anju in Washington, D.C.

<p>Photo courtesy of Kwame Onwuachi</p> Kwame Onwachi and his mom, Jewel

Photo courtesy of Kwame Onwuachi

Kwame Onwachi and his mom, Jewel

“You’re only as good as your last plate”

“My mom is a chef, so growing up everything was always homemade and required a lot of effort. From seasonings to sauces, she took her time making it all. I remember she used to say, ‘It’s not a gravy! It’s a sauce.’ As I got older and became a chef in my own right, I asked her why she put so much effort into every meal, even at home, and if she had any advice for me. She said ‘You’re only as good as your last plate.’ That has stuck with me throughout my career.” — Kwame Onwuachi, 2019 F&W Best New Chef and chef/owner of Tatiana in New York City

Related: 6 Essential Sauces Every Home Cook Should Know

Learn to cook instinctively

“Growing up, my mom did most of the cooking on a daily basis. I’m not quite sure how she got it all done — if it wasn’t a fully from-scratch meal, she would integrate prepared elements in a way that would transform them into something elevated. She seasoned her food perfectly, and we always had enough to feed our friends that happened to be around. All of these things have shaped who I am as a cook, cooking by feel and not from recipes — understanding that it’s not the ingredient that makes the dish, but your intention.” — Ravi Kapur, 2016 F&W Best New Chef and chef/owner of Liloliho Yacht Club, Good Good Culture Club, and Olehna Spirit in San Francisco

<p>Courtesy of Justin Pichetrungsi</p> Justin Pichetrungsi and his mom, Rattikorn

Courtesy of Justin Pichetrungsi

Justin Pichetrungsi and his mom, Rattikorn

Eating well is just as important as cooking well

“My mom doesn’t cook at all. My father did all the cooking at home and the restaurant. She only recently learned how to boil eggs. So if she taught me anything, it’s that eating well is the most important part of cooking.” — Justin Pichetrungsi, 2022 F&W Best New Chef and chef/owner of Anajak Thai in Los Angeles

Remember who you’re cooking for

“My mom is the most generous cook I know. She never fails to make just a little too much food, and she instilled this in me. She is always concerned about whomever she’s feeding and wants to make sure everyone’s glass is full — and their plates too. With her, it’s more than cooking — it’s making sure you’re nourished. So, long story short, my tip is to not sweat the little things and think about the big picture — that everyone is around a table sharing something together.” — Amanda Schulman, 2023 F&W Best New Chef, chef/owner of Her Place Supper Club and co-owner of My Loup in Philadelphia

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