3 chefs share recipes inspired by their cooking dads (2024)

‘What was your inspiration for that dish?” It’s a question that chefs get frequently, usually from writers like me. The answers tend to fall into a few categories: recent travels, a farm or farmers market, or Mom or Grandma. It’s rarely Dad or Grandpa.

Growing up with a father who cooked regularly for our family, I find that surprising. I guess I was spoiled. I took for granted that cooking in the kitchen — not just grilling — is part of what dads do. They make broiled marinated flank steak pinwheels. Or very thin omelets spread with jam and rolled like a taquito. Or linguini with clams. Or sautéed rainbow trout.

Or, in the case of Galaxy Taco’s chef de cuisine Christine Rivera, Enchiladas Roja. Rivera’s mom may have been the primary family cook, but her dad, Armando Rivera, would go all out on the weekends.


“On Saturday or Sunday my dad would make enchiladas or fish tacos,” she said. “He was a fisherman, and if he caught something good, we knew we’d have the tacos. But my brother Armando and I would always ask for the enchiladas.”

Rivera explained that her father, who is from Sinaloa, Mexico, made the enchiladas differently from what you’d find in Mexican restaurants. He’d use flour instead of corn tortillas and instead of stuffing and rolling them, he’d heat them, then layer the warm tortillas with homemade tomato sauce, grated jack cheese, diced white onions, and sliced iceberg lettuce. And, of course, he’d top it off with more sauce and cheese. It’s the dish he and his 15 siblings all made, but Rivera said that all her aunts and uncles agree that her dad’s version is the best.

“It was the simplest thing, but it was the best thing,” she said with a smile.

For the sauce ingredients, Armando Rivera would go to the local Mexican market and bring home bags of spices, fresh tomatoes, dried California chiles and garlic. Cumin and salt also went into his sauce. But he also kept a garden, where he grew the makings of what his daughter said is a great hot salsa for the fish tacos. In fact, one of Galaxy Tacos’ house salsas was influenced by him. Instead of pan roasting the chiles, hers are wood fired to get a deeper, smokier flavor. But, Rivera said, the base is the same.

And Dad’s Enchiladas Roja is also on the menu. It’s made with house-made corn tortillas, and Rivera makes a salsa verde version of it, too. But, it’s definitely the dish of her childhood.

Danilo “DJ” Tangalin, who just opened his first restaurant, Gaya Gaya, celebrates his dad, also Danilo Tangalin — or “Danny” — daily, with a menu that reflects the Filipino dishes he grew up on.
“My dad’s a great cook. He always leads the cooking for big parties. He also is a great butcher. In the Philippines we always had livestock — goats, chickens, pigs — so that’s how we cooked. And we never had leftovers. We’d eat what he made or give it away. We were really self-sufficient.”

The Tangalin family is from Baguio, a mountain region of the Philippines known as the country’s summer capital. Danny Tangalin was a dentist there, as well as a musician, but he gave up dentistry for physical therapy to earn a living in the U.S. But he’s still a musician and DJ Tangalin’s inspiration for the food he creates. One of DJ’s favorites is his dad’s pork tenderloin skewers with Sprite barbecue sauce, made with banana ketchup, brown sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper, soy sauce, and, yes, Sprite.

“For a party, he’ll make 500 skewers, and another 500 lumpia. And poke,” DJ Tangelin marveled.

He also loves his dad’s Kare-Kare, a rich stew made with beef, pork or chicken. Tangelin makes it here with oxtail — but you can use short ribs. Ingredients like ground annatto seeds, shrimp paste, banana flour buds and Chinese long beans can be found in Asian markets —and certainly any of San Diego’s many Filipino markets. Pick up some sweet pan de sal rolls to sop up the thick, peanut-infused sauce.

Tim Kolanko, newly installed as executive chef at Urban Kitchen Group, acknowledges that the influence of his father, Robert, was like most fathers — learning how to cook outdoors and grilling steaks.

“My parents divorced when I was a teenager, so it was just my dad, brother and I, which made for a very male-dominated household that involved a lot of meat and potatoes,” Kolanko said. “However, this also meant that we all cooked together. While I was already almost professionally cooking at this point, cooking alongside my dad and brother had a large influence on me. I love cooking outdoors and cooking with fire, which is the type of cooking I saw my family doing growing up. I’ve always grown up with men cooking around me.”

Kolanko is from Grand Haven, Mich., and his dad’s parents had a house in the country with a huge garden, all alongside a river. Fishing was big for the guys, and it wasn’t unusual for Kolanko and his brother to fish for walleye in the morning and then pick vegetables from their grandmother’s garden for that evening’s meal.

“My father was actually more of a cook than my mother was, and my grandfather, Wesley, was also a big, instinctual cook,” Kolanko recalled. “While they weren’t gourmands, they were really involved and enjoyed the cooking process.”

Kolanko’s dad also hunted duck, geese and rabbit, not unusual for that part of the country.

“So, we had a lot of game meat growing up,” he said.

In fact, that hunting heritage was the inspiration for Kolanko’s comforting and colorful Carrot Strozzapreti with Summer Savory Pork Sausage. While this was not a dish his dad made, it could take full advantage of what his dad would bring home. Here, the dish calls for pork, but it could be substituted with any game meat. And, given Kolanko’s seasonal approach to cooking, the Swiss chard could be changed out for whatever is growing at the time of year you make it.

And that’s the point of his dad’s influence on his cooking. “It’s using what is available and cooking instinctually. My father and grandfather picked what was in their garden and made dinner out of it, which plays into how I aim to cook sustainably and based on what’s in season.”

Chef DJ’s Kare-Kare

Serves 3

3 pounds oxtail or short ribs
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 quarts water or beef stock
4 ounces ground annatto seeds whisked with 1 cup water
4 ounces rice flour for thickener
8 ounces creamy peanut butter
4 ounces cooked shrimp paste (this comes in a jar at Filipino markets)

For vegetables
1 banana flower bud, with outer leaves removed and bud sliced (found in Asian supermarkets fresh or dehydrated as banana flower hearts; if using dehydrated, follow package directions to rehydrate)
3 pieces of baby bok choy or 1 head of Napa cabbage, with leaves pulled off
1 bundle Chinese long beans or half a pound of French beans, cut into 2-inch slices
4 Chinese eggplants, sliced either lengthwise or in circles

Season the meat with salt and pepper. In a large pot, add oil and sear the meat.

After the sear, remove meat and add garlic and onions to pot. Sweat the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add meat back to pot and then add beef stock or water.

Simmer meat mixture uncovered on low to medium heat until tender, about 45 minutes to an hour and a half until the meat is falling off the bone. Add the annatto water.

Once the meat is tender, whisk in rice flour. Simmer for a few minutes, then stir in peanut butter. Then stir in shrimp paste. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

While the Kare-Kare is simmering, bring a pot of water seasoned with salt to a boil. Blanch the vegetables for a minute, then remove and set aside.

Plate the Kare-Kare family style on a platter and garnish it with the blanched vegetables.

Chef’s note: If you are familiar with using a pressure cooker, this dish will cook a lot faster than stove-top cooking.

From chef Danilo Tangelin Jr. of Gaya Gaya.

Enchiladas Roja

Makes 12 servings

Enchilada Sauce (makes 2 quarts)
4 each guajillo chiles, de-seeded
2 each California chiles, de-seeded
1 1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup water, room temperature
3 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon salt
Olive oil as needed
1 yellow onion, quartered
1/4 cup garlic cloves, peeled
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 cups water or chicken stock

For assembling enchiladas
3 dozen corn tortillas (3 tortillas per enchilada)
1 package (12 to 16 ounces) shredded jack cheese
1 medium onion, small diced
1 pint sour cream
1 head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced

To make the sauce: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Preheat a medium-sized sauce pan on medium heat.

Remove stem and all seeds from guajillo and California chiles.

In the pan, lightly sauté chiles in the vegetable oil until slightly caramelized.

Soak the peppers in 1 cup water until soft (about 30 minutes). Strain and reserve.

Cut the Roma tomatoes in quarters, season with salt and olive oil, and roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Peel and cut the onions into quarters. Season with salt and olive oil, and roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Roast the garlic with olive oil and salt in oven until golden brown.

In a blender, combine the softened chiles, roasted tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano, black pepper, chili powder and chicken stock. Blend until smooth. Season with salt to desired taste.

Directions for making one enchilada: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a pan on low to medium heat and heat corn tortillas one by one.

Heat the enchilada sauce.

On a baking sheet or pan, layer 1 tortilla first then top with cheese and onions. Repeat tortilla/cheese/onion layering a second time and then top with a single tortilla.

Pour sauce on top of enchilada stack. Top with more cheese.

Put tray in oven for 7 minutes to melt cheese.

Transfer enchilada to a plate. Make additional enchiladas and serve, adding your desired toppings: sour cream, lettuce, more onions and anything else you would like.

From chef Christine Rivera of Galaxy Taco.

Carrot Strozzapreti With Summer Savory Pork Sausage, Swiss Chard and Almond Pesto

Note: this dish can be more simply prepared by substituting any short, twisted dry pasta and fresh Italian sausage.
Serves 6

For pasta
2 pounds semolina flour
9 ounces carrot juice

For sausage
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon chile flakes
2 teaspoons summer savory leaves
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds ground pork shoulder

For Almond Pesto
3/4 cup toasted peeled almonds
1 bunch Italian parsley, de-stemmed
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon

To finish the dish
2 bunches Swiss chard
3 shallots, minced
2 ounces olive oil
2 cups crisp white wine
3-ounce chunk of Parmesan to grate

To make the pasta: Mix the flour and juice in a standing mixer for 8 minutes until evenly incorporated.

Put the pasta mixture into the extruder and cut 11/2-inch pieces as it comes out. Reserve cut pasta.

To make sausage: Toast the coriander seeds and peppercorns until fragrant and lightly brown, then grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle with the chile flakes.

Mix the meat with all the seasonings until well incorporated.

To make the pesto: Add toasted almonds, parsley, garlic, Parmesan and zest to a food processor or mortar and pestle, and process until the almonds start to become uniform in size.

Slowly add olive oil until desired consistency is reached.

Season with salt and lemon juice.

To finish the dish: Separate the stems from the leaves of the Swiss chard. Cut off the top 2 inches and bottom 2 inches of the stems and discard; cut the rest of stems thinly across the grain like celery. Roughly chop the leaves of the chard.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Season with salt to taste once it starts to boil.

Cook pasta for 3 to 4 minutes and drain.

Heat a heavy-bottom pot. Add olive oil and sausage. Cook until sausage starts to brown, about 5 minutes.

Break the sausage up with a spatula or wooden spoon. Add chard stems, shallots and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine and reduce by half. Add pasta and Swiss chard greens.

Add a splash of pasta water and a few generous spoonfuls of pesto to make enough sauce to coat the pasta.

Adjust seasoning if needed.

Once pasta is put in serving dish, top with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

From Tim Kolanko, executive chef of Urban Kitchen Group.

Golden is a San Diego freelance food writer and blogger.

3 chefs share recipes inspired by their cooking dads (2024)
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