Q: Eating as a family and cooking as a family can really be its own tradition. How have the traditions of your upbringing influenced your craft?
Chef Katy Smith, Puesto: I think that no matter how far we come as chefs, the dishes that we grew up with will always be the dishes of our childhood. I cook at home every Sunday and at least one Sunday a month I find myself cooking something that my mother cooked for us growing up. Of course, I have made these dishes my own, but they are still the dishes that speak “Sunday Dinner” to me.
Q: Sunday dinner can be defined by the marrying of food and the marrying of family. What dishes tie things together for you? What are the staples that bring everyone to your table?
KS: My most frequent Sunday dinners consist of a roast chicken, which is something my mother cooked very frequently on Sundays. Sometimes it is a beer butt chicken, sometimes with lemon, white wine, olives, and capers, sometimes simply butter and herbs, but I love the smell of a chicken roasting in the oven. It feels like home and family. I also frequently make Bolognese, which I did not grow up with, but I love. If I have time I’ll make the pasta, if not I will buy fresh pasta. My favorite thing about cooking on Sunday is really getting to take my time. During the week we frequently eat leftovers, or something quick that we can throw together. Sunday is the time where I get to cook whatever I want. To me it is about playing great music, taking my time in the kitchen, and being present with my family.
Q: Twenty years ago, the Food Network looked very different. Do you think that the rise in food-culture and food-social media brought more families to the table on Sunday or apart?
KS: I do think so. In fact, it is how I started cooking. My mother had been trying to teach me for years and I did not have the patience to learn from her. As soon as I moved out of the house I started watching Food Network and cooking as much Ina Garten recipes as I could! Nowadays, cooking is cool. Even if the motive is to cook something beautiful to post on Instagram, if the end result is a home cooked meal with real ingredients that you can serve to your family, then I think that is wonderful.
Q: How do your choices for Sunday dinner differ from the dishes on special occasions and holidays?
KS: Not much, but I cook less options. On a normal Sunday I do cook something special, but I generally stick to a protein, carb, and a veg. For a special occasion or holiday I would add a salad, an appetizer, and a dessert.
Q: How does Sunday dinner differ from season to season? And what are your favorite seasons when it comes to the produce available?
KS: We are pretty standard in our home. Heavier braises, soups and stews in the winter, more vegetable focused and grilled items in the summer. Summer is my favorite. I could eat great tomatoes with salt, pepper, and good olive oil for every meal if they were available. I also love peaches. In the summer I try to eat as many tomatoes and peaches as I can.
Q: If you had a time machine and got to witness how family and friends made Sunday dinner 50 years ago, what do you think we’d see? How has it changed?
KS: I hope that the food would be better, maybe less jello molds?! Fifty years ago we were eating so much processed food, and as a society we still are, but I believe, or want to believe, that there are more of us moving away from that and moving more towards eating real food. We are so lucky to be alive in a time when Farmers Markets are trendy, where we have access to incredible local, seasonal, and artisanal products. I know that those items always inspire me to cook, and I hope and believe that they have that effect on everyone else.