hether you’re a family that loves to go out to dinner (so you don’t have to do the dishes), or you come from a farm-centric family that encourages pot-luck style dining, there is a lot to be said fortradition and the varying ways we see it within our Orange County community. We are connected to rituals and beliefs that bring us together, and often that scene includes food. Sunday dinner is about encompassing the art of family and sharing a meal together. There is value to human interaction. And there is great value in staying connected to your roots. And when you marry roots with all the carbohydrate-favorites, you have, Sunday Dinner. The authenticity of a home-cooked meal at one table brings upon unity and has a special way to stop time even for just a little. With that said, we were curious to see what tradition looks like for some of our favorite chefs surrounding Sunday dinner, especially during this particular time of year.
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 Andrew Gruel, Slapfish: I grew up in a family with two working parents. We didn’t spend too much time in the kitchen cooking. Our common bond was how much we all loved to go out to eat. It was a chance to get away (And not do dishes). Cooking for us was about the microwave. Any dish that we all eat from collectively ties us together. Even a simple pizza from which everyone fights for that last piece or the crockpot everyone tried to scoop the best items from.
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?
Chef Lauren Lawless, Flawless Cuisine: Every family has their own traditions and staple dishes, and in my family, we come from a German background. Some of our staple dishes include; Spaetzle, potato pancakes with applesauce, red cabbage, Sauerbraten, Schnitzel, sauerkraut, and Rouladen. These are some very traditional German dishes that I’ll take with me and pass down generation to generation.
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?
Chef Victor Avila, Spaghettini: I believe The Food Network had a significant impact on how people both cook and eat. Not only have many new people found inspiration in cooking, but they are much more open to trying exotic foods from other countries. All of this makes its way onto the Sunday table.
Q: How do your choices for Sunday dinner differ from the dishes on special occasions and holidays?
Chef Chris Tzorin, oak: For me, Sundays are a time for comfort food and fun/experimentation in the kitchen. I like to do “mash-ups” where I combine two different dishes to make one delicious meal. Some of my favorites are Lasagna Enchiladas and Puff Pastry Mashed Potatoes with truffle oil. Holidays require a finer feel to the food and the recipes I choose are tried and true family recipes like my mom’s tamales or my dad’s prime rib or local lobster.
Q: How does Sunday dinner differ from season to season? And what is your favorite season when it comes to the produce available?
Chef Katy Smith, Puesto: 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?
Chef Cathy Pavlos, Provenance: I was a teenager in 1967. The 60’s were a time when nothing stayed the same, not even Sunday Supper. Like most of the Italians in this country, my family still ate together on Sundays, with ethnic food made from scratch, gathered around a large table in my grandmother’s kitchen, or out on the enclosed patio with the wood burning stove. By the late 60’s, however, the homely topics of conversation around the dinner table had shifted from family events to global events. The television, for the first time, brought the war in Vietnam, civil unrest, and human rights onto our dinner table in living color. Even glancing at my smartphone while I say this 50 years later, I cannot convey how epic it was to watch a simple color television set, and how prophetic. It forever altered the innocence and intimacy of family Sunday Suppers. For better or worse, I watched how television changed the character of my family table, and I struggle today with all of our devices and media distractions to change it back.