You’d think the last thing chefs want to think about once they’re off their kitchen clocks is food. And you’d be partly right: Turns out the local toques featured in our Foodie Four each have a different culinary creation or gastronomic go-to that they like to whip up once they’re home post-shift. We asked each to dish on their dish.
Owner of The Quarry
HEADING HOME HUNGRY
With the rest of his family asleep by the time he gets home, Mike Pratt crafts what he calls, “an absolute abomination of a chili mac.” He starts heating things up before he even lets the family’s dogs out.
When asked if he ever rotates in other dishes, Pratt was reluctant to answer, noting that, “‘Variety is the spice of life, right?’ I just figured saying a frozen pizza or giant bowl of cereal wouldn’t make good copy,” he confesses.
THE OLD COLLEGE TRY
Pratt says his recipe is most assuredly not a family one; he quips that if he “did blame this disaster on anyone in my family, I would have to go to a lot less holiday parties.” He started making it in college, and says it’s not involved or complicated.
“I’m not a member of Space-X now,” he concedes. “So you can imagine this isn’t exactly a Rubik’s cube.”
Rather than fussing over his abomination’s attractiveness, Pratt doesn’t even take it out of the pot he cooks it in. He just carries it, along with a giant spoon, to the TV to “see how many bets I lost … er, I mean, check the scores on ‘Sportscenter.'”
He says that while preparing this dish, you may feel something stirring in the back of your head.
“That’s your self-esteem plummeting,” he explains. “At this point you have a decision: either you grab a piece of fruit and a granola bar and call it a night, or you power through and wonder why the Bears couldn’t cover on a snowy day with home field advantage while stuffing your face with chili and noodles.”
A MENU MINUS
According to Pratt, if he served this at his restaurant the staff would quit. That’s saying something, he says, “because these people will eat anything. I watched a guy take a shot of Malört (a brand of bäsk liquor, introduced in the 1930s, long produced by Chicago’s Carl Jeppson Company) and chase it with whole milk the other day. Haven’t been right since.”
Old Hawthorne Country Club
Anthony Schmidt says his go-to after-work edible is a bit complicated. His answer is whatever his partner Katy Vaughn has left over from dinner for their boys (Bright, 9, and Ziggy, 4). He says Vaughn is an amazing chef in her own right and an even better mother.
“Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the luxury of coming home to the best homemade meals on a daily basis. It gives me a glimpse into their lives, being at work most evenings. Imagining how their evening wound down. What my boys are getting fed daily,” he says.
Schmidt says Vaughn cooks all types of food using the best techniques. If there isn’t a bowl of that evening’s dinner already made for him in the fridge with a sticky note and heart accompanying it, he’s digging through the quart containers of leftovers.
Typically, Vaughn has some jasmine rice sitting on the stove waiting for him. He then creates his own personal version of her cuisine for that evening.
“Luckiest man in the world, I know, ” Schmidt says. “I am very fortunate.”
Schmidt doesn’t spend any extensive time in the kitchen at home after work. Generally, there’s no waiting to eat because he tries to get to bed as early as possible. Leftovers are quickly reheated to be eaten, Schmidt says.
“The benefits of having a stay-at-home chef partner are too many to count. But fantastic homemade meals are certainly one of them. It would be mac ‘n cheese or frozen pizzas without her,” he says. “And to that I say, thank you Katy! Love you.”
Proprietor of Ozark Mountain Biscuit
SOUP DU JOUR
Along with his management team, Maness works nearly seven days a week. For him, the ideal after-work edible is a healthy and quick one.
“A cup of soup, small salad and some crusty bread is my thing,” Maness says.
He loves making soups, especially in the fall, and has a solid rotation of butternut squash bisque, vegetarian chili and potato leek.
“I usually make large batches and freeze the leftovers in quart jars to easily reheat on those cold winter nights after a long shift,” he says.
Maness takes his time when initially making his soups.
“Flavor complexity takes time, and slow and low is typically the right way to go for a soup,” he says.
Maness developed his recipes from years of making daily soup specials. In fact, he doesn’t even use a recipe anymore, saying it’s all just process and instinct at this point.
His Biscuit Bar offers daily soup specials, while his Biscuit Truck serves Maness’s Texas chili seasonally. You may also find one of Maness’s favorites on the menu from time to time.
Without many minutes to spare before he needs to call it a night, Maness typically eats right away after work. Yet in spite of the late hour, he always focuses on plating and presentation: “I love to eat with my eyes first.”
When it comes to cleanup, Maness is a sink stickler, saying, “I always use a proper table setting and the sink is emptied directly after dinner. I can’t do it any other way.”
You’ll see him at the Columbia Farmers Market on most Saturday mornings.
“I start with local, seasonal ingredients that help me make the appropriate soup for the season,” he says.
Owner of Pizza Tree
For John Gilbreth, the current go-to in his household is his famous “N Layer Dip.” He says, “Some folks call it seven layer dip, but I don’t like to get too fussy about what all goes in it or to count my layers (are black olives even a layer?), so I call it my N Layer Dip.”
Usually when he gets off work, it’s late at night and grocery stores are typically closed or near closed, so he says it’s all about making what you have at home work.
“Also for me, it means that my family is typically all asleep when I get home, so I can’t make too much noise searing, sautéing and banging pans on the range top,” Gilbreth says.
If left to his own devices, Gilbreth would eat variations of grilled ham and cheese for every meal, every day.
“But I’m getting older and trying to take slightly better care of myself than that these days,” he says.
If he’s coming home from a night shift, he typically waits until he’s had a Logboat Lookout APA before he rifles through the fridge. If it’s a day shift, he goes as fast as possible because he “has two little girls at home who are always hungry!”
When asked if his go-to, get-home dish is on the menu, he replied, “We don’t serve this at Pizza Tree, but now that you mention it …”
K.I.S.S. THE COOK
(KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID)
Gilbreth says he tries to avoid a demanding dip.
“I use it as a catch-all for basically anything that needs to be eaten in the fridge. So that being said, it can be pretty complicated if you include the smoked brisket or pickled veggies I’m trying to polish off.”
He suggests that, if you can swing it, this is a great dish to let your kids take the lead on and make their own personal dips just how they like them.
“They will always eat what they make for themselves. Also, this stuff keeps great. That’s the brilliance of a dip vs. nachos: Nachos die once they’re cold. A dip stays good for a day or two in the fridge.”
AN OLD FAMILY RECIPE … KIND OF
He says the dip is indeed a family recipe. Kind of.
“I remember my mom making it, but it was super traditional: beans, taco spiced ground beef, sour cream, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato and, of course, sliced black olives,” Gilbreth says.
Gilbreth says he does like to fuss over the appearance of this dish.
“Mostly because I’m gonna try to get my kids to eat it!”
In lieu of an accurate (or even augmented) seven layer salad, Gilbreth offers an easy alternative he calls his quick “Faux-rizo,” a Mexican chorizo-inspired dish using the ground protein of your choice. He typically skips the sour cream unless they have an open container. If they do, he says, “It’s sour cream city!”
He adds you could also use cream cheese that’s been whipped up and thinned with milk or bechamel or even just cream.
Then, Gilbreth says, use fresh tomatoes or jarred salsa.
“I’m an onion fiend so I’ll do fine-diced red onion AND scallions. Maybe a little cucumber if it needs to get used. Some avocado if you have a ripe one. Chopped cilantro, sliced radish if you have them. Then you have to put some olives on it! My kids won’t eat it if it doesn’t have olives on it!”
Mike Pratt’s “Absolute Abomination of a Chili Mac”
1 box mac and cheese
1 can chili
Add anything else you want
- Make mac and cheese. I prefer a standard Kraft or even shells and cheese if you want to church it up.
- Once cooked, add favorite or least vile can of chili. Dealer’s choice on beans/no beans and hot/mild, the sky’s the ceiling of the canned good aisle.
- While these are cooking together add whatever you want — at this point your body is going to revolt against you in a few hours anyway, so go nuts! I prefer sriracha and some shredded cheese but what do I know?
John Gilbreth’s Quick Faux-rizo
3 tablespoons paprika
½ tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 dash ground cinnamon
1 pound ground meat or meat sub of your choice (I prefer pork)
2 tablespoons white vinegar mixed with 2 tablespoons water
2 cloves minced garlic
- In a lightly oiled skillet over medium heat, add your protein in pieces and begin to break it down with your favorite utensil.
- Add all your dry spices to the cooking protein. Work the seasoning in with your utensil, while continuing to break up the protein.
- Once your protein is browned and broken up somewhat, add your garlic and pour your vinegar/water mixture over the food. The pan should sizzle and steam up. Scrape some of the bits off the bottom of the pan with your utensil and put a lid on it all, and let it steam for one minute.
- Take the pan off the range, remove the lid and give it all a final stir. Your food should be nicely browned and there should still be a little liquid in the pan as well.
- Pour all of that all over your dip and enjoy with chips while watching late night TV!
Katy Vaughn’s Chicago-style Italian Beef Sandwiches
2 pounds boneless sirloin steak, thinly sliced on the bias
2 tablespoons rendered beef fat or olive oil (when you clean the sirloin you should have enough fat to render — depending on your butcher)
½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
3 large cloves of minced garlic (about 1 tablespoon)
6 cups low sodium beef stock
2 packets of Italian salad dressing mix (this is the super-secret ingredient)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2-3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 Italian- or French-style rolls
2 cups Giardiniera (drained)
Provolone or mozzarella cheese (optional but cheese is rad)
- In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the beef fat or olive oil to a simmer. Add onions and cook until softened and translucent, about three to five minutes.
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add beef stock, Italian dressing mix, basil, black pepper, chili flakes, oregano and parsley. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until reduced by one-third, about 30 to 40 minutes.
- Season to taste and add Worcestershire sauce.
- Split rolls in half lengthwise, leaving one side intact. Place on a large, rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
- Pull steak slices apart and divide into four equal batches. One batch at a time, use tongs to dunk the beef into the juice, swirling gently to poach the meat, about one or two minutes.
- Nestle each batch of the meat inside the split rolls. Add giardiniera and cheese. I personally toast the rolls with the cheese in the oven at 375 degrees for about six minutes before putting the beef on the sandwich. That’s good stuff!