“Allez cuisine!” You know things just got serious when you heard these two words being shouted from your television screen. It was Iron Chef America time. It didn’t matter who was cooking against who. Fires were popping up from out of nowhere and knives were hacking away at a piece of meat or chopping up vegetables prepping for mise en place. It’s all very exciting, and with the added pressure of having only an hour to prepare a total of five dishes, it seems almost impossible for everything to be completed in time. But somehow, everyone manages to get everything done with just a few vital seconds for final garnishes here and there. It was mission impossible with amazingly delicious results.

Judging is underway and the chefs are hard at work telling the panel what inspired them to make so and so dish. Some dishes are inspired from a recent trip abroad while others are just straight from the mind of the chef. The strongest dishes, though, are always the ones that draw influence from childhood memories. These are the dishes that have been etched into their minds, and oftentimes are the ones prepared by their moms.

Memories Are the Real Secret Ingredient

Chefs have spent an endless amount of time honing their skills in the kitchen. They’ve studied recipes from the mountains of cookbooks they’ve collected over the years. But the thing that always come back to them are the dishes they enjoyed as children when they were growing up. These are the fondest memories chefs have, and are what makes their best dishes unforgettable.


Photo by Rachel Davis

When you’re away from home living off of the same old same old from the dining hall, you always crave that one dish that only mom can make perfectly. It’s the same for everyone – no matter how much you try to make it for yourself, it never turns out right. Even when you go to a fancy restaurant that’s garnered rave reviews and tried that same exact dish, it still can’t match how well your mom makes it. She’s got it down pat and only she can make it the way that you’ve always known.

It’s the same for everyone, even chefs. Most chefs will tell you that the best cook in the world is their mom. They are probably the ones that have taught them the most about food, and because of it they draw inspiration from mom’s home cooking every time they step into the kitchen. And no matter how many times they try to replicate their mom’s dish they just can’t do it. Some chefs don’t even try because they know, no one makes it like mom.

Traditions Live On

Your mom’s been there since day one. From feeding you straight from a bottle to eventually teaching you how to properly use a fork and knife, she’s the one who’s made sure that you don’t go hungry. She’s the one who will make you chicken soup when you’re sick in bed and unable to go to school. She’s also the one that will make you a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies when you’ve got good news to share. She’s always been there for you and will always be there for you. And guess who taught her all of this? Her mom, of course.


Photo by Rachel Davis

I’ve learned a lot from my mom, but definitely one of the most important things she’s taught me was how to cook. She learned from her mom, her mom learned from her mom and so on and so forth. The same recipes have been passed down through the generations in order to be preserved for later generations. I don’t think my mom has actually written down any of these recipes. The only way to really know whether or not a dish has turned out right is whether or not it tastes right and that’s probably the most difficult thing to teach. Recipes are passed down from word of mouth and repetition, so making a meal hundreds of times is the only way to really understand how a dish is supposed to be executed.

It’s the same for every family. Each family has a recipe that’s passed down from generation to generation. If you’re Mexican it might be that mole recipe that contains over twenty ingredients. If you’re Italian it might be that Sunday gravy that’s got a little bit of garlic and a little bit of oregano with that added “secret” something that only members of your family will know. The true test of whether you’ve actually mastered a recipe is whether or not it heralds back memories of the cooking you grew up eating.

Thank You Mom!

So if you’re ever faced with the question of whether you’d want to dine at an Iron Chef’s restaurant for your last meal or have one last meal cooked by your mom, the answer is pretty easy. Mom wins on all fronts. There’s no restaurant that can compare to mom’s home cooking.


Photo by Rachel Davis

You don’t remember that dish you ate at that fancy restaurant with all of its abstract art looking plating. The dish you’ll always remember will be the one that your mom made you when you got home from school. It might have just been some macaroni and cheese from the box with a couple of cutup hot dogs or even a simple PB&J sandwich with the crust cut off, but these will always be the dishes that resonates with you the most. These are the dishes you’ll want to eat when you get home from a hard day of classes. And even though you’ll never be able to make it like mom, you’ll definitely try your hardest to recreate it and relive that memory.

This Mother’s Day, make sure to tell your mom, grandma, aunt or any other mother-figure in your life how much you appreciate them for everything they’ve ever done for you. There’s no way we can ever express to you all how much we need you in our lives, so just know that if given the choice between you and an iron chef, mom wins every day of the week.

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