Mum's the word for Pittsburgh chefs

Jessica George, Lily Tran, Csilla Thackray and Bethany Zozula are redefining what visionary cooking can be in Pittsburgh with their fearless flavors, classic techniques, can-do drive and sheer hard work. And they all have one person to be grateful to — their mothers.

For this Mother’s Day, whether they are working in the kitchen at their restaurant or home, these prominent chefs will be adding a special ingredient — plenty of love in honor of Mom.

Read their full stories — and recipes — at the links below:

Jessica George's favorite 'chef': Mom — Legume has a faithful diner: the executive sous chef’s mother. Jessica George says her mother had always loved the Oakland restaurant even before she started working there. “Now that I work here, she is our biggest fan. She is a bit of a regular,” Ms. George says. Her mother is a very good cook, she says, who even after throwing a feast on the holidays thinks she never has put out enough food on the table. “These days, I’m like her — I think I never have enough food” when it comes to holiday spreads.

Lily Tran is most influenced by her mother's cooking techniques — Lily Tran, executive chef at Soba in Shadyside, says her mother, who lives in Abington, is very loving, but does not mince words. “She always is very clear in her advice and of her intentions to her children,” she adds. As a child she watched her mother make pho with beef, the northern Vietnamese way. “It’s the best pho,” she says. The chef has a little advice to moms: “Enjoy the time making meals for your kids because you never know how it will influence them in the future.”

Csilla Thackray's mom taught her to be strong, independent — The Vandal’s executive chef, Csilla Thackray, says her single mom and her grandmother, who came to the U.S. from Budapest during World War II, raised her to be a strong and independent woman. She jokes that her anxieties that mostly revolve around cleanliness are something that she might have picked up from her mother, “who kept a very clean kitchen.” While her mother helped her build her kitchen collection over the years, Ms. Thackray uses the stand mixer that her grandmother gave her at the Lawrenceville restaurant.

Bethany Zozula imbibed street-smarts of cooking from her mother — When it comes to the basics of cooking, Bethany Zozula, the executive chef at Whitfield in East Liberty, credits her mother for showing her the ropes. She taught her to boil water for pasta, make mashed potatoes and hard boil an egg. “You would be surprised by how many cooks who work in restaurants do not know how to execute these fundamental skills of cooking,” she says. Her mother also followed a make-from-scratch philosophy and “so we rarely bought premade food,” Ms Zozula says of her growing-up years.

Arthi Subramaniam:, 412-263-1494 or on Twitter @arthisub.


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