Fried clams, tomato salad, strawberry shortcake — even celebrity chefs and professional eaters like Michael Symon and April Bloomfield love classic summer foods.
Here, the country's best chefs recall childhood obsessions, and the reveal the warm-weather dishes they crave right now. Read on to see who ate tuna-on-white at the beach (with eight siblings) and what ingredient fuels one Iron Chef's stamina. The memories lead to our favorite summer recipes.
Mario Batali, Babbo, NYC
Then: "My mom's blackberry pie and vanilla ice cream."
Now: "It still gives me goosebumps."
Scott Conant, Scarpetta, NYC
Then: "My father was one of those guys who would go and get a bunch of corn on the cob and leave it on the stove to snack on. Very simple: Cooked in water with salt."
Now: "Pasta alla Checca: A hot pasta mixed with room temperature mozzarella, olive oil, basil and tomatoes. That's the quintessential 'pasta salad' in Italy."
Michael Symon, Lola Bistro, Cleveland
Then: "My mom's Greek and Italian, so I loved Greek tomato salads with cucumber, feta cheese, mint, olives, and like a red wine vinaigrette."
Now: "Tomato salad. In the summer, when our garden is rocking, we'll have them a couple nights a week over a grilled ribeye or roasted chicken."
Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin, NYC
Then: "Making popsicles and playing with all kinds of different flavors, like mint and grenadine."
Now: "Without question: Paella served in a big format for a group is convivial and delicious."
Stephanie Izard, Girl & the Goat, Chicago
Then: "At my swim club we used to get Italian ices, and as soon as you got it, you'd flip it over, and on the bottom there's that quarter-inch of thick-icy-gooey stuff. I love lemon because it's super tart."
Now: "We used to have races and swim with a watermelon floating down the middle of the pool, and we'd take it out and eat it. Then there was high school when we used to fill it with vodka… Now I just like slicing it for a salad."
Ming Tsai, Blue Ginger, Wellesley
Then: "I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and for dessert: strawberry shortcake. Full disclosure: We bought the little shortcakes — spongy rounds with indentations. But we had delicious strawberries. Halve 'em up, add a touch of sugar, put a huge pile of that on, and then out-of-the-can, but real, whipped cream. I'd eat at least two at a time."
Now: "There's a place called Sesuit Café in the Cape, and they have the most delicious, huge lobster rolls and boats of fried clams. That and a Yanjing beer or a good sauvignon blanc."
Alex Guarnaschelli, Butter, NYC
Then: "There were always classic desserts I waited all year for as a kid: Blueberry pie and strawberry tarts with pistachio cream."
Now: "Hungarian yogurt cake, made with lots of lemon zest and lemon juice topped with roasted (pitted) plums, candied almonds and whipped cream."
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