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What do chefs eat? On days off, some are just like the rest of us |
Food & Drink

What do chefs eat? On days off, some are just like the rest of us

Deborah Weisberg
| Thursday, September 28, 2017 8:55 p.m
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Executive Chef Bethany Zozula of Beef Tartare says she likes to eat little bits all day long, but will often make stews, especially in winter.
Dan Bartow, owner of Legends of the North Shore restaurant, talks about Dan Rooney, a frequent customer of the North Side eatery, Friday, April 14, 2017.
Vallozzi's Executive Chef Josiah Henry with an assortment of meats and chesses available at their mozzarella bar Tuesday, May 8, 2012.
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
Cameron Clegg works with his boys Aydan, 7, front (green) and Ryan, 9, to make cranberry orange relish.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Executive Chef Fred Buchanan explains the sauteed fennel with caramelized shallots and candied bacon dish at Sherwood Oaks Farm to Table Market Series on Oct. 13, 2016.

With chefs putting in long days in the pressure cooker of a restaurant kitchen, we can’t help but wonder how they eat on their days off. Do they cook at home or dine out? Here’s what some had to say.

Cameron Clegg

Executive chef, Highmark Pittsburgh

Clegg says Sunday dinner at home with his wife and six kids, ages 2 to 11, is special and everyone crowds into the kitchen for meal preparation. The dinner usually centers around some sort of roast, homemade pizza with different sauces and cheeses, or scratch-made chicken noodle soup served with old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwiches. “I often compare the eating habits of a chef to the auto mechanic who drives the beat-up car. It’s not always filet and lobster, but it must always keep you running,” he says. Eating out is a luxury, “and a challenge with six kids,” he adds. “My wife took me to Butcher in the Rye for my birthday and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Bethany Zozula

Executive chef, Whitfield at Ace Hotel in East Liberty

Zozula cooks at home more than she eats out. “I know what I want so I just find it easier to make it for myself,” she says. “Working in a restaurant, I’m in the habit of eating little bits all day long, and that kind of carries over to my personal life, too. Recently, I made a lamb roast and bought all kinds of olives and cheeses that I could snack on. I make stews when I’m home all day, especially in winter. They make the house smell so good. My boyfriend will sometimes cook for me on my day off, but we don’t cook together. My kitchen is so small there isn’t room for the two of us.”

Dan Bartow

Owner/chef of Legends of the North Shore on the North Side, and Cool Beans Food Truck

Bartow often has a working dinner with his wife in that the couple will go to the farmer’s market in Cecil to shop for the restaurant and then sample from the different vendors, “and that will be our dinner,” Bartow says. Going out for Sunday breakfast is a treat, and the couple are big fans of Taco Tuesday at Totopo (Mexican Kitchen and Bar) in Mt. Lebanon and the wood-fired pizza at Il Pizzaiolo,” Bartow says. “If I make a meal at home — like ribs on Steeler Sunday — I have to plan ahead. On Thursdays, my wife’s parents come to the house, and my mother-in-law does all the cooking. Most chefs appreciate anything cooked for them.”

Michael Macalus

Executive chef of the Jacktown Ride and Hunt Club in Irwin

Macalus shares cooking duties with his wife, a trained chef who does all of the restaurant’s baking. With two young children, the couple opts for simple but highly flavored fare, like roasted chicken, Macalus says. “When you spend 50 to 70 hours cooking, the last thing you want to do is put six hours into making a meal at home,” he notes. “A lot of chefs will eat junk food — pizza or chicken nuggets from the freezer — because it’s easy.” When he and his family eat out, they go for Thai, Mexican, Chinese and other ethnic fare, Macalus says. “If it’s just my wife and I, we try restaurants we haven’t been to before. We’re not afraid to spend a dollar for a nice, drawn-out meal.

Mike Madigan

Chef at Eighteen in Squirrel Hill, and Vagabond Taco Truck

Madigan often has Chinese take-out on his day off. “But I usually have whatever my kids want for dinner,” he says. “Sometimes, that’s a big bowl of granola, which I make with oats and all kinds of nuts and dried fruits and other healthy stuff, and whole milk. When someone wants to cook for me on my day off, that’s fantastic, but it’s rare. It seems nobody wants to cook for a chef.”

Gary Osiol

Executive chef, Vallozzi’s Pittsburgh

Osiol says he seldom eats at home on his day off, unless it’s a bowl of cereal and some yogurt, even for dinner. “To be honest, I like to take a break from cooking, so I eat out a lot, and it’s whatever I’m in the mood for, from Meat and Potatoes to (TGI) Friday’s,” he says. “Eating out is convenient, and gives me a rest. But the one thing I never eat is fast food.”

Fred Buchanan

Chef at Sherwood Oaks retirement community in Cranberry

Buchanan eats most of his meals at home, cooking with produce — much of it organically grown in his backyard — his wife’s homemade yogurt, and locally-raised grass-fed beef. “Most of our meals are simple, very low in carbs, as fresh as possible, and thought out ahead for convenience,” he says, noting that some of the recipes he has developed in his own kitchen have become staples at Sherwood.”

Bob Barr

Line cook at JG’s Tarentum Station Grille in Tarentum

Barr prefers to eat out on his day off. “I don’t like to cook at home because I don’t like to clean up,” he says. “When you cook all day for a living, you like a day off.” Barr goes to different restaurants and enjoys trying new foods. “I’m a big fan of burgers and barbecue,” he says. “But I never do fast food.”

Josiah Henry

Executive chef at Vallozzi’s Restaurant in Greensburg

Henry eats at home because he and his wife have two young children. “My wife and I will cook things together,” he says. “I’ll go to the store in the morning and buy whatever looks good and whatever my kids are in the mood for and base dinner on that. We barbecue a lot in summer, and sometimes we’ll order in a pizza.” Cooking on his day off isn’t a chore, but sitting down to eat feels a little awkward, because he’s accustomed to tasting food while standing on his feet all day at work, says Henry. “I’m just not used to sitting down to eat a meal.”

Categories: Food Drink
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