The holiday season is a busy time for everyone – especially chefs! Restaurants are jam-packed with people celebrating the season, people throwing private parties at the restaurant, and those who are weary after entertaining at home. But if you think that the hectic season would stop these overloaded chefs from planning their own celebration, think again! Their lives revolve heavily around the food scene, so it’s no surprise that some of the top chefs in the city would have holiday traditions revolving around food. We asked a few chefs, owners and restaurateurs in the city to tell us more about their holiday family food traditions.
Gabrielle (who the Nique team fondly calls Gaby) Gwyn-Neumann is the co-owner at Nique Restaurant, and her family traditions revolve heavily around a classic meal with roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts. A stand out dish at their family meal is Gaby’s grandma’s special sweet potatoes, which consists of mashed sweet potatoes seasoned with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter and topped
with a crunchy layer of corn flakes, walnuts, brown sugar and more butter. Her family also has a fondness for the sweets department with recipes such as Stollen bread and Nussecken (a German nut and chocolate bar) being passed down through her family for several generations, starting from her great grandfather – who was a baker.
With an Ashkenazi Jewish background, Chef Harrison Hennick (co-owner and head chef at Nique Restaurant) tends to go along with his partner Gwyn-Neumann’s holiday traditions. One exception is that he does like to head over to a Chinese restaurant with the rest of his family on Christmas Day. Chef Harrison also observes the Jewish Chanukah celebration with customary dishes like chopped liver, chicken noodle soup, gefilte fish and braised brisket.
Mike and Paola Cipollo are the owners of local restaurants Hambrgr and Fsh & Chp. They prefer to base their tradition more on the seafood end of things, drawing heavily on the Southern Italian “The Vigil” custom (also known as the wait for Christmas Day). Their family celebration includes a Christmas Eve shellfish boil and big seafood dinner. Though Mike and Paola have evolved the Vigil meal over the years to keep everyone on their toes, the idea is still the same – a plethora of fruits of the sea. This year, they are hoping to share this tradition with their guests at Fsh & Chp – so keep your eyes peeled for a shellfish boil gathering at the restaurant! Want to make the recipe at home? Mike and Paola have kindly shared their Shellfish Boil recipe (see page 47!)
Chef de Cuisine of The French, John Forcier, often finds himself a bit too busy at the restaurant leading up to the holidays. Luckily, his family swoops in to save the day! His mother will cook up her amazing roast turkey, stuffing and gravy, giving Chef Forcier a break from the kitchen
for the day. When he arrives at his Mom’s place, he expects the scent of her famous gravy to linger in the air. On top of the classic favourites, Chef Forcier’s family also enjoys a Christmas Eve tourtiere, to pay homage to the family’s French-Canadian roots. It was a long-standing tradition that his grandfather would cook up the tourtiere throughout the day for dinner. His family has continued the practice as he grew up, and tourtiere is always sure to bring back good memories to the Chef’s mind.
Though each family has traditions of their own, inspired by their own cultures and many times handed down through generations, we are sure we can all agree that the Holiday traditions revolve around bringing family and friends together through good food – especially when you’re a chef!