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Family is the Best Ingredient

Think about every experience that involves a delicious and flavorful meal. For those like Jessica Rothacker, chef and co-owner of Heirloom Cafe, many of these great memories are spent with her family and friends. 

After a lifetime of enjoying numerous barbecues and holiday dinners with her family, 

Rothacker decided to extend her family connections and open the farm-to-table restaurant with her father, Travis Burch.

Rothacker has wanted to be an entrepreneur since she was 14.  After spending six years in the food business, she decided to commit to her dream and open a restaurant with her dad. Rothacker said that the transition from dad to business partner was new, but the best decision she has made. 

“It was interesting how the child parent relationship turned into a peer relationship,” Rothacker said, “[he is] wonderfully accommodating… and takes me very seriously.”

However, Rothacker is concerned about her own parental relationship to her children. To her, family is very important and she said she often feels guilt from not being able to completely balance time together with her work life. 

While food has a special place in many people’s lives, Rothacker said that family is what makes these experiences unforgettable. 

For Cynthia Graubart, cookbook author and James Beard Award winner, her family was her inspiration that enabled her career to take off. 

Graubart becoming a mother motivated her to enter the cookbook writing world. After many years in food TV, she decided to settle down and write a cookbook for all her fellow mothers.

“When I became a new mom, I told my husband, when my son wouldn’t stop crying,” Graubart said, “Someday I’m going to write a book called ‘The One Arm Cook’.”

Graubart’s journey to publish her new book was not easy. Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, her manuscript was locked in mailrooms and never made it to the publishers. Her good friend said that it would take several months for things to return to normal.

Despite the challenge, Graubart persevered and formed her own publishing company. She sold 5,000 copies in less than six months. If it were not for her family and close friends, she would have never kick started her writing career to go on and write 11 books. 

Although some partner with their family members and some are inspired by their loved ones, there are also those who have a deep rooted connection to their family’s food history. Valerie Frey, food historian, said that a recipe has nutritive, sensual, historical and most importantly emotional value. 

After Frey’s mother died, she attempted making her delicate Thanksgiving cookies many times. She and her brother agreed they never tasted quite right. When Frey finally realized she was not measuring the ingredients exactly like her mom, she perfected the recipe. 

“When I measure, I fluff the flour, spoon into a measuring cup and level it off… well my mom would just get out the bag and dig in, compressing the flour,” Frey said, “Well I did it her way and it worked… [my brother] said it was like a little round time machine.”

Unlike the cookies, when Frey made her mom’s spaghetti, she ended up changing the recipe to a great extent. She substituted for fresher ingredients and used modern nonstick cookware. These modifications actually made the spaghetti better. 

Frey said that where a recipe comes from holds an important value to the history of the dish. Whether a recipe must be made a certain way or change over time, they always have a special part in a family’s history. She makes sure to include this history in all her recipes. 

“I always add the history, because every recipe has a story,” Frey said.