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Cooking with Dad: Mark Cuban, Chris Ryan, Eric Nystrom and More Share Their Memories

Is there a better father-ish-food-memory movie scene than when Clemenza teaches Mikey how to make tomato sauce in The Godfather? No way.
Is there a better father-ish-food-memory movie scene than when Clemenza teaches Mikey how to make tomato sauce in The Godfather? No way.
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We tracked down a few locals, and asked them about their dad's cooking choices and what they remember the most about breaking bread with the family. Here's who shared their food memories of cooking with Dad with us:

Mark Cuban: Savior of the Greenville St. Patrick's Day Parade and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, among many other things.

Chris Ryan: KEGL's program director and mid-day host.

Eric Nystrom: Dallas Stars' left wing.

Mark Hayes: Co-anchor of NBC 5 Today from 5 to 7 a.m.

Jody Denton: Executive Research Chef for Frito Lay North America's Flavor Kitchen, which is one of the company's key flavor development centers. We can only imagine the things this man has tasted.

Chef Kent Rathbun: Executive Chef and owner of Abacus, Jasper's, Shinsei, KB's and Rathbun's Blue Plate Special.

Did your dad cook? If so, what was his best dish?

Cuban: Yes, my dad made hot dogs and salads. The salads were HUGE with every leftover we had in them. He used his own special salad dressing concoction that was an acquired taste.

Nystrom: My dad is Swedish, so he was famous for his amazing Swedish pancakes. Growing up we'd beg him to make them. They were thin and we'd fill them with our grandma's homemade jelly, roll them up and eat them. I still make him make them when I go home.

Hayes: My favorite meal of my dad's is his fried fish. It's a favorite of many family friends and always very good.

Denton: There were only two things my dad cooked, other than grilling, and he absolutely considered them his specialties. One was his spaghetti sauce, which was very Americana with lots of ground beef, onions and peppers, and not too much tomato. The other was something he and my grandfather would get together and make (and were the only ones who would eat): Hot Open-Faced Sardine Sandwiches. They were a disgusting combination of sardines, red onions, tomatoes and Swiss cheese that really stank up the house.

Rathbun: My dad was a fantastic cook and many of the philosophies and practices I use today were things he taught me and my brother. My dad was a big outdoor cook so smoking meats, grilling, etc. were his thing and he was damn good at it.

Up next: Dad's special dinners and food memories.

 

Any particularly special dinners or food-related memories?

Cuban: I remember my brothers and I killing a half-gallon of ice cream at a time. And we had Sunday dinners at an Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh named Minutellos. We started with antipasto and then we got spaghetti and meatballs. We went every Sunday like clockwork when I was young.

Ryan: When I was young, we'd go to my grandparents for dinner once a week for steaks that my "Papaw" cooked on the grill. He had a special metal salt and pepper shaker he'd use outside on the grill. There was something unique about that shaker. It was kind of beat up and had what seemed like a thousand holes in it for the granules to pour through. At 5 years old, I hadn't yet gathered an appreciation for charred meat in fact, I hated it, but I liked that shaker.

Nystrom: Everyone comes to our house whenever there's a chance because my parents love having everyone over and making lots of food. My friends still come over. It's always great.

Hayes: My dad was a great cook, he made breakfast for me and my brother almost every day while we were growing up -- bacon, grits, eggs and toast! It was awesome!

Rathbun: I can't eat a piece of watermelon without thinking of him or firing up a grill. Some of my best childhood memories have been food related. Next: What'd Dad teach you about cooking?

 

What did your dad teach you about cooking, dining out or breaking bread? Cuban: Enjoy the time you spend with your family. Shout louder than the person next to you to be heard and eat fast before you brothers got everything.

Ryan: As the years went by I slowly came around on steak and really grew to appreciate the steaks my Papaw grilled using his trusty metal salt and pepper shaker. When Papaw passed away, my dad inherited the shaker, and he continues the tradition of the men making steaks on the grill for the family. I'm sure one day the shaker will fall to me. Hopefully one day I'll pass it along to my son too.

Nystrom: He hasn't taught me to make the Swedish pancakes yet, which is probably a good thing because it's the off-season and I'm in training. He will have to at some point though.

Hayes: Dad taught me how to season my BBQ chicken and ribs, and how to put together the coating for the fried fish.

Denton: In the late 1960's and early 1970's we lived in Napa, California, back when Napa was still a small, quiet place. While we were there, my father got very much into the idea of "good food, good wine, good times." I don't think that had much to do with my path as a chef, but it did make my father realize that food was much more important than just sustenance, it was a way to enjoy life and the company of friends. That's certainly something he passed on to me.

Rathbun: The number one thing he taught me was that if I was a good cook, I would always have a job. He taught me how enjoyable it was to entertain and cooking is such a huge part of that. The most important engagement in people's lives personally and professionally happen around food and the idea of being part of that on a daily basis is pretty exciting and it never gets old.


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