10 Chefs Remember Their Favorite Holiday Food Memories

Holiday decorations and gifts are great, but for many, the most important thing about the holidays is what's on the table and in the glass. For some people, the most important stop during a holiday trip is their family's refrigerator—and for good reason. Food can bring to mind distant hometowns, beloved family members, or fond memories from the past. Different holiday dishes allow those who eat them to connect with their culture and also give those who cook them a chance to care for loved ones.

The best traditions change or develop over time — As the years pass, a family’s beloved cocktail becomes a Sprite, or the smell of cheese crackers and fried eggs becomes a Christmas morning wake-up call. As Sarah Thomas, The co-founder of Kalamata's Kitchen, a food-related children's book series and children's kitchen gadget website, says the smells of her favorite holiday cooking "can almost be touched" this time of year.

Below, 10 beloved chefs, food entrepreneurs, and cookbook authors share some nostalgic holiday foods and drinks that evoke joyful memories for them during the most wonderful time of the year.

André Hueston Mack, Distiller, Restaurateur and Founder of Rye & Sons Whiskey


“My love for eggnog comes from my grandfather, who would make his own in the early mornings year-round, but during the holidays we would actually buy it from Halo Farm. Every time I taste eggnog, it takes me back to The moment I tasted eggnog for the first time as a kid at 3 years old. It was so decadent and rich; that's how I enjoyed it for the next 20 years (without drinking). (now my wife) was dating and she just started adding alcohol to her eggnog, which definitely took it to the next level. I must admit, she was a little harsh on rum, but I've taken over over the years. Everything. Now, during these holidays, I use my own rye whiskey instead of rum.”

Erin Jeanne McDowell, recipe developer and author of Savory Baking

Mark Weinberg

cheese crackers

"I'm a morning person and breakfast lover year-round, but lazy breakfasts with my family during the holidays are my absolute favorite. It's one of the few times of year when we're all under one roof, I can really go all out and bake something special and be the short order cook in the morning. Biscuits and gravy with crispy fried eggs is one of everyone's go-tos, but some of the pickier kids usually just like the biscuits. So I upped the ante by making the cheese cookies from my new book , Tasty Baking , where I add shredded cheese to the dough and the top of each cookie to create crunchy cheese flakes on the surface. , which creates a delightful contrasting texture to the soft, flaky cookies—but more importantly, it also makes the whole house smell incredible for those sweet moments when the smell of baking starts to bring everyone out of the bedroom. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to all year.”

Abena Anim-Somuah, founder of Eden Place

Eden Place is a community-focused organization that coordinates dinners and events to highlight local New York City restaurants and foster new connections among attendees.

Provided by Giant Food Company

Cranberry Ginger Ale

"I was lucky enough to grow up in a lot of different countries, so the holiday table is often filled with food from different places. The one that sounds most authentic is the cranberry ginger ale. It's an unconventional choice at best, I know My mom might be shaking her head, but this drink brings back so many memories considering it's only open during the coldest three months of the year, it's a sign that the cooler weather is here to stay. Growing up in the house, but this is something we get every year. My mom loves to make her special Christmas punch and the bitter cranberry pop is such a treat. It just reminds me of winter. I spent my nights gathered around the TV watching football games with my brothers and sisters, or drinking it while reading the last few books of the year.”

Ayesha Curry, founder and chef partner of International Smoke at MGM Grand in Las Vegas

MGM Resorts International

Truffle whipped potatoes

"Honestly, holiday cooking to me is all about the side dishes. Give me extra mac and cheese, give me cornbread stuffing, give me potatoes in all their forms—the more, the merrier. Every dish should be inviting Feel comfortable. I love variety and updates on classic dishes like the one we serve at International Smoke at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with Chef Michael Mina The Truffle Whipped Potatoes. They are so smooth and full of rich umami flavor. We have to order an extra portion every time because this is the first one my sister and close friend had planned. Girls trip to Italy where we went truffle hunting! This is one of my bucket list experiences and it reminds me of that trip every time I eat anything with truffles.”

Lukas Volger, author of Dinner Snacks

Carla Howe


“There’s a cocktail called the Stinger that my grandpa always made on Christmas Eve – it goes back decades. It’s a mix of brandy and mint julep, and our family lore is that it can cure whatever ails you. Discomfort - that is, it has a medicinal vibe but isn't necessarily the most delicious drink and for a while after my brother and I took over [making cocktails over the holidays] it was supposed to be. It was two parts brandy and one part mint creme and for a few Christmas Eves we both thought we were drinking mouthwash but were pleasantly surprised when we corrected our mistake so I added a 'spray' of soda to the drink. , so we can drink it on New Year’s Eve.”

Sarah Thomas, Co-Founder of Kalamata Kitchen

Chancellor Humphrey

Goat stew and appams

I have a very strong association with Christmas morning, not only the joy of tearing open presents, but also the anticipation of eating my mom’s goat stew with appam. Appam is a beautiful lacy fermented vegetable from Kerala Rice cereal and coconut milk pancakes, the smell of the batter is one of my favorites - it's almost palpable in the air. The goat stew is also rich in spices, curry leaves and ginger, all in several different stages. Cooked and then simmered completely, the smells and sounds of the spices cooking, the resulting warmth and comforting physical sensations – these are formative memories for me and the first book in our series , Kalamata’s Kitchen. A source of inspiration. To me, these smells, sounds and tastes are more than just signs of delicious food to come, they are inspirational and exciting, and I enjoy cooking through them these days, and of course, the stories. Convey that feeling to people.”

Vanessa Pham and Kim Pham, co-founders of Omsom

Omsom is a Vietnamese spice and sauce company dedicated to celebrating the flavors, communities and stories of Asian culture.


Fried Rice and Vietnamese Bánh Bột Lọc

“Fried rice reminds me of Christmas morning—my dad only made one meal a year and it was his specialty. (He basically just refried the rice from the night before, but made it crispy!) He actually made a video last year ” — Vanessa .

“As a family, our Christmas dinner was always a Vietnamese dinner – all our friends and family would come to our childhood home and bring traditional dishes. This [bánh bột lọc] It’s my favorite and tastes great with my mom’s homemade fish sauce! " - gold

Zoe Kanan, baker and pastry chef

Contributed by Zoe Kannan


"Growing up in my family, latkes weren't exclusive to Hanukkah. They were the centerpiece of the entire holiday in our family. My personal favorite was serving them at Thanksgiving, with sour cream and cranberry sauce instead of the traditional apples My grandmother Helen was always on duty. She would come to our house with a casserole piled high with latkes, neatly stacked between paper towels. I remember my dog ​​greeting her at our front door. Up in the air, craving the smell of fried potatoes and onions When you make hash browns, inevitably some potato shreds will fall off and float into the oil, so Helen knows I have a special fondness for crispy crust. Collect them while she’s frying them. Every latke she delivers comes with a bonus packet of crisps, just for me.”

Jorge Gaviria, founder of Masienda

Masienda is a market that celebrates ancestral masa culture through ingredients, tools, recipes and stories.

Noah Forbes


“For me, the holidays mean the start of champurrado season. Champurrado is atole (a warm cornmeal-based drink popular in many Latin cuisines, especially in Mexico) made with milk or water , cocoa and cinnamon, and sweetened with piloncillo or cane sugar. There's nothing better than a warm cup of champurrado and concha or churro to dunk in. Champurrado tastes like thick, spiced hot chocolate with a hint of masa hali. Na's earthy flavor. It satisfies a sweet tooth but also feels like a meal. It's usually made fresh, but we've packaged the mix and made it Swiss Miss in single-serve packages. style processing. If you want to add those mini marshmallows, I won’t stop you.”

As the days get shorter, mealtimes are definitely getting longer, which means more time to create memories around the dinner table (or in front of the TV watching your favorite holiday movie). A holiday menu isn’t just about food—it’s about family, tradition, and nostalgia.