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'Top Chef' Favorites On How To Survive Quarantine Meals With Your Family

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Top Chef LA All-Stars contestants
Smallz & Raskind/Bravo

Your favorite ‘Top Chef’ stars share their go-to lockdown meals, kid-friendly meals, and more

Top Chef couldn’t have returned at a better time. The Bravo hit’s 17th season, starring host Padma Lakshmi, head judge Tom Colicchio, judge Gail Simmons, and 15 of our favorite All-Star contestants, premiered on March 19, and since, it’s provided a much-needed distraction — and culinary inspiration — to viewers who continue to #StayAtHome amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But the contestants have done more than provide weekly entertainment in these unprecedented times. Scary Mommy caught up with four of this season’s chef-testants to get the guidance and advice we so desperately need at this time: What are you feeding the kids at this time and how can we easily duplicate it at home?

Ahead, Top Chef All-Stars Brian Malarkey (Season 3), Eric Adjepong (Season 16), Lee Anne Wong (Season 1), and Jamie Lynch (Season 14) shared with us their go-to lockdown meal, the special meals they recommend for kids right now, the items we should have on our grocery list, and more.

Jamie Lynch

Smallz & Raskind/Bravo

Smallz & Raskind/Bravo

What’s your go-to lockdown meal?

Hand made pasta with a simple sauce pomodoro.

How do we duplicate it in our non-chef homes?

Pasta is so simple to make. You just need to jump in and practice the rolling processing. It takes a few times to feel comfortable, but it is just food. Don’t overthink it. If you think the pasta sheet is too thick, then it probably is and roll it a little thinner. Cut the noodles whatever thickness and length you like. You aren’t going for a James Beard Award, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

Any special meals you recommend for kids right now?

I always do fresh pasta or pizza with my son. He loves getting his hands dirty (after thoroughly washing them, of course) in the kitchen with me. He feels great about contributing to dinner, and I feel great about teaching him some lessons that he will use in life!

What are five things that should be on our grocery list right now for longevity and use?

Dry beans, rice, whole canned San Marzano tomatoes, all-purpose flour, high-quality olive oil in bulk.

Eric Adjepong

Smallz & Raskind/Bravo

Smallz & Raskind/Bravo

What’s your go-to lockdown meal?

I love good fried rice. It’s great because I can utilize a lot of what’s in my refrigerator and make a different version of it anytime I decide to make it!

How do we duplicate it in our non-chef homes?

Day-old rice is key. The rice grains hold up better to the high heat and your seasoning liquids, like soy sauce. Grab some veggies, like onions peas or carrots, and whatever protein you’re in the mood for (a simple fried egg is perfect, too).

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwCWmoEAKr4/

Any special meals you recommend for kids right now?

It’s a great time for kids to start baking! I was introduced to cooking via baking and with the extra time in the house, it’s an awesome idea to experiment with cookies, quick breads, and cakes.

What are five things that should be on our grocery list right now for longevity and use?

  1. Quality frozen vegetables are perfect and come in handy in a pinch.
  2. Flour: for baking bread and making pancakes in the morning!
  3. Short ribs, chuck steak, chicken thighs: These are awesome for braising and making a meal stretch.
  4. Rice: Rice just goes a long way. It’s simple to prepare and even easier to combine with pretty much anything.
  5. A good bottle of wine: It may not have longevity, but it’ll definitely help to make everything from cooking to binge-watching a bit easier.

Lee Anne Wong

Smallz & Raskind/Bravo

Smallz & Raskind/Bravo

What’s your go-to lockdown meal?

We are making a lot of salmon kamameshi (Japanese-style salmon and rice pot) right now. Comfort food is keeping us full in my house, haha; no keto here.

How do we duplicate it in our non-chef homes?

So, I use my Ninja Foodi, which is the same as an Instant Pot (except it’s an air fryer, too!). Rinse your rice well; use a high-quality rice, like koshihikari or sushi rice. Add to the pot equal parts dashi stock or water and a piece of kombu seaweed. Nestle the skinless salmon filets in the rice, sprinkle lightly with salt and a few drops of oil, and pressure cook on high for 2 minutes. Allow to natural steam for 10 minutes, then use the quick release on the lid. We toast the salmon skin in the toaster oven with salt and crumble over the rice with furikake and fresh green onions.

So good — and great as leftovers.

Any special meals you recommend for kids right now?

OMG, our toddler has us on lockdown right now, haha. Staying at home all day with our 2-year-old son, he goes through these periods of not wanting to eat anything at all to eating everything in sight.

We try and keep plenty of healthy snacks on hand for him: apples, bananas, string cheese, etc. He’s pickier now about what he eats, so trying to squeeze fruits and vegetables in is key. He likes ramen, so that’s usually where I try and make his noodles a little fancy, adding chicken meat and green beans, for example. We are trying hard as a family not to cave to eating junk food while we’re locked in the house.

What are five things that should be on our grocery list right now for longevity and use?

  1. Legumes!!! I’m cooking dried beans, like, every other day right now — and canned cooked beans are fine, too — but they are a fantastic and inexpensive source of protein and super-versatile.
  2. Now is the time to organize your pantry and get rid of old spices and restock on spices you will use often! Try some new blends or make your own. There are plenty of online spice companies that will ship to your door.
  3. Frozen vegetables are fantastic if you don’t have access to a farmers market or a wide selection of fresh produce.
  4. Invest in some high-quality oils and vinegars. My pantry and fridge are chock-full of condiments, but the simplest of seasonings are usually the best, like an aged balsamic or sherry vinegar or buttery extra virgin olive oil. A little will go a long way towards enhancing your food.
  5. Obviously baking has taken off, so if you can find yeast, baking powder, and baking soda, get to it! Always important to check freshness dates on your leavening agents. You’ll be making fresh sourdough before you know it.

Brian Malarkey

Smallz & Raskind/Bravo

Smallz & Raskind/Bravo

What’s your go-to lockdown meal?

Right now, I love anything that’s comforting but also a little experimental. Recipes are hard because ingredients can be scarce at the grocery store, so I like to challenge myself to think outside the box and make what I can with what’s available. I love combining Californian, Asian, Indian, Mexican, and Mediterranean flavors to create meals that have those big, bold flavors I’m constantly craving. Last week, I made a coconut yellow curry egg noodle ramen that was totally off the wall, utilizing ingredients I already had in my kitchen while adding a few new flavors (like this great yellow curry paste).

How do we duplicate it in our non-chef homes?

Here’s the recipe, but feel free to mix it up and use what you have! There are no rules!

Sesame Curry Egg Noodles, Coconut Milk & Vegetables with a Ramen Egg

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • Egg noodles: any size, any shape, whatever you can find in-stock at the grocery store will work!
  • Coconut milk: 1 can, 13.5 fl. oz
  • Curry paste: pick red if you want a spicy curry, choose yellow if you want a more mild flavor
  • Vegetables: any vegetables you can find at the grocery store will be great! We love broccoli, zucchini, sugar snap pears, carrot, endives, bean sprouts, celery, spinach, broccolini, etc. There are no wrong veggies!
  • Ginger: 2-inch piece
  • Black or white sesame seeds, toasted
  • Herbs: Your choice of whatever you can find at the grocery store! We recommend mint, cilantro, or basil.
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook egg for 6.5 minutes and peel once cooled.
  2. Cook noodles according to package directions in lightly salted water.
  3. Add olive oil to nonstick pan and sauté vegetables on high heat until they start to caramelize. Add a dash of salt.
  4. Before the pasta is finished (about 2 minutes out), add egg to the pot and continue cooking.
  5. Drain the pasta and egg.
  6. Add coconut milk to the pot and bring to a simmer. Add curry paste and whisk together until blended.
  7. Chop green onions and zest one lime.
  8. Plate the dish: Add pasta and ramen egg. Cut egg in half. Add vegetables on top of plated pasta. Pour curry liquid on top of the dish.
  9. Garnish with herbs, green onions, lime zest, squeeze of fresh lime juice, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Finish with sea salt.
  10. Optional: Add green chilies for more heat!

Any special meals you recommend for kids right now?

Our kids are feeling the stress and uncertainty that comes when their routines are thrown off and schedules interrupted. They miss school, their friends, hobbies — so, I want to be able to provide comfort through food. We’re doing a lot of hearty pastas, lasagnas, grilling hamburgers, while trying to balance sneaking in vegetables and fresh foods onto their plates.

What are five things that should be on our grocery list right now for longevity and use?

  1. Rice (gluten-free so it’s a good healthy alternative to pasta and bread)
  2. Apples (they’re in season right now and so good!)
  3. Pears (also in season!)
  4. Whole roasted chicken (leftovers for days, and fun to remix and reimagine in different dishes!)
  5. Yellow curry (we use it to spice up the kids bland food that they want to eat)

Top Chef airs Thursdays at 10/9c on Bravo.

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