The life of an elite chef spans far beyond all of the slicing, dicing, frying, and expediting that goes on behind the scenes at our favorite restaurants. With Father’s Day just around the corner, we talked to some of the city’s top culinary talent about what life is like away from the heat of the kitchen. These guys wear many different hats. They’re mentors, managers, and undoubtable food experts, but first and foremost, they are dads.
As a father of three and the executive chef of one of Hampden’s hottest haunts, Chad Gauss often has his work cut out for him.
“One thing I’ve learned is that I’m always where it’s most important to be,” says Gauss, executive chef and co-owner of The Food Market. “If everything at the restaurant’s going fine, I’m going to be at dance for my daughter’s recital.”
From baking cakes in the kitchen at home to embarking on RV road trips, Gauss says that quality time with his children—Chad, 12, Zoey, 6, and Maisy, 3—is key.
“We always go places together as a family,” he says. “I don’t really go anywhere my kids aren’t welcome.”
Although according to Gauss all of his kids have diverse tastes, with favorites like seaweed and miso soup, his daughter Zoey has the most sophisticated palate of them all: “I mean, she wakes up in the morning and says ‘I want duck,’ she’s a huge eater.”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to the oldest, ‘Little Chad.’ Often tasked with cleaning local produce and shucking corn during frequent visits to The Food Market, the 12-year-old has even found his inner restaurant critic.
“One thing my son and I like to do together is we rate pizzas,” he says. “We go around and we rate local pizza shops and we base them off of Matthew’s Pizza.”
Gauss says being a chef and a dad keeps him youthful.
“I’ve matured in responsibility, but not at all in personality, so it really allows me to enjoy my job,” he says. “And I think it’s awesome that my kids have a dad that gets to be himself all of the time. I don’t have to be a different guy when I come to work.”
Well-known for his barbecue shrimp and grits and other signature brunch creations, Water for Chocolate owner and executive chef Sean Guy is a hangover hero in Upper Fells Point.
But aside from all of the accolades, his motto remains that he’s a dad first and a chef second.
His children, Taylor, 15, and Noah, 8, are all about chowing down on the goat cheese mac at Water for Chocolate, which is back up and running after suffering a fire in March, but he says that they’re not so big on the idea of global cuisine.
“We have a thing where we try to go to a different restaurant every other Sunday, and I always try to take them somewhere where they can try and appreciate a different cuisine, but Noah’s the guy that will spit it in his napkin and then go in the bathroom and fill his pockets with the mints, he really doesn’t care,” Guy says. “Taylor is really beginning to appreciate food a lot more. She had her first oyster already at The Oceanaire, and I wish I had a picture of the look on her face. It was like betrayal, like ‘Dad, how could you do this to me?’ I almost cried. But her palate is a little more developed than Noah’s.”
In order to spend as much time together as possible, Guy feels lucky to be able to structure the restaurant’s hours around his children’s schedules.
“During the week we’re open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., so after 7 I’m doing homework, and opening at 10 a.m. gives me a chance to take them to school,” he says.
In between studying theatre at Baltimore School for the Arts and participating in Habitat for Humanity projects, Taylor squeezes in time to work at the restaurant as a hostess on weekends. Noah has recently started to break into the family business, as well.
“He’s been rolling silverware and starting to get involved, but he overcharges me; he’s trying to get fifty cents per roll, which is crazy,” Guy says.
Although it doesn’t always work out as planned, attempting to diversify his children’s culinary interests is one of Guy’s favorite hobbies.
“More so than cooking for them, I like going out to different restaurants with them so they can learn the sense of service to try different things.” he says.
“Whether I’m in the kitchen or doing yard work, he always likes to lend a helping hand,” Marucci says. “We can sit outside and I can give him a bag of corn and he’ll just shuck the whole bag. Or I can give him a bag of cranberry beans and he’ll peel them all for dinner.”
The Marucci brood also includes Mia, 2, and baby Nico, 3 months. As they grow older, the chef feels it’s important to educate his children about how their food makes its way onto their plates.
“At Thanksgiving this past year, I got a turkey from a local farm with the head and feet on. The kids came into the kitchen and when I opened the oven to baste the turkey they saw the head, and they all started flipping out and giggling,” he shares. “I want to introduce these things to my kids so that they know where [our food] is from.”
Although bouncing back and forth between the two restaurants five days per week takes up the bulk of Marucci’s time, he looks forward to devoting his days off to tee-ball games, making Sunday dinner, and gardening with the kids.
“We’ll go out in the garden and pick herbs, or ‘seasonings’ as we call them, and then I try to explain that those green flakes and specs in our tomato sauce or whatever we’re making are the same herbs from our garden,” he says.
Looking ahead, Marucci is excited for his kids to eventually grow into little sous chefs.
“I can definitely see them coming in and helping with cleaning vegetables, picking filo beans, and picking peas,” he says. “And teaching them how to use a knife properly, that’s something I’m looking forward to.”
Although meal requests from his children Thacher, 8, Piper, 3, and Ever, 1, often vary, Voltaggio says that one factor always remains constant.
“With the kids, I find that their favorite dishes are the ones that involve time with dad, so it’s more about the entire experience,” he says.
When it comes to Thacher, the self-proclaimed picky eater of the bunch, Voltaggio says that experimenting in the kitchen inspires him to “grab new things and put ingredients together in the moment.”(Which explains Thacher’s Coca-Cola potatoes recipe published in Voltaggio’s cookbook Home.)
“He’s certainly not sitting down and eating roasted sea bass with cranberries, that’s just not where he is at this point, but whenever you get hands-on is when it gets fun,” he says.
While the restaurateur’s 60-hour workweek often presents obstacles that stand in the way of family time, the Voltaggios always find a way to make it work.
“Breakfast is an important time for us, it’s the one meal of the day that we all share religiously,” he says. “Sometimes I need to sneak out of Friday night service to get to baseball for an hour, but then I just sneak back in before anybody notices I’m gone.”
He says that being able to use his restaurants as an educational outlet for his children is an added perk, as well.
“If you give a kid a mixing bowl they can go for hours. I think there are a lot of life lessons there, too,” Voltaggio says. “Measuring ingredients becomes fun for them, and they can take the things they’re learning in school and put them into practice.”
While it may seem that the Voltaggio kids are preordained for careers in the kitchen, the chef says he’s hesitant about how much he pushes the restaurants on them.
“As much as I want them to love what I do, I definitely don’t want to force it upon them because I never want them to feel that this is the profession that they have to choose,” he says. “Although, Piper at her preschool graduation, did say that she wanted to be a cook when she grows up.”