Bucato

Squash blossoms stuffed with sheep's milk ricotta and mint at Bucato in Culver City, where chef Ari Taymor plans to take his mom for Mother's Day. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times / October 1, 2013)

Ask chefs who most influenced their cooking or to whom they attribute their success, and they're likely to tell you it was mom.

"My mom told me to follow my passion and work hard and luckily I listened," says Ari Taymor, chef-owner of downtown restaurant Alma, which has pulled no shortage of accolades. 

If he were to cook the perfect Mother's Day meal, it would be a picnic, "cold fried chicken, potato salad and lots of vegetables."

But this year he's taking his mom to Bucato because "she loves pasta and Evan Funke is super talented." 

By coincidence, that's where Kris Yenbamroong of Night + Market Song is having dinner with his mom. He's emphatic about dinner, not brunch. "No brunch for me. I tend to avoid special occasion or holiday meals — the pressure to have a good time is really palpable.

"I don’t feel the same pressure with a Mother’s Day dinner. It seems like an opportunity to just have a nice Sunday family meal sans chaos. Plus, Russell, the chef de cuisine over there, came in a few days ago right as I was trying to make plans so it felt like fate telling me I needed some Bucato in my life and he also said he’d get us a reservation, so that doesn’t hurt either."

Evan Kleiman, chef and host of KCRW's "Good Food," when asked via email whether her mom cooked a lot, responded: "Just to give you a clue, I read your question aloud while a girlfriend was putting on her lipstick and she laughed so hard she painted her cheek."

But mom still gets credit. "My mom was a pretty typical '50s cook," Kleiman said. "Some frozen veg. Some weird concoctions using cream of mushroom soup. But mostly roasts, steaks and chops with huge salads with homemade dressing. She never baked, which is why I started cooking.  

"However, she was a feeder and partier. Our house was never locked so people were always there for dinner. The biggest influence she had on me was including me in meal prep. It was never discussed. It was just expected, not surprising since it was just the two of us from the time I was 5. So knives, fire, dishes. It was all part of me early. So I like to say she gave me kitchen literacy. She is now 94 and has lived with me for 10 years. Every day is Mother's Day at my house."

Kleiman never takes her mom out for Mother's Day; she makes smoked fish brunch at home. But if they were to go out for the holiday: "Probably Republique. It's beautiful, Mom likes the food, the staff are very sweet, and it's close to me."

And where to go if mom's from Emilia-Romagna? Steve Samson of Sotto says: "Angelini Osteria because [chef-owner] Gino Angelini is from the same region that she's from and she loves going there."

But he'd take the other mother in his life, his wife, Dina (mom of their twins), to MB Post or Fishing With Dynamite in Manhattan Beach. "We could spend the day at the beach and then head in for a fun, relaxing meal," Samson says.

For Thi Tran, chef and founder of Starry Kitchen, it's about finding the perfect dim sum for mom. "Yeah, she influenced my cooking," Tran says, "even though I was forbidden to cook all my childhood life at home. All she liked was Asian food, and all I ate was Asian food growing up so when I moved away for college [that's] all I craved ... and I missed those flavors so much I started making them myself."

So for Mom's Day? "She likes dim sum. But none of the fancy places. It has to be the sweet spot of being both cheap and good or else she won't be happy. She likes New Capital [now Five Star Seafood] on Valley Boulevard. We prefer Sea Harbour and she likes it, but she thinks it's too expensive."

David Nayfeld, chef of Fifty Seven, has the same idea. "I would take my mom to Mother's Day dim sum, specifically Din Tai Fung because it's fun, lively and easy to go with a big group."

Jessica Koslow of Sqirl Cafe is taking her mom to AOC for dinner. "Suzanne [Goin]'s cooking is classic yet Southern Californian."

But a "perfect brunch would be at a deli -- lox, bagels, scrambled eggs and schmear to start. I grew up going to Katella Deli -- I'd love to take her to Brent's in the Valley.

"I love my mom! The cooking skipped a generation and went from my grandmother (her mother, Essie) to me. I wish I got to meet her."

Meanwhile, Josiah Citrin of Melisse is doing all the cooking. "I usually cook Mother’s Day brunch at my house for my wife, mom and my two grandmothers before they passed. I really enjoy preparing the food for them, having the kids help prepare the table and select the flowers. A real family affair. We are usually 12 to 14 with all the siblings.

"The perfect brunch would be smoked salmon rillettes and caviar with Champagne to start, poached Maine lobster with spinach, lightly baked tomatoes and hollandaise sauce on grilled country bread, served with white asparagus and morel mushrooms."