Mom’s kitchen table


It all started with lasagna. I credit my career as a print and radio journalist to daily vocabulary tests, four years of Latin, and many attempted poems during six years of formal education. I’m grateful to everyone who made me possible. 

However, only one individual is responsible for the fact that I’ve spent most of those decades as a food writer, food editor, dining critic, pie authority and, most importantly, a host: 


She was Rose Mazzola Lehndorff. The small kitchen in our home was where you talked to Rosie. I would sit there peeling potatoes while she smoked Pall Malls and cooked.

She taught me how to make lasagna and stuffed cabbage rolls because I was interested. 

Mom wasn’t a great cook, but she understood to her Sicilian core what was most important about cooking. The food mattered, but it was really all about bringing people together and creating memories and traditions. I learned that people love you when you feed them.  

We asked successful local food professionals — chefs, pastry chefs and food business owners — to talk about their mothers. The question was simple: “What is the best thing your mom taught you about food, cooking and hospitality?” 

Those cooking lessons turned out to be essential life advice.  

‘An appreciation for leftovers’

Shelia Lucero

“Between running three kids to soccer or softball practice, there were not many nights where my family was at home for dinner together,” says Sheila Lucero, the culinary director of the Broomfield-based Big Red F Restaurant Group, which includes Jax Fish House (928 Pearl St., Boulder), The Post (locations in Boulder, Lafayette, Estes Park and Denver), West End Tavern (926 Pearl St., Boulder) and other eateries. 

“We relied on my mom’s preparedness through the week,” Lucero says. “She would have our meals mapped out and ready for us whenever we got home. Not only did she teach me how to plan, she also instilled in me an appreciation for leftovers. The second meal made from leftovers is oftentimes a better rendition than the original dish.”

‘Offerings of food and drink’

Debbie Seaford-Pitula is co-owner of private chef and micro-events company Whistling Boar (243 Terry St.) in Longmont.

“Two things my mom drilled into my brain: 1. You must build on flavors; never throw all the ingredients in at the same time. Take the time to layer the distinctive flavors. Patience is key. 2. No one that is invited into your home shall go without offerings of food and drink.”

Rachel Jardine Demartin

‘Best done with whole foods and love”

“My mom was a farmer’s daughter, which [formed] the foundation of how she cooked,” says Rachel Jardine Demartin, co-owner of Boulder’s new Pasta Press (1911 11th St.) restaurant. “Each spring, I looked forward to the early peas and small red potatoes in cream sauce she made. She knew how to use the simple ingredients Mother Earth supplied us from our garden. My mom taught me that cooking is best done with whole foods and love.” 

Claudia Bouvier

‘Sharing your food with people’

“The most treasured lesson my mom taught me about food is the act of cooking with love and care and sharing your food with people,” says Claudia Bouvier, co-founder of Boulder’s award-winning Pastificio (2438 30th St.) pasta company. “Nothing compares to the gusto of those magical moments.”

Bee Kisich

‘Cooking for our family’ 

Bee Rungtawan Kisich is the owner of Bee’s Thai Kitchen, a Lafayette-based food truck.

“My mom always said: ‘Cook every dish you serve like you are cooking for our family.’”

Shamane Simons

‘Open any refrigerator, make a delicious dish’

Shamane Simons is the owner and pastry chef of Boulder’s Shamane’s Bakery (2823 Wilderness Place, #800).

Lisa Balcom

“My mom taught me to be self-sufficient. We would go grocery shopping for the week, picking ingredients that would cross over several meals. When I was in high school, she was in night school. She left a recipe and ingredients for me to cook dinner for the family when I got home from school or sports. I still have the cute recipe book she started for me when I was 13 years old. It taught me to open any refrigerator and make a delicious dish with what is available. I use this skill daily to reduce waste in the bakery and at home. I have passed this on to my chefs and bakers.”

‘She prized dessert above everything else’

Lisa Balcom is the co-owner of Farow (7916 Niwot Road) and take-out-only Pie Dog Pizza (7916 Niwot Road) in Niwot.

“I think my mom has a lot to do with my interest in being a pastry chef. She always prized dessert above everything else and would take us to a variety of bakeries as kids. She also loved to bake at home and I feel like it has become one of my love languages as well. Her enthusiasm for well-crafted, high-quality desserts drew me to having the same feelings toward ingredients and technique.”

Local Food News: Sad Dot’s Diner News

We bid a sad farewell to the soft-spoken, big-hearted ringmaster of the morning magic at Dot’s Diner, owner Peter Underhill, who recently passed. A community leader, he was always a happy symbol of the best of ’70s Boulder.  

Kim and Jake’s Cakes (641 S. Broadway) has been reborn as Sweet Sisters Bake Shop. Sydney Klinkerman and Jordan Klinkerman — who worked at Kim and Jake’s — bought the bakery and the recipes. Kim and Jake Rosenbarger are focusing on Kim and Jake’s gluten-free packaged foods.  

On May 25, Chef Jorge Pedrianes will open Bison Bistro Kitchen inside Bounce Empire in Lafayette, a 50,000-square-foot bounce theme park with bars, a movie theater and a concert venue billed as “the world’s largest indoor inflatable amusement park.” On the menu: Bison ribs, elk sausage and white chocolate prickly pear cheesecake.  

Coming soon: Day Day Up Tea, 535 W. South Boulder Road, Lafayette. 

Words to Chew On: What Tita Knew

“Tita knew through her own flesh how fire transforms the elements, how a lump of corn flour is changed into a tortilla, how a soul that hasn’t been warmed by the fire of love is lifeless, like a useless ball of corn flour.”

— From “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel

John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles on KGNU. Listen to podcasts: