A Mother's Love

With mothers in the spotlight this month, we thought it would be fun to ask a few top Kansas City chefs to dish about their moms and favorite memories from the kitchen.

Below, these talented chefs discuss the women who inspired them and helped steer them toward a life of baking, basting, broiling and more. They also share some of their favorite recipes and family traditions.

When all that's left are the crumbs, these expert chefs agree that bringing family and friends together is what cooking is all about.



Pastry Chef

Sasha’s Baking Co., Kansas City, Mo. 

Executive Pastry Chef

The River Club, Kansas City, Mo.


Carter Holton, 26, has earned a reputation for masterful baking. He is the 2011 winner of Food Network’s Cake Challenge during which he created a cake based on a character from the "Star Wars" film series. Holton chose C3PO. 

In addition to his work with Sasha’s Baking Co. and The River Club, he also teaches artisan bread and baking at the Art Institutes International in Lenexa, Kan.

Holton says he loves his mother’s sugar cookies for their simplicity and because they are always a fan favorite. They are rich and buttery, and the frosting is easy to use, even for first-time decorators. 

He says a Holton family function would not be complete without seasonally-decorated sugar cookies. 


Carolyn’s Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar


Beat butter with the sugar, vanilla and salt. Add in the flour that has been sifted with the baking soda and cream of tartar. Place dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

If the dough is sticky, gently add in another ½ cup to ¾ cup of flour by kneading it in. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to ¼-inch thickness and cut with floured cookie cutters.

Bake at 375F until just set, 12 to 15 minutes. The cookies should not brown too much. Keep them light.

Allow cooling before decorating with frosting and sprinkles.



12 ounces shortening

12 ounces butter

pinch salt

dash vanilla

4 pounds powdered sugar

6-8 tablespoons water


Directions: Beat shortening, butter, salt and vanilla on second speed, until soft. On low speed, add half the powdered sugar followed by the water. 

Add in the remaining sugar and then beat until smooth and non-porous.

Store in container.


Recipe yields 5 dozen cookies




Owner/Executive Chef 

Jasper’s Restaurant, Kansas City, Mo.


A contributing writer for 435 Magazine, radio talk show host and executive chef for one of Kansas City’s most iconic restaurants, Jasper Mirabile has been leading the kitchen at Jasper’s since the tender age of 22. 

"Mama learned to make cream puffs from my grandmother, my father's mama," says Mirabile. "I remember as a child, sitting at the kitchen table while Mama filled these delicious little puffs with her homemade custard. I really don't recall what was better, the puffs or the custard, but together it makes one of the best desserts this chef has ever experienced.  

"These cream puffs were always the center of our family dessert table and were served every holiday. I continue the tradition for my family and at the restaurant for all special occasions. Many say they are addicting, and believe me, you can't just eat one."


Mama’s Cream Puffs

1 cup water

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon Crisco or ½ cup butter

pinch salt

3 eggs


Directions: Bring water, Crisco and salt to boil in a small pot. Remove from heat. Add flour. Mix thoroughly. Add eggs, one at a time. Mixture will separate after adding each egg but do not worry; it will form back together. 

Drop a large tablespoon of batter onto a prepared baking sheet. Bake shells in 400F oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. 

It is important that the puffs are golden/crisp or they may collapse. Remove from oven and cool completely and fill with Italian pastry cream. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.


Italian Pastry Cream

3 egg yolks

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract 

⅔ cup sugar

½ tablespoon cornstarch

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon flour

3 cups milk


Directions: Mix flour and cornstarch and sugar in a 2-quart pot. Add milk until all mixed together and bring all to a boil. Whisk egg yolks in a bowl. 

Take ½ cup of hot milk and mix with eggs, then add back to all of milk mixture. Add vanilla. Pastry cream will thicken. Remove from heat and pour in bowl. 

Top with film so a crust does not form. Cool before refrigerating. 

Chill for three hours before filling cream puffs.  


Makes 18 cream puffs




Executive Chef

801 Fish, Leawood, Kan.


Born and raised in Kansas City, executive chef Kevin Nicholls was lured into the culinary industry at a young age. Kevin studied Chef Apprenticeship at the Johnson County Community College Hospitality and Culinary Education Center. After graduating, Nicholls and wife Sheena moved to Dubai where he developed a unique style learning from chefs who’ve worked around the world.

Returning to the United States, Nicholls landed in San Francisco working with acclaimed SubCulture dining chef, Russell Jackson, and later Chef Srijith Gopinathan, whose sophisticated style of Cal-Indian cuisine also shaped Nicholls' style and depth.

After moving back to Kansas City, Nicholls joined the 801 Restaurant Group to open 801 Fish. 

"This is a recipe that's been cooked by everyone in my family," Nicholls says. "My mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and as far back as anyone can remember. And to me that's what cooking is all about, bringing family and friends together."


Linguini and Clams

6 ounces fresh linguini noodles

1 tablespoon EVOO

1 tablespoon garlic

1 tablespoon shallot

2 tablespoon butter

6-9 each clams

to-taste red pepper flakes

2 ounces white wine

to-taste parsley

to-taste salt and pepper

to-taste Parmesan cheese

Directions: Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Meanwhile, sauté the garlic and shallot until just beginning to caramelize. Deglaze with the white wine.  

Add the clams, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cover and cook until clams begin to open. Finish with the cooked pasta, EVOO, butter and parsley. Adjust seasoning as necessary and plate.





Novel, Kansas City, Mo.


Ryan Brazeal was named 435 Magazine’s best new chef of 2013. He is a graduate of the Johnson Country Community College Culinary program and is currently the driving force behind one of Kansas City’s newest gems on the food scene, Novel. 

While studying at the JCCC culinary school, he apprenticed at the Hyatt Regency Crown Center in Kansas City before moving to New York City.

While in New York, he was Chef De Partie for Geoffrey Zakarian at Country, Chef De Cuisine at Stone Park Café and Sous Chef at Momofuku.

Brazeal likes that his mother’s lemon chicken recipe is a simple comforting dish that’s easy to execute. It’s got unique flavors, from the brinieness of the capers and the zest of the lemon to the sweetness of the sour cream and the depth of flavor that comes from the chicken stock. Plus, there are plenty of variations that can be done with it. 

"Sometimes we added dumplings, sometimes we used paprika — you could substitute a lot of different things," says Brazeal. “Growing up, my Mom cooked a lot at home and encouraged me, my brother and sister to help out in the kitchen. We often looked to "The Joy of Cooking" for ideas about what to cook and experimented with it quite a bit. We went through it pretty thoroughly as kids finding things we liked and things we really didn’t like.”


Lemon Chicken with Capers and Escarole

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced

2 cups escarole, chopped

½ white onion, sliced

1 cup chicken stock

½ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons capers

½ lemon, seeds removed

¼ cup parsley leaves

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 cups cooked Jasmine rice


Directions: Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 10-inch sauté pan until it begins to simmer. Carefully add the chicken to the hot oil. Cook until the chicken is golden brown on the outside. Then add the onion and escarole and cook till the onions are soft and the escarole is wilted, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked all the way through. 

Add the sour cream, capers and parsley and bring to a boil. Stir to incorporate the sour cream evenly throughout.

Add the juice from the lemon and cook for two more minutes. 

Serve hot with the cooked rice.


photos: Steve Puppe