Why Kitchens Truly Are the Heart of the Home

Why Kitchens Truly Are the Heart of the Home

Passed-down recipes, scribbled asides in the margins of a cookbook, memories of a father sharing his secret sauce—these are the things that make a kitchen the heart of the home.

We asked Panera Bread® fans and members of our Food Team to reveal the people or moments that turned them into true food lovers:

“My earliest food memories are centered around my grandmother. She had three specialties: grilled cheese, applesauce, and pancakes. She made pancakes out of almost anything—buckwheat, leftover mashed potatoes—and drizzled them with a simple syrup made from brown sugar and water. She passed away when I was in eighth grade, but her kitchen and her recipes will always stay with me.”— David Kos, Panera Bread chef

 “My formal training was at The Culinary Institute of America, but my beginnings in food were a lot less structured. Every Sunday we went to my grandfather’s dairy farm, and we had Sunday supper. It’s amazing the connection to food you get when you are sitting at the table that’s right next to the field where the cows graze and the crops grow.”— Dan Kish, Panera Bread head chef

“My father grew up on a farm, my mom in the city. Together they melded the perfect love for food and gardening into their children. Now the things I miss most from my home state of Texas are the foods that brought so much comfort to me. I have recipes from my parents that I often make with my own children. It feels right to share the love of a hearty meal, using vegetables and herbs from our own garden.”— Odette S., Long Island, New York

“I love the traditions of food—reaching for the apple-pie recipe that’s so stained and faded I can barely read it. As I pinch out the rim of the piecrust, I can still feel my mom standing behind me, her fingers over mine, showing me how to twist and pinch. Cooking is one of the threads that binds us all together, and my sons are following in my footsteps. It’s a thrill when they ask for a recipe or share their own food memories.”— Judy M., St. Louis

“I always loved watching my grandmother and mom cook, but I didn’t realize I had such a passion for cooking until I got married. It’s become an art to me. I love starting from nothing and creating a meal or dish that’s beautiful and delicious. I love how food brings people together, as well. Food and family go hand in hand.” —Haley M., via Facebook

“I grew up eating traditional Jewish fare and a host of other foods lovingly prepared by my mother. But it wasn’t until I became a wife and mother myself that I had any interest in re-creating those recipes. By then I was in LA, and my mother was in New York; but to this day she gives her time so generously, talking me through entire recipes over the phone. Many of those recipes have never been written down, and yet there we are, so many miles apart, discussing how to make the perfect matzo ball and the perfect mandelbrot.”— Lori O., Los Angeles

“When I rented my first apartment, my mom gave me a binder full of family recipes that she and my grandmother collected. It’s been more than 20 years, but I still go back to that binder to find recipes for apple crisp, chocolate glaze frosting, or Uncle Orin’s butterscotch pie—all written in my late grandmother’s familiar handwriting. I love the simplicity of it. My grandmother assumed you knew your way around a kitchen and wouldn’t have to have every last detail explained!”— Christa D., Oakland, California

 “No matter what my dad was eating—even the simplest fare—he could always make it sound so delicious with the Mmmm’s and thankful comments he would offer. Whatever it was, I couldn’t wait to try it, too, to find out what was making Dad so happy!”— Jean B., via Facebook

“My mom was not a good cook, so in our family it was my dad who made all the special meals. One of my earliest memories is of pulling a milk crate up to the grill and watching him cook. To this day, my dad and I love being in the kitchen together, and that love is something I share with my own son. I learned how to cook because my mom couldn’t, and cooking has become the thing I now share with my father and son.”— Mark McDonough, Panera Bread chef

 “Believe it or not, but my grandson inspired my love of food. He got interested in culinary arts and made me get adventurous with food—finally!—after 60 years of being so picky. Now I am trying lots of different foods.” — Phyllis N., via Facebook