Mick Burke

    Mick Burke of Chesterfield calls himself an adventurous eater. “My wife and I are definitely foodies: Everything we do revolves around food.” It’s a good thing, too, because there’s plenty of experimentation going on in the Burke kitchen, since Burke is known for his ability to replicate menu items from his favorite restaurants at home. “I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out what’s in a dish as I’m tasting and looking at it,” he says. “I also like to pick the waiters’ brains—especially when we’re at a nicer place.”   

    Among Burke’s recreations are Annie Gunn’s smoked shrimp, Schlafly’s meat pie, Syberg’s chicken wings, P.F. Chang’s lettuce cups and Roy’s pot stickers and sauce. “Roy’s is a high-end chain out of Hawaii, and their pot stickers are my wife’s favorite,” he says. While Burke admits that wife Carol helps him analyze dishes when they eat out, he does all the cooking at home. “My wife will claim she’s got ‘dishes,’ but she really doesn’t cook much,” he jokes. “Maybe eggs, bacon and pancakes, but that’s it.”

        Burke learned to cook at a very young age. “My Italian grandmother and mother were very good cooks,” he says. “My parents divorced when I was younger, and to keep me and my brother out of trouble, my mother would have us start meals after school—it kept us busy.” One of his fond memories in the kitchen as a youngster is making sugo, a tomato-based sauce. “It’s similar to marinara, and my grandmother always used pork neck bones as a flavor base,” he explains. The young Burke also learned to make pasta from scratch. “We’d roll pasta and make ravioli or flat noodles. One thing my grandma always made was tagliatelle verde, a green spinach noodle,” he recalls. “I still use this beat-up pasta cutter my grandmother had.”      

    In addition to cooking for his family of four, Burke enjoys making meals for friends. “We just hosted a dinner party for 10,” he says. “It was Cajun Night, so I made gumbo, jambalaya, oysters on the half shell, Cajun barbecue shrimp and crawfish.” Other signature dishes he’s known for include enchiladas, sea bass with olives and sweet potato hay, mussels, and his own made-from-scratch salad dressings. “The best dishes I make are so simple,” he says. “The key is using quality ingredients.”

Randy Sims

    Randy Sims learned to cook in a Southern kitchen—Birmingham, Ala., to be exact. “I grew up with my mother and grandmother in the same house, and every day was a big ‘to do,’ ” he says. “My grandma would cook turnip greens until they were almost nonexistent, and she did a lot of stuff with bacon fat in it. She cooked while my mother baked—cornbread, pies, cakes, etc.”

    Over the years, Sims has honed his cooking style, thanks in part to his wife, Sandy, who also knows her way around the kitchen. “My wife is a very good cook and a very good adapter of recipes, so we’ve developed our own style,” he says. “And because we’ve always had small kitchens, we’ve learned to do those butcher block dances to move around each other.”

    The Sims like to cook and prepare fish in different ways and experiment with Italian-inspired dishes. “My wife is part-Greek, so we also do Mediterranean flavors, like marinating in lemon juice, olive oil and oregano,” he explains. “We run the gamut and cook what we like, whether it’s grilling pork chops one night or making paella on a Saturday.” One of Sims’ specialties is risotto, and one particular crowd pleaser is his strawberry risotto recipe. “It’s a savory dish flavored with strawberries and thyme, and we use it as a side dish.”     

        Sims jokes that while he and his wife try to prepare healthy dishes, they always find a way to put pork in them, especially prosciutto. “We’re big fans of Tyler Florence of the Food Network and we recently did our own version of something he had: a pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and grilled,” he describes. “I also make trout, cleaned and butterflied with the skin on. I stuff fresh herbs in the cavity and wrap it in prosciutto. On the grill, the prosciutto shrinks around the fish and becomes like a second skin.” 

        Sims says he enjoys every aspect of cooking, except maybe cleaning up. “There’s some pleasure derived from having knife skills and chopping stuff up, as well as serving it and seeing people enjoy it,” he says. “Oh, and did I mention I make a mean paella?”