Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

6 of America's Top Chefs Share Recipes for Signature Dishes

Easy, delicious, crowd-pleasing ideas you can make at home

spinner image Kentucky Culinary Tasty Videos
Creamy cheese grits from Chef Ouita Michel
Holly Hill Inn

As many restaurant dining rooms are closed or operating at restricted capacity during social distancing restrictions to thwart the coronavirus, we asked six of America's best chefs to bring a taste of dining out to us by sharing their signature recipes. These easy-to-master dishes can be made in your own kitchen and cover all three meals of the day, plus there's a bonus dessert. They'll make sitting down to the table with family extra special during these stay-at-home days.


spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

Extra-Creamy Cheese Grits

From Chef Ouita Michel, Holly Hill Inn, Midway, Kentucky

Extra cream? Cheese? Yes, please! A 2020 James Beard semifinalist for outstanding restaurateur and a guest judge on Bravo's Top Chef, Michel has made this rich and delicious side dish in the same pot, the same way, every week for the past 20 years. “They are the backbone of our Saturday and Sunday brunch, perfect with our Kentucky-proud pork chops and pork roast,” she says. “We have served them at the James Beard House twice and at many special dinners. These grits are always a hit.”

Here's how to make them for your own weekend brunch. This recipe serves four.


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
  • 1 cup stone-ground white grits
  • 2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Chef's tip: For an extra-rich result, substitute heavy cream for milk. And, please, for the love of all things Southern, no instant grits, she says.

1. Bring water, milk and salt to a hard boil in a heavy 2- to 4-quart pot with a lid.

2. Add grits, reduce heat and stir until they come back to a simmer and the starch begins to develop. Cover the grits and lower the heat as low as possible. Cook for about 30 to 40 minutes. Check them occasionally to make sure they don't scorch on the bottom, but don't stir too frequently.

3. Remove from heat. Add the cheese and cayenne, and taste for salt.

spinner image Ricotta Pancakes
Courtesy of The Ivy Hotel

Ricotta Pancakes

From Executive Chef Mark Levy, The Ivy Hotel, Baltimore

Nothing says stay in your PJs a little longer like quarantine and pancakes, and the latter don't get better than Levy's. “Our ricotta pancakes are unique in texture and flavor, but also feel quite elegant to eat and add a nice elevated touch for a family brunch,” says Levy. “It's truly a VIP pancake.” Levy and the hotel usually offer this signature breakfast item only to overnight guests, but these trying times call for a little rule-breaking. For the first time, they're sharing the recipe. It makes 8 to 10 pancakes.


  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3/4 cup milk (not nonfat)
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Butter, for cooking

1. If your ricotta has a lot of liquid, set it in a fine mesh strainer to drain off the excess about 30 minutes before you start cooking.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a small bowl.

3. Combine ricotta, milk, egg yolks and vanilla in a separate, larger mixing bowl.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the ricotta and milk mixture, stirring gently until just combined.

5. Beat the egg whites with a handheld electric mixer until stiff. Alternatively, whisk them by hand. Stir a small scoop of the egg whites into the pancake batter to lighten the batter, then fold in the remaining whites with a spatula.

6. Heat a griddle over medium-high heat. Melt a small bit of butter on the griddle, just enough to coat the surface, then use a 1/3-cup measure to scoop batter for each pancake onto the hot griddle.

7. Cook the pancakes until the undersides are golden and you see a few bubbles popping through the top. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden.

8. Serve immediately, with maple syrup, berry preserves or your topping of choice.

spinner image Eggs in Purgatory
Joanne Weir


Eggs in Purgatory

From Chef Joanne Weir, star of Plates & Places on PBS

With a can of tomatoes and a few eggs, this hearty meal is less than 30 minutes away. Some know the dish as Shakshuka but Italians call it Uova in Purgatorio, or Eggs in Purgatory, and Weir's many travels to the Boot to film her award-winning PBS series inspired her version. “We are kind of in a purgatory now,” Weir says. “This dish is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner, served along with some focaccia or other rustic bread.” The following recipe serves two.

See more Health & Wellness offers >


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces of bacon, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 1/2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese
  • Toasted bread or focaccia

1. Preheat an oven to 400°F.

2. Warm the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very light golden, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the minced onion and crushed red pepper and cook until the onion pieces are soft, about 7 minutes.

4. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.

5. Add the white wine and reduce by half.

6. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.

7. Transfer sauce to an ovenproof baking dish, or cast-iron pan. Make 4 indentations in the sauce. Break the eggs, one at a time into a small bowl, and with the spoon, add 1 egg into each indentation.

8. Place on the top shelf of the oven and cook until the whites of the eggs are firm but the yolks are still runny, about 7 to 10 minutes, or until desired doneness.

9. Season the eggs with salt and pepper.

10. Sprinkle the cheese atop the eggs and serve immediately.

spinner image close up of a patty melt sandwich with french fries and a beer on a table
The Roof at Ponce City Market

Patty Melt

From Culinary Director/Chef Jonathan McDowell, 9 Mile Station, Atlanta

Located on the rooftop of Ponce City Market in Atlanta's historic Old Fourth Ward, 9 Mile Station gets its name from the Nine Mile Circle Ride, a streetcar that traveled the area more than 100 years ago. It's a perfect spot to serve this dish, an American diner classic. You can make it at home using your preferred bread and cheese, or stick to McDowell's version with buttery grilled marble rye and melted Fontina cheese. “This recipe is super easy to make and you can challenge your family members to make different variations and get creative,” he says. This recipe makes one delicious sandwich.


  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 slices rye bread
  • 2 tablespoons garlic aioli
  • 2 slices Fontina cheese
  • 1 8-ounce ground beef patty
  • Salt and fine ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons caramelized onions

1. Melt a tablespoon of butter on a griddle. Add 2 slices of rye bread. Spread 1 tablespoon of garlic aioli on each and divide Fontina cheese evenly between slices, in the center, leaving a 1/4-inch gap around the edges.

2. Cook until golden brown, crisp and the cheese is melted.

3. Season the patty on both sides with salt and pepper, then pat it flat to be wider than the bread.

4. Melt 1 tablespoon butter on the griddle and add patty. Cook without moving until dark brown crust forms on the outside, about 1-1/2 minutes. Flip burger and cook on other side without moving until crust develops, about 1-1/2 minutes. Cook to medium.

5. Assemble sandwich, topping the patty with the onions. Slice in half and serve immediately.

spinner image Wild Salmon
Zack Bent


Wild Salmon With Fingerling Potatoes

From Owner/Chef John Sundstrom, Lark, Seattle

"May means the beginning of salmon season to me,” says Sundstrom, a James Beard Award winner. “It's kind of a perfect shelter-in-place fish, as it has so many health benefits and it's simple to cook.” Sundstrom, who has appeared on Food Network's The Best Of and FoodNation, along with the PBS original series Chefs A'Field, is also the author of Lark: Cooking Wild in the Northwest, in which he shares stories and recipes, like this swimmingly delicious dish for four.


  • 1/2 pound fingerling potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1-1/2 pounds skin-on wild king salmon, scaled, trimmed, deboned, and cut into 4 (6-ounce) portions
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 bunch of frisée, yellow and pale-green leaves only, washed and spun dry

1. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan that will fit them easily. Cover with cold water, add the salt, and bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer gently until the potatoes are tender throughout but not falling apart.

2. Drain the potatoes and let them cool enough to be handled. While the potatoes are still warm, peel off the skins, then cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick coins. Set aside.

3. Season the salmon fillets on both sides with salt and pepper.

4. Heat a medium ovenproof sauté pan over high heat and add 2 teaspoons of the oil.

5. Place the salmon, skin side down, in the pan and cook until the skin is crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn it over and add the butter. As the butter melts, use a spoon to baste the salmon. Continue cooking until the salmon is medium-rare to medium, 1 to 2 more minutes.

6. Transfer the salmon to a plate and let it rest for 2 minutes before serving.

7. Drain off half of the fat in the pan and add the potato coins to heat them through. Add the chives and toss.

8. Spoon the potatoes onto 4 plates. Top each plate with a salmon fillet, crispy skin side up, and a bundle of frisée.

Vinaigrette for frisée: In a small mixing bowl, combine lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Gently toss frisée with half of the vinaigrette. Add more vinaigrette to taste.

Chef's Tip: If salmon fillets are more than 1-inch thick, place them in the oven at 350°F after basting and cook for 4 to 6 minutes.

spinner image a yellow cake with white frosting on a serving platter
Blue Bamboo Restaurant


Sunshine State Orange Crunch Cake

From Chef Dennis Chan, Blue Bamboo, Jacksonville, Florida

Chan was the grand prize winner in the 2018 Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest for this citrusy sponge cake — after the first bite, you'll know why. “It's a staple on the Blue Bamboo menu, and our most-ordered dessert,” says Chan. “Guests start off their meal by saying ‘set aside a piece of that famous cake for me.’ “ His home version has only two layers, or simply cut the cakes in half to make four. Either way, you're serving up a slice of sunshine to the whole family; the recipe makes eight slices.


  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1/3 cup neutral oil (vegetable or canola)
  • 3 eggs
  • 16-ounce can of mandarin oranges, crushed and drained, Iiquid reserved water
  • 2 teaspoons orange extract
  • 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple, well-drained
  • 1 puff pastry sheet, cut into 8-inch circle

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a stand mixer, combine cake mix, oil, eggs and can liquid with water (total 1 cup). Add mandarin oranges, extract and pineapple.

3. Place puff pastry sheet on a cookie sheet.

4. Separate batter evenly between 2 floured 8-inch cake pans and bake 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out without crumbs. Bake puff pastry, weighted with a pan or cookie sheet in oven at same time.

5. Set aside to cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 1-1/2 pounds cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple, well-drained

1. Cream butter and sugar together.

2. Add cream cheese, one ounce at a time, while still using the mixer.

3. Add extract and pineapple and combine well.

Frost each layer of cake, sandwiching puff pastry in between the layers. Frost entire cake. Slice and serve with wafer cookies.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?