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Chefs across Houston, Charlotte, Toronto and Atlanta showcase their city’s distinct regional fare through four delicious recipes prepared with love in our Empire kitchens. Give them a try in your home.

J.D. Woodward has been immersed in the world of food for as long as he can remember. “My grandfather was a chef, so growing up a lot of my memories revolved around cooking,” he says. As a lifelong Houstonian, Woodward proudly cites his hometown as his favourite food city and for good reason. “The city is diverse and eclectic. The spirit of the people who live here is what makes our food so authentic.” This was the inspiration behind the chef’s Texas striped bass recipe. “Since the fish is very much representative of Texas, I wanted it to be the star ingredient while playing on hints of Asian and Cajun flavouring.”

Yvette Kern has called a number of places home including Ireland, Japan, Germany and over 11 different states, helping her to really appreciate a region’s local cuisine. With her and her family’s roots currently planted firmly in Waxhaw, North Carolina, the founder of personal chef service Petite Cook Charlotte is sharing her tried and true quintessential North Carolina dish: Brunswick Stew. “I attended East Carolina University with some of the best barbecue places just steps away,” she says. “My goal was to recreate the incredible Brunswick Stew I vividly remember eating throughout college. To me, this dish is the true representation of North Carolina and the warm and inviting people who live here.”

While many of us were in the kitchen whipping up banana bread during quarantine, Toronto chef Ryan Campbell was busy perfecting his peanut butter pie recipe. “In the summer of 2020, my girlfriend and I made a peanut butter pie and shared it on Instagram,” he says. “After receiving a ton of positive feedback, I started to think that this could be a dish people would want to try for themselves.” The recipe, and his new pie company Gerdie’s, were inspired by Campbell’s mom, Gerda, and the early memories he had of the two of them making the pie together. While the pie is native to the Carolinas, Campbell — chef and partner at Il Covo restaurant — was insistent on sourcing local ingredients in his Canadian rendition. “The farmers who are raising chickens, collecting eggs and processing milk are friends of the restaurant world — they support everything we do and as local chefs, it’s our responsibility to support them by shopping locally.”

With a host of unique cultural influences and an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients, Atlanta’s dynamic food scene has made it the unofficial capital of the south. “Atlanta is surrounded by farms, which makes it really easy to be intentional with where and how you source ingredients,” says Chef Pat Pascarella, owner of Atlanta-based restaurants The White Bull, Grana, and Bastone. Pascarella’s Italian roots were the foundation upon which his love of food and fresh produce came to be. “My grandparents used to farm, and everything that was left in their cart at the end of the day is what they ended up cooking with,” he says. This was the inspiration behind his Cavatelli alla Carrettiera dish, an homage to his first introduction to true farm-to-table cooking, and the importance of using fresh, local ingredients.

Meet the Chefs

Chef J.D. Woodward

Houston, Texas

Pictured: The Adams model home at Empire Royal Oaks Landing in Houston, Texas

Chef Yvette Kern

Charlotte, North Carolina

Pictured: The Amherst model home at Empire Oldenburg in Waxhaw, North Carolina

Chef Ryan Campbell

Toronto, Ontario

Pictured: The Greer Model at Empire Maven in Toronto, Ontario

Chef Pat Pascarella

Atlanta, Georgia

Pictured: The Welkin model home at Empire Crosby in Atlanta, Georgia

Interested in other recipes that can take your cooking skills to the next level? Try out Chef Sous Chef’s Sunday Best Lasagna, this 20-minute Carbonara recipe and the cookie that will win every holiday bake-off.


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Nicole and Karla

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Nicole and Karla

New Home Specialists


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