Brendan McManus, of Lucky Pie Pizza and Tap House in LoDo, grew up with home-cooking being part of the daily routine. In anticipation of Mother's Day, Eater chatted with Patricia McManus, Brendan's mother about the role of food in his upbringing and the first signs that he would pursue a culinary career.
When and how did you know he was good in the kitchen? It was always important for me to make sure the family ate dinner together each night. I grew up in the kitchen with my mom and preparing food and big family meals was just part of what family does together. Brendan grew up on a farm. We raised much of our own vegetables and would have farm fresh meat, eggs, and milk. Early in his life, there was a strong connection to real food. Brendan grew up eating home-cooked meals every night and as he grew older he started to be take more and more responsibility for those meals. He would plan, cook, and make sure everything was great. There were a lot of mistakes along the way but he continued to get better and better. Slowly, we handed over our recipes, mine and my mom's, dozens and dozens of little handwritten cards in recipe boxes and folders.
What was your opinion of his career choice when he took his first restaurant job? I wasn't happy. He has always worked in restaurants as a teenager and through college, but I had hoped once he graduated college he was going to get a "real" job. But with two really successful restaurants, it looks like he managed to turn it into his real job.
What was his favorite food as a child? Pizza, as clichee as it may sound. We made homemade pizza, for as long as I can remember. We would make the dough from scratch and set it aside, let it rise, as he prepared the rest of the meal. When it was ready, he and his sisters would pick out the toppings and finish making the pizza. He would have eaten pizza every night if I had let him.
Was he ever a picky eater? Not really. He was the kid that would eat anything put in front of him, and would eat some pretty adventurous things even as a kid...snails, oysters, liver.
What would you ask him to prepare for you for Mother's Day? Seafood. We are from New England and live near the ocean. He grew up eating fish and seafood, clamming and harvesting mussels during the summer and fishing. He has a real understanding of how to prepare seafood perfectly every time.
Are there any memorable food moments from his upbringing that you can share with Eater readers? I am from a big Irish and Italian family and growing up Brendan got to experience amazing Thanksgivings at my uncle John's. Great grandparents, grandparents, dozens of cousins, we would have 25-30 people each year, always with more food and wine than you can imagine. They were loud and crazy and a lot of fun. There is a meatball recipe that we always started the meal with each year with or without pasta. My mother always would make sure there were plenty for the kids, they couldn't get enough. I got the recipe from my mom and now Brendan has a version of it at Lucky Pie. It's a special way of honoring his family tradition and sharing it in his business and workplace.