Here's How Celebrity Chefs and Top Chef Alums Keep It Real at Their Fabulous Holiday Feasts

Their family food traditions are anything but predictable.

A glazed ham is a glazed ham is a glazed ham? No way: The holiday classic can have as many delicious variations as there are people to eat it, especially when the chefs cooking it, and the guests gathered to eat it, come from every corner of the globe. Here, star chefs and Top Chef alums with diverse backgrounds tell us how they take American holiday classics and reinvent them in their own style, and how they introduce their own cultural traditions into the feast. From Fabio Viviani’s Italian-inspired Lobster Arancini to Edward Lee’s Korean-style Gochujang Glazed Ham, each dish is as mouthwatering as the last. Luckily, we convinced some chefs to share their favorite family recipes with us.

Edward Lee

Top Chef Season 9 cheftestant and chef-owner of 610 Magnolia, Louisville, KY

“Growing up, I was always in charge of making the American classics and my parents would always make the Korean food. And now it has become my tradition, where we mix the two cultures at the family table for the holidays.Gochujang Sauce (fermented Korean Chili paste) is what really makes this ham. It’s my secret ingredient for adding a depth of flavor to everything from a turkey glaze, to roasted winter squash or sweet potatoes. It isn't just spice for the sake of heat. It is nuanced and layered. It has a sweetness to it and umami, lots of umami. It doesn't just add heat to a dish, it adds flavor and complexity,” Lee tells The Feast.

Gochujang Glazed Ham

Recipe by Edward Lee (serves 6-8)

1 cooked 6 to 7 pound, bone-in cooked ham

Gochujang Glaze:

½ cup Chung Jung One Gochujang Korean Chili Sauce

½ cup apple juice

¼ cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 ounce espresso or strong coffee

For serving:

3-4 curly kale leaves, for garnish

½ cup pickled peppers

1 cup roasted cauliflower

Preheat oven to 380°. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for the glaze. Whisk until smooth. Lay the ham on a cutting board. Using a chef’s knife, make slits ¼ inch deep into the surface of the ham in a crosshatch pattern, approximately 2 inches apart.

Place the ham onto a sheet pan, flesh side down. Using a silicone brush, generously brush the glaze over the ham. Place the ham into the middle rack of the oven.

Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting every 20 minutes. If the surface of the ham begins to burn, turn the heat down and cover the ham with a sheet of aluminum foil.

Remove ham from the oven. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Plate ham on a large platter or cutting board, garnishing with kale leaves as desired. Slice and serve with pickled peppers and roasted cauliflower. Serve remaining gochujang glaze in a ramekin on the side. Edward Lee photo credit: Dan Dry. Glazed Ham photo credit: Edward Lee.

Spike Mendelsohn

Top Chef Season 4 cheftestant and chef-owner of Béarnaise, Washington, D.C.

“I practically grew up at my grandfather’s restaurant in Montreal. He even insisted that we spend every Christmas Eve there since it was our families’ favorite gathering place and where we came together over food," says Mendelsohn. "And each year he would serve the most incredible prime rib with all the fixings, a dish that’s perfect for large holiday dinners and one that constantly takes me back. These memories inspired me to do a retro Christmas Eve dinner this December at Béarnaise, my restaurant in Capitol Hill, featuring my grandfather-approved Montreal Slow Pit Prime Rib,” he adds. Photo credit: Joe Shymanski

Fabio Viviani

Lobster by Fabio

Lobster Arancini is a Fabio twist on a traditional Italian arancini. The deep fried rice balls are coated with panko crumbs and stuffed with lobster, pancetta, onions and melted parmesan. “Growing up, the holidays were always chaotic, but in the best way possible. My entire Italian family would know that my mom and grandma were cooking, so everyone would come over to eat their food. Now with my wife Ashley and son Gage, the holidays is all about making them happy," says Viviani. "When I cook for the holidays, some of my go-to recipes are recipes that I got from my mom and grandma." His Lobster Arancini will be available via Lobster by Fabio, a new seafood delivery service based out of Maine. The seafood is caught fresh every day and shipped overnight anywhere in the U.S.

Lobster Arancini

Recipe courtesy of Fabio Viviani

½ cup diced pancetta

Good quality olive oil

½ onion finely chopped

1 ½ C. arborio rice

1 cup white wine

7 cup lobster or chicken stock

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

1 lobster, cooked, cleaned and diced

1 quart panko bread crumbs

Salt and pepper, to taste

Oil, for frying

In a medium pot, add pancetta and 1 drizzle of olive oil. Slowly render the pancetta until crispy over medium-low heat.

Add onions and begin to sweat. Add rice and slowly start to toast by stirring for about 3 minutes. Add white wine and reduce by half. Next, add the stock and reduce on medium heat until most of all the liquid is evaporated. Be careful not to burn and stir frequently.

Finish rice with the parmesan cheese and lobster. Season to taste and spoon on a flat sheet tray to cool.

Scale 1 ½ oz balls and form into croquettes. Roll in panko and pack panko into the rice while forming. Make sure to cool completely before frying. Fry at 375F until golden brown and allow to cool on a rack. Photos courtesy of Fabio Viviani.

Chris Shea

The Wayfarer, NYC

“Roasted squash spaghetti with aji panca, cranberries and walnuts is part of the family tradition my wife and I are trying to create for our children to represent our combined heritage: American, Irish and Peruvian. It takes ingredients which are local and traditional and gives them a complementary kick of sweetness, citrus and mild heat found in Peruvian cuisine,” says Shea. Photo courtesy of Chris Shea.

Rick Di Virgilio

OPORTO Fooding House and Wine, Houston, Texas

Rick's famous Batata Doce, a holiday favorite, are currently available on his fall menu: The side dish is made of maple roasted organic sweet potato wedges with raita yogurt sauce, lemon zest, rosemary, and crunchy walnut-parsley picada. The idea came to him when he wanted to create a unique side that showcases his Portuguese heritage as well as his wife’s Indian heritage. Batatas Bravas (spicy fried potatoes) are popular in Portugal and Spain: Just add a little maple, some raita from India, and you get Batata Doce. Photo courtesy of Rishi Hospitality.

Erwin Tjahyadi

Komodo, Pico + Venice, California

“During Thanksgiving and Christmas, my family and I will have Nasi Goreng instead of stuffing. We love having spicy food during the cold weather, and Nasi Goreng Jawa (specifically from our island, Java) is just the dish to do it: stir-fried to perfection with chili paste, shredded eggs, aromatic spices, onions and your choice of protein," says Tjahyadi. "Traditionally, we stuff the dish inside of a cone-shaped container mold, take it out by inverting the mold and placing it in the center of our holiday platter, and adorn it with other side dishes. We decorate it with krupuk (fried onion chips), candied tempeh (compressed soy beans), flavored egg, beef rendang and fried chicken/shrimp. Of course, everything is served family-style because sharing is what the holidays are all about." Photo courtesy of Komodo.

Maneet Chauhan

Chopped judge and chef-owner of Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Nashville, TN

“The crown of lamb has always been a quintessential Christmas dish, and growing up in India we would read about lamb when learning about the holiday. This dish is a way to keep up with that tradition and putting my own twist on the recipe," says Chauhan. "I would make this for Christmas dinner, for friends and family, whoever we are lucky to spend the holiday with. This meal would be served family-style, accompanied by cranberry rice, roasted root vegetables, mint chutney and more,” adds Chauhan.

Crown Roast of Lamb with Mint Cilantro Chutney and Smashed Lemon Sage Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Recipe courtesy of Maneet Chauhan

Crown Roast of Lamb

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

4 tablespoons fresh ginger garlic paste

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

2 crown roasts of lamb, each consisting of 14 chops

Olive oil

Chaat masala

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix chopped mint, ginger garlic paste, cilantro, fenugreek leaves, salt and black pepper in small bowl.

Place crown roasts of lamb, spaced apart, on large baking sheet. Brush lamb all over with olive oil. Rub herb mixture all over lamb and cover bones loosely with sheet of foil. Roast lamb until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of lamb registers 125°F to 130°F for rare, about 20 minutes (or 130°F to 135°F for medium-rare, about 30 minutes; or 135°F to 140°F for medium, about 35 minutes). Transfer lamb to platter; let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Remove foil and string. Sprinkle with desired amount Chaat masala and serve with Mint Cilantro Chutney and Smashed Lemon Sage-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes.

Mint Cilantro Chutney

2 cups cilantro leaves

2 cup mint leaves

1 cup mango pulp

½” ginger

5-6 green chilies

1/2 cup lime juice

Salt to taste

Grind all ingredients to a fine paste, add very little water if you need.

Smashed Lemon Sage-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

2 large sage leaves, chopped

1 teaspoon chopped rosemary

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon kosher salt

4 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°

In a mini food processor, pulse the sage, rosemary and thyme until finely chopped. Add the lemon zest and pulse to blend. Add the salt and pulse until finely ground. Transfer the herb salt to a small bowl.

In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the oil and butter and season with pepper. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on two large rimmed baking sheets and roast for 25 minutes. Season the potatoes generously with the herb salt, toss well and continue baking for 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and golden. Let cool slightly and gently smash or press the potatoes for texture. Photos courtesy of Chauhan Ale & Masala House.

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