The Greatest Chef in All the World

James Anthony Ellis
Legacy Editor

Some things never change.

Some things do.

When I was in second grade, my teacher Miss Hall had a fun little exercise for us kids. She would interview each of us about the favorite meal that our mothers cooked.

Oh boy!

That would be easy.

I know I liked the fish sticks, beans and mac-and-cheese night (a routine Sunday fair). And I was very clear that I dreaded any night we had the Meat Loaf (why are there crackers in the meat?)

But the one meal that stood out far and above the rest was the spaghetti dinner courtesy of Chef Boyardee and Chef MyMomee.

I recall sitting to the side of the classroom with some solo quality time with Miss Hall. I knew my answer to her question, so that was easy peasy. But there was another part of the exercise. We kids were supposed to explain how our mothers made the meal – recipe and all.


I definitely felt some pressure to come up with answers to that part of the deal. How am I supposed to know this stuff? I’m 6.

Looking back I guess that was the whole point. These recipe instructions were to be gifts given to our mothers for Mother’s Day. For a parent, how cute would it be to see through the eyes of your child, especially the way they see a favorite thing that you do.

Oh my gosh! Right now in this moment as I write this, I’m having a flashback on the memory of me standing next to my mom in our kitchen, looking up at her, and asking her to describe how she is making the Chef Boyardee dinner. In my mind’s eye, I can see my mother’s face, inquisitive and confused, as she asks, “Why do you want to know?”

I don’t recall my response, but I betcha I covered up my secret plan pretty darn good … as she most likely saw right through me.

Well after my gonzo investigative reporting, I recall going back to Miss Hall the next day with the intelligence I gathered, listing off how my mom made the special meal.

  1. First take out the spaghetti.
  2. Cook it.
  3. There’s sauce on it.
  4. I eat it.

And as I look back now, I consider how simple those times were. I think of how that box of spaghetti would somehow feed a family of five. I think of how I never used the small can of parmesan cheese since that stuff sorta smelled like barf. I think of meals around a table. And I think of the purity of the child who so appreciated and loved his mother.

I also think of how evolved I have become, as I would of course, be able to detail out the recipe and instructions with a more advance, mature mind…


  • First take out the spaghetti.
  • Cook it.
  • There’s sauce on it.
  • I eat it.

Yeah, some things don’t change.

And then, in life, as time passes, some things do change.

  • I don’t think they even have those boxes of spaghetti any longer. Now it’s all in cans.
  • Miss Hall is probably retired by now.
  • I’m not sure teachers are allotted enough time to interview kids, one on one, like that.
  • And my Mother is no longer with us.

Yes, some things change.

And some things never do.

Never do…

  • The innocence that can be found in eyes that look upon and see the wonderful.
  • The longing to do something special for a loved one.
  • The connection with a parent who would forever care for me and want the best for me.
  • The lightness in my heart. The love in my heart.

For my mother: the greatest chef in all the world.

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