Chefs—especially fancy ones you find hanging around James Beard Awards parties—you'd think that they'd be huffing caviar and pounding abalone 24/7. Wackily enough, though, they were (mostly) raised on Cap'n Crunch and Cheerios just like us plebes. We caught up with 21 of the biggest names in the restaurant biz before and during the ceremonies in Chicago this week and got them to spill their favorite childhood breakfast cereal memories.
Alex Guarnaschelli: Butter, NYC
My mother would only give me that granola with people mountain biking on the cover. We never had junky cereal, so I love junky cereal as a result. In college, I piled one scoop of each junky cereal and put a scoop of ice cream and two cups of skim milk ice cold over the top and ate it like a giant sundae and that is my best cereal memory.
Edouardo Jordan: JuneBaby and Salare, Seattle
My favorite thing is the milk at the end after you finish all the cereal. It's probably Froot Loops or Fruity Pebbles where you feel like you're drinking ice cream with all that sugar.
Hugh Acheson: 5&10 and The National, Athens and Empire State South, Spiller Park Coffee, and Achie's, Atlanta
We have a cereal you don't find much in the States at all. It's called Shreddies. Shreddies is English and Canadian and Shreddies with maple syrup and milk is kick-ass. I don't think that's a memory, that is just a way of life.
Dolester Miles: Highlands's Bar and Grill, Birmingham
I love cereal and I still eat it. Back in the day I used love Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, but now they're too sweet, so I like Special K.
Dana Cree: Pretty Cool Ice Cream, Chicago
My mother was quite the hippie when it came to food and growing up we weren't allowed to have sugar cereals. So on our birthdays we were allowed to pick one cereal. My sisters each went for Cookie Crisp and Fruity Pebbles or something. I was such a goody two shoes, I still picked Cheerios just to impress my mother.
Steve Palmer: Indigo Road Hospitality, Charleston
Fruity Pebbles, because of the color of the milk. It's purple, green, red, and blue!
Karen Akunowicz: Myers+Chang, Boston
My mom never let us have sugary breakfast cereals ever. It was like Cheerios and Wheaties only. Occasionally we got to have Cinnamon Toast Crunch. That was the biggest deal to me and is still a wonderful memory in my head.
Jennifer Hill Booker: Your Resident Gourmet, Atlanta
When we lived in New York, there used to be a cereal called King Vitamin. It was my favorite, and it tasted like Cap'n Crunch. We almost never got it because my mom didn't believe in sweet sugar, so my best memory is getting a box of King Vitamin and being able to eat as much of it as I wanted.
Kevin Nashan: Sidney Street Cafe, St. Louis
I would have to say Cap'n Crunch. I literally cut the box in half, poured the milk in, and ate the whole box.
Ashley Christensen: Death & Taxes, Poole's Diner, and more, Raleigh
As kid I was not allowed to eat sugar cereal but I would go to my grandmother's house, and she would always have Lucky Charms for all the grandkids in the cabinet. And I remember being so excited about it, dragging the spoon over my face and leaning back in my chair and falling out of my chair. My grandmother thought, "What is wrong with you kids? You really should give kids sugar."
Katie Button: Curate and Nightbell, Asheville
I grew up in a household where my mother tried to raise us super healthy and we had like Grape Nuts and things like that around the house which is not a kid's favorite dream. So when we would go on vacation to Lake Chelan in Washington State or the beach in South Carolina she would allow us to buy those little mini boxes of sugared cereal. The best part about it was trying to come up with the best combination, whether it's sugared cornflakes and Cap'n Crunch combined in a bowl, or Froot Loops and Lucky Charms, it was my favorite vacation time.
Vishwesh Bhatt: Snackbar, Oxford
I don't have a breakfast cereal memory, because I didn't grow up eating cereal. But what I did grow up eating is stir-fried sprouted beans for breakfast. That's sort of the thing that I always miss when I'm eating cereal. Those memories are not something I can really relate to.
Anne Quatrano: Bacchanalia, Floataway Cafe, Star Provisons and more, Atlanta
Oh my gosh that's an awful thing to ask because my sister is with me and we ate a lot of Cap'n Crunch—that was my sister's favorite. I liked Wheaties, mostly because there were football stars on the front. So we always had those two.
Mike Lata: FIG and The Ordinary, Charleston
Lately I'm soaking groats in coconut and almond milk and putting a little bit of maple syrup and some bananas in there and it makes me feel like a kid, but I know it's a lot healthier. If I had to pick one as a kid, I always loved Grape Nuts, I felt like it was fuel. Then I found out it was breadcrumbs.
Asha Gomez: Spice to Table and The Third Space, Atlanta
I grew up in India and we didn't eat cereal, we ate porridge. It was always porridge that was cooked in coconut milk and and had dried nuts and fruits in it. So that's my fondest memory of a cereal-type meal. My son Ethan is an American cereal eater. Cheerios, cinnamon-frosted something—he loves that one. I try to keep lots of dried nuts and fruits in the house, but he's getting into his pistachios and and cashews and I want him to start putting it in his cereal, but it hasn't happened just yet.
Carey Bringle: Peg Leg Porker, Nashville
Cap'n Crunch, absolutely. We would go and stay with my grandparents on Friday nights and we would watch Fantasy Island and The A-Team. My grandparents would watch Vega$ because my grandmother loved Robert Wagner. They would get Cap'n Crunch with crunchberries for us and my sister and I would always eat the Cap'n Crunch and save all the crunchberries for the last and finish them last. That was our special treat.
Rodney Scott: Rodney Scott's BBQ, Charleston
My favorite cereal memory is when I learned how to put half a bowl of milk in with the Frosted Flakes so that you can keep the sweetness and crunchiness all the way through.
Steve McHugh: Cured, San Antonio
Probably Cocoa Krispies—it's the milk afterward. You'd let them soak, then you'd eat them up, and then it was just like a big bowl of chocolate milk right before you went to school.
Morgan Colcotte: FIG, Charleston
Growing up, I ate a lot of breakfast cereal eating in the morning. Saturday mornings, my parents would sleep in a little bit and my sister and I would get up a little earlier and watch cartoons. That was the one day of the week where we could just go to town on the junky cereal. She was a Cocoa Puff gal, I was a Rice Krispies or Cocoa Krispies gal and we just filled the bowl with too much milk and cereal and keep refilling it until the milk was gone. That was definitely the bedrock of my cereal experiences growing up. Still to this day, I crave a little Cocoa Krispies in my life every once in a while.
Belinda Leong and Michel Suas: B. Patisserie, San Francisco
Leong: Fruity Pebbles—oh god yeah!
Suas: Sorry, I only eat granola from B. Patisserie.