Sunday is Mother’s Day, said to be the busiest day of the year for restaurants. It even outperforms Valentine’s Day, according to a survey conducted last year by the National Restaurant Association. Most chefs will be frantically preparing brunch or dinner for everyone else’s mother. So what about their own moms? Do their moms have to settle for a card or flowers?

Actually, the mothers we interviewed reported that they are pampered and showered with edible affection.

For the past two years, Shelby Stevens’ mother, Cindy Stevens, and her grandmother have made the two-hour drive from Farmington to Camden on Mother’s Day “and been spoiled rotten” at Natalie’s in the Camden Harbour Inn. Stevens, who is Natalie’s executive chef, sends out little extras from the kitchen, and dessert might feature molasses, ginger or hazelnut – some of her mother’s favorites. Last year, it was a ginger trifle.

“There’s always something she’s got going that she wants me to try,” her mother said. “If I need to lose weight, it’s entirely her fault.”

Chef Christopher Harris, who has worked at high-end restaurants in the Kennebunks and was the owner of Crooners & Cocktails in Portland, invites his mother and grandmother to his restaurants on Mother’s Day, seats them at a special table and serves them a special meal. This year, plans are up in the air because the chef and his wife are expecting a baby that may very well be born by the time this story sees print. That’s just fine with his mother, Michelle Gardner.

“I think for Mother’s Day, I’ll just be happy if I have a healthy grandbaby,” she said.

Since Avery Richter, executive chef at The Black Tie Co., works for a catering company and not a restaurant, her parents come to Portland for Mother’s Day, and Avery picks a nice restaurant. Or three. Mom Laura Richter said they might walk from her daughter’s West End apartment to Bao Bao for dumplings and a drink, then make their way to Eventide Oyster Co., because “we’re big oyster eaters.” Dinner might be at Fore Street, Street & Co., or Scales.

Ilma Mendoza, mother of Ilma Lopez, will probably go to Chaval for Mother’s Day brunch this year, she said, with her grandaughter in tow. Menodoza, who lives in the United States now, helps care for little Ilma, the fourth generation of the family to carry that name. Mendoza eats whatever her daughter prepares for her, and says she doesn’t have a favorite dish from Chaval or Piccolo, the two Portland restaurants Lopez co-owns with her husband, Damian Sansonetti.

“It’s difficult because, first of all, it’s my daughter,” she said. “Everything that she makes is delicious for me.”

More than any single dish, Mendoza said she likes how Lopez combines unlikely flavors – citing, for example, the Spanish Sundae at Chaval, which pairs chocolate cake with smoky serrano chile pepper ice cream.

Primo, chef Melissa Kelly’s restaurant in Rockland, always opens for the season on Mother’s Day weekend, and mom JoAnn Kelly is always there. Kelly already spends a lot of time at the restaurant because she works as its financial administrator, but on Mother’s Day chef Kelly invites her for dinner, and makes sure there’s a bouquet of flowers on her mother’s table.

JoAnn Kelly says she enjoys listening to the diners around her rave about her daughter’s food.

“I’m here every day, watching and listening,” she said, “and it’s like, wow! That’s my baby!”

Spoken like a proud mom.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MeredithGoad


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