When this culinary king is not busy cooking at first-class restaurants or hosting some of Food Network’s most popular shows, you can find him spending time with his wife and three boys. Chef Corbin explains why linking family and food is so important and gives advice on how you can make it happen.

Mediaplanet Where did you learn to cook?  What fueled the passion?

Corbin Tomaszeski: I grew up on a farm in Northern Alberta. All of our food was made from scratch: we butchered our own animals, grew tons of fresh vegetables and prepared all the meals ourselves. I learned to cook from my grandmother and mother. Homemade meals were a necessity and usually involved cooking in large groups. I started showing interest in the kitchen by age 5 and was cooking full meals by age 10.

My passion was fueled by my humble upbringing and family events. We celebrated around food, mourned around food and created memorable experiences around food — it was a social network and created a sense of community. I learned at a very young age that meals always brought people together.

MP You have three sons — do they enjoy the culinary arts as much as you do? In what ways have you inspired their cooking?

CT: I have three beautiful boys, Bennett, age 12, and twins Brodie and Tate, age 3. I have always encouraged them to understand the importance of food — how it fuels our bodies, but more importantly, how food brings people together. The twins have been known to stir things in bowls or in pans at the stovetop. Brodie loves making homemade pancakes and knows that all you need is flour, eggs, milk, sugar and baking powder. Bennett loves to grill on the BBQ and spend time in the kitchen with his father. I take the boys shopping for food, and they enjoy visiting the markets and grocers. I am pleased that all three boys love food and can be quite adventurous with their eating.

MP Why is it important to make time for meals with your family?

CT: Mealtime with family is one of the few times we all get to spend together to talk about our days and what is going on in our lives. Spending time at the table eating with family creates a bond like no other. It not only allows my wife and me to share stories and experiences from our childhood but also allows us to teach proper table manners and etiquette when eating. Families that eat together stay together. We call it “Sunday suppers” — a time for sharing and eating.

MP What are some fun ways to incorporate food into family time?

CT: Take the kids shopping and visit various markets, stores and purveyors.

  • Have each family member create a menu for one meal period within the week.
  • Create themed meals, such as Mexican taco night.
  • Watch cooking programs together (perhaps Chef Corbin on Food Network Canada!).
  • Have everyone participate in the meal preparation, from peeling vegetables and cutting or preparing ingredients to setting the table and serving the food.

MP You are known, among many other appearances, for hosting Food Network’s Dinner Party Wars. What is your #1 tip to those hosting a family get-together this summer?

CT: Cook foods that you know. Do not experiment with recipes that you’re not familiar with. Do all the preparation work ahead of time to allow you time to spend with your guests (you can even set the table a day or two ahead of time). Keep it simple and wow your guests with preparation. My rule is, and always will be, “Less is more.”

MP BBQ season and Father’s Day are upon us. Any advice for barbecue enthusiasts heading to the grill to fire up a steak for dad?

CT: For something different, try grilling a large slice of watermelon (rind on), and top it with crumbled feta cheese, chopped red onion, olives and fresh basil. Everyone will love it as the new summer salad.