"Christmas was always spent with the Polish [side]," he said, "and that meant kielbasa. So, about two weeks before Christmas, everyone gets together in my uncle's garage, and they make kielbasa, which is not so much about making kielbasa as it is about, you know, putting on a winter coat, going into the garage and drinking whiskey and beer, but that whole process ... was always a good time."
Now a renowned chef and restaurant owner in New York City, Carmellini said he first kicked off his cooking career in his mother's kitchen, and then took his first restaurant job at age 14.
"I was kind of hyper-active, so my mom says, and cooking calmed my nerves," he said. "But I liked it. I did some baking, I did some cooking, started working in restaurants."
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Gavin Kaysen said his passion for cooking grew from baking cookies with his grandmother during the holidays, long before he was the executive chef of Café Boulud in New York City -- owned by the famous French chef David Boulud.
"My grandmother was my biggest influence as far as cooking," he said. "I mean, I still have the rolling pin that we used to make cookies with every Christmas. I started baking cookies with her when I was seven. I asked for an Easy-Bake oven when I was seven as well. Of course, I never had the patience to watch the brownie cook, so I would just eat the raw dough. You know how long it takes to cook with that light bulb? It's terrible!"
Despite being a native of sunny California, Kaysen reflected on one of his favorite Christmas memories -- making a special Norwegian cookie with his grandmother.
"We used to make sun-buckles and all of these cookies when we were kids. It's a Norwegian cookie, it's like a sugar cookie, but it's a certain shape. And I remember we never had enough space on the table, so we would make the cookies on her ironing board. We'd break out the ironing board and put a cloth on it and make cookies."
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Christmas in the Campanaro household is a family production, with lots of tasty home-cooked meals and quirky traditions.
One childhood holiday tradition the chef and restaurant owner Joey Campanaro has continued to this day is eating fish on Christmas Eve, a practice that stemmed from his Roman Catholic, Italian-American upbringing.
"They call it the feast of seven fishes," he said. "We don't really practice it that strictly but what we do do is we make this dish called spaghetti and clams with shrimp."
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His brother Louie Campanaro -- who is also a chef -- and their mother, will both help take on the Christmas cooking duties alongside him in the kitchen.
"I do a dish, he'll do a dish, my mom will do a dish," Campanaro said. "My grandmother isn't with us anymore, but the only thing she did was make the cookies."
Big family dinners used to be a mainstay for his family, but now getting together for the holidays takes a bit of effort. But it's worth it, he said, to try and keep some semblance of tradition for the family's youngest generation.