"My reputation for fun with food will always be there. When you're working those types of hours you gotta -- fun has to become part of work. ... If you're working six days, you gotta throw the Saturday on the plate. So that's a good expression actually, and I think even if it's wholesome it can be fun. I think uniqueness and thinking outside the box when it comes to certain combinations. If you can make someone smile by looking at something or by someone saying, 'Why didn't I think of that?' that's a great accomplishment, especially in a city that's so competitive and serious about dining at one point."
Burke said that the vicissitudes of the food business can be a distraction from the core activity of creating dishes, but that that core never changes.
"The fire is still there, the creativity is still there," he said. "Of course there's more business involved in my day and weeks, and there's more creativity in restaurant design and planning, but the passion for touching the food and creating dishes makes you smile. When you come up with a great idea -- sometimes you'll be flying on a plane or you see a plate or a new product, and you can just put the pieces together, and you can't wait to land and put this dish together."
In honor of the holiday, Burke agreed to share a story about one of his mother's less successful moments in the kitchen.
"She's a great sandwich-maker, my mother, always made me a sandwich. When I came home, she made me a sandwich, or would ask. She's gonna kill me for this. I had written my first book and I mentioned something not as pleasant in my first book. I came home as an adult and she made me a sandwich and I bit into the sandwich and the wrapper was still on the cheese. And she was like, 'Oh my god, you're going to put that in your next book.'
"One thing is, she's a beautiful woman. My mother's a beautiful woman. I had a very good relationship with her growing up. I was the oldest boy, and we were pretty tight, and we still are. When you're a boy and 16, your dad's not a cool guy. But my mom was always cool, and I have a great relationship with my dad.
"But 16-18 my dad wasn't that cool. Maybe it was me, but my mom was always there working on me, being told what to do and not what to do, she was the mediator between me and Dad. I'll never forget that. And she's funny. She's loving, caring, she's a mom. And she knows things before they happen. She knows me better than me, and I still haven't figured that out."