William Morrissette, Leighton Parnell and Johnny Lau have always shared a mutual passion for food, and now they’re really cooking. The trio of talented foodie friends, all in their mid-20s, has taken their culinary chops from high-school hobby to hot career potential. The three bachelors started cooking together for tailgating events during their upperclassmen years at St. Paul’s, where they had been pals since lower school. Then the boys began preparing special, family-style suppers on Sunday nights for friends, a ritual that they carried on through college and beyond. Now, they have all gone their separate ways (with Morrissette in New York City, Parnell in New Orleans and Lau in Mobile), but continue to relish the occasions when they can reunite in the kitchen. Here, MB rounds them up for an afternoon of food, fun and friendship; get to know them and their favorite bachelor-gone-gourmet recipes.
Meet the Boys
William Morrissette, 24
Garde manger at Gramercy Tavern in New York City
- Foodie Memories Working under his father at the family restaurant (the former Oysterella’s) and catering business (Morrissette and Company Catering)
- Education Hospitality management at Ole Miss and culinary school at the International Culinary Center, formerly The French Culinary Institute, in New York City
- Culinary Style A combination of Italian cuisine and classic French dishes
- On Cooking and Dating “If I ever had ‘a move’ [with women] cooking would be it. I enjoy cooking for dates because it’s more relaxed than a night out.”
Leighton Parnell, 25
Sauté Chef at Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans
- Foodie Memory Crab boils and preparing freshly caught Gulf seafood during summers on Ono Island
- Education Restaurant and hospitality management at the University of Alabama, and culinary school at Culinard at Virginia College in Mobile
- Culinary Style Italian cuisine (his family’s specialty) as well as Spanish and French
- On Cooking and Growing Up “My cooking career really started in high school, cooking for sporting events at St. Paul’s, but it also came from watching my parents and especially my grandmother.”
Johnny Lau, 24
Kitchen Manager at China Doll in Mobile
- Foodie Memory Growing up in the kitchen of his family’s restaurant, China Doll
- Education Management at Auburn University and the University of South Alabama
- Culinary Style Any type of Asian cuisine, from traditional Chinese and Vietnamese to Thai and Korean, as well as Asian fusion
- On Cooking and Family “After my father passed away, I came home to help run the restaurant. Although I never learned to cook under him, I always think of him as a special inspiration.”
Johnny Lau’s Korean Fish Tacos
The chef’s love of Asian fusion shines in this vibrant update of a classic.
6 corn or flour tortillas
Panko-breaded tilapia (see recipe below)
Asian Slaw (see recipe below)
1 – 2 cups shredded Mexican-blend cheese
1. Fill tortillas with the tilapia.
2. Top fish with slaw and cheese. Makes 6 tacos.
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons pepper, divided
2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
4 eggs, slightly beaten, divided
1 teaspoon sesame oil
6 tilapia filets, rinsed and cut in half (can be frozen)
1 cup cornstarch
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees on stovetop.
2. Set out 4 bowls for breading. In the first bowl, combine half of salt, pepper, garlic powder and beaten eggs with the sesame oil. Add tilapia filets to bowl, coating them thoroughly with mixture.
3. Place cornstarch in the second bowl, the remaining egg mixture in the third bowl and the Panko breadcrumbs and remaining salt, pepper and garlic powder in the fourth bowl.
4. Dip fish into the cornstarch, then egg wash, then Panko breading. (Try to keep one hand for the wet bowls, and one hand for the dry bowls.)
5. Fry fish in vegetable oil for approximately 5 minutes or until fish becomes golden brown and floats to the top. Serves 6.
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 stalk green onion, chopped
1/2 head of white cabbage, chopped
1/2 white onion, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 – 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (or to taste)
Sesame Soy Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
1. Combine all ingredients.
2. Drizzle with desired amount of Sesame Soy Vinaigrette. Toss until lightly coated. Makes approximately 6 – 8 cups.
Sesame Soy Vinaigrette
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons Oriental sesame oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl until they are well mixed. Makes approximately 1/2 cup.
Johnny’s Sesame Fries
4 – 5 medium-sized russet potatoes, peeled or unpeeled
1 teaspoon chili flakes
5 teaspoons sesame oil
kosher salt, to taste
1. Cut potatoes into desired size for fries. Soak in water for about an hour.
2. Drain and dry potatoes.
3. Heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees. Fry potatoes until golden brown, about 5 – 8 minutes.
4. Mix chili flakes and sesame oil together in a bowl. Toss fries until coated. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
William Morrissette’s Chicken Tuscany Pizza
This Mediterranean take on the savory pie is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
White Pizza Sauce (see recipe below)
Homemade Pizza Dough (see recipe below)
2 grilled chicken breasts, cut into small bite-sized pieces
2 roma tomatoes thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, minced
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
5 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
balsamic reduction, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Spread White Pizza Sauce over shaped pizza dough. Top with chicken pieces, tomatoes, onion and cheese.
3. Bake in oven until golden brown and crispy, about 15 – 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, to prepare balsamic reduction, boil balsamic vinegar in a pot until thick and syrupy.
5. Once pizza is completely baked, remove from oven, sprinkle with basil and drizzle with balsamic reduction to finish. Makes one 14- to 16-inch pizza.
White Pizza Sauce
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 large shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups heavy cream, warm
1 cup cream cheese, softened to room temperature and cubed
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter and sweat shallots and garlic over low heat for approximately 10 minutes, until their full flavor and aroma has been released.
2. Add heavy cream and bring to a simmer, then add cubes of cream cheese. Cook and stir until the mixture is smooth.
3. Sprinkle in flour and cook and stir until sauce thickens slightly. Add thyme, then salt and pepper to taste. Makes approximately 3 1/2 cups.
Homemade Pizza Dough
2 1/4 teaspoons (1-package) instant dry active yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups bread flour, or as needed
1. In a stand mixer with a dough hook, add yeast, water, sugar, salt and olive oil, and mix for 7 minutes until incorporated.
2. Add flour and mix for 20 minutes until dough is formed. (If dough is too wet, add a little flour, and if it’s too dry, brush with a little water.)
3. Knead the dough into itself and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
4. Once rested, it is ready to shape. The best technique is to flatten out the dough with your fingertips. Then, pick the dough up, and working from the center, stretch and flatten. If this becomes too cumbersome, use a rolling pin to achieve desired thickness. Makes one 14- to 16-inch pizza.
1/4 fresh pineapple, cut into small chunks
2 ounces Coco Lopez
1/4 cup vanilla ice cream
2 ounce Kahlua
4 ounces Bacardi Gold
3/4 cup ice
Bacardi 151, for floater
1. Blend pineapple and Coco Lopez in a blender until completely smooth, (add more Coco Lopez if desired).
2. Add ice cream, Kahlua, Bacardi Gold, ice and blend.
3. Pour in glass and serve with a Barcardi 151 floater and a slice of pineapple for garnish. Makes 1 large cocktail.
Leighton Parnell’s Pasta Jambalaya
This entree combines the best of both worlds: Creole and Italian cuisine.
1 pound spinach fettuccini
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3/4 pound Andouille sausage, sliced
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/4 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons Homemade Creole Seasoning (see recipe below)
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 – 2 cups Parmesan cheese
1. Put a gallon of water in a pot, add salt to taste and bring to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, approximately 10 – 12 minutes. Drain. Set aside.
2. Place tablespoon of olive oil in medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add shrimp and sear on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. Add second tablespoon of olive oil to pan. Add sausage, onion, and bell peppers. Cook until vegetables begin caramelizing, about 5 minutes on medium heat.
4. Add the minced garlic, sauté for about 30 – 45 seconds. Add chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan as you stir. Add diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the thyme and 2 tablespoons of the Creole seasoning and bay leaves. Cook for 3 minutes.
5. Add heavy cream. Cook for another 2 – 3 minutes.
6. Return shrimp and add pasta to pan, cook an additional 2 – 3 minutes.
7. Take off of heat. Remove both of the bay leaves. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese. Serves 4 – 6.
Homemade Creole Seasoning
2 1/2 tablespoons of paprika
2 tablespoons of salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried sage
1. Mix together all of the ingredients until well combined. Store seasoning in an airtight container. Makes approximately 1/2 – 3/4 cup.
Beer-battered Onion Rings
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup of beer (preferably Boston lager)
2 yellow onions (sliced approximately 1/4-inch thick)
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Using vegetable oil, fill fryer to the max filling line or a large heavy pot halfway. Temperature of the oil should be 350 degrees.
2. Mix together dry ingredients. Add lemon juice. Slowly add the beer until the mixture looks like pancake batter – neither too thick, nor too runny.
3. Dip onion slices in batter. Slowly place in pot or fryer in a swirl motion. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4 – 6.
text and styling by Sallye Irvine • photos by ashley rowe • location Culinard at Virginia college