Fact: being a parent in the restaurant industry is challenging. The hours are long and the work is hard, but what better way for a chef or restaurateur to share their passion for cooking and community than with their children? With Mother’s Day coming up, we’ll be celebrating inspiring moms in the industry.
Today, Francine Stephens, owner of the beloved Franny’s restaurant in Brooklyn, tells us all about educating her kids, finding balance, and her perfect Mother’s Day Sunday.
What’s the most important thing you’re teaching your kids about food?
First and foremost, we try and teach our children that healthy and balanced eating is truly necessary for a productive and happy life; that the things in life that are important to them right now like baseball and playing with their friends are not possible without health and strength, and that what we eat plays a big role in our well-being. We want our kids to understand that eating the full spectrum of foods—from spinach to ice cream (and not just ice cream!)—creates a healthy diet.
Additionally, through our actions and conversations, we are constantly talking about the fact that foods are alive and thus seasonal; that as sad as my kids are to see snap peas go away, they shouldn’t worry, eggplant parmigiano is on the way.
Do you cook with them? What do they like to cook and eat?
My husband Andrew is the cook of our household and yes, he has been cooking with my kids. It’s a huge way for them to connect and feel involved with our adult lives. My daughter Prue, who is nine years old right now, is learning to cook eggs. Marco, who is eight, is working on his pancakes and his knife skills.
How did your food rituals change when you became a parent? Have you found any creative ways to keep up your passion and incorporate the little ones?
As parents, we are very focused on cooking balanced, healthy meals for our family. We were definitely more indulgent in our eating before we had kids, but I think the older we get, combined with the older our kids get and have deeper critical thinking abilities, the more important practicing what we preach in regard to healthy eating has become. And that, in fact, has become the passion.
What’s your approach to balancing career and family life in this business?
It’s not easy.
The biggest challenge and the one we find the most important is that when we are home and with our kids, we are not on the computer or phone. We try very hard to work hard when at our businesses, and to be present with our kids when at home.
We are constantly challenged by this, and lately our kids have been reminding us to stop talking about work all the time and to include them in our conversations.
What are the biggest challenges about being a parent in the restaurant industry? The biggest rewards?
Work really never ends when you own your business. This has both rewards and drawbacks. Our children are definitely learning about a strong work ethic, but they don’t always have our full attention when they want it.
What evolutions are you seeing in the industry today when it comes to having a family? Do you think it’s becoming easier?
No, it’s only getting more difficult to succeed in business in NYC.
What tips do you have for other moms in the industry (or someone thinking about having kids)?
Make sure to build a strong team before you have children. We depend heavily on our amazing staff to give our guests consistent and amazing experiences. Without our staff, we would not be successful.
How do you typically celebrate Mother’s Day? Any plans for this year?
I like to go to Jones Beach, whether it’s warm or cold. It’s what we always did growing up and I find peace on the beach, always.