Cooking up togetherness

NEWPORT BEACH — From her mother's kitchen "classroom," a top culinary school in New York and then hosting a national radio program, local resident and celebrity chef Jamie Gwen owes the journey to her most loyal fan: her mother.

"We have been very, very blessed to be best friends from Jamie's early age, on up," Gwen's mother, Lana Sills, said Friday. "We are BFFs."

The duo are also partners in branding "Chef Jamie" as a nationally recognized culinary icon. Gwen hosts a live, weekly Southern California radio show, "Food & Wine with Chef Jamie Gwen;" has co-hosted on "Living Today," a Martha Stewart Living Radio program; and is a four-time cookbook author.

Even as a child, it was apparent that Gwen had a career as a chef before her, Sills said.

Gwen's constant childhood perch was the kitchen countertop where her mother's lessons imparted an early love of cooking.

"She was a very kind child," Sills said. "She was always wanting to be helpful. She'd sit on the counter, watch me cook and want to stir everything. As years progressed, she would do more and more until she was doing her own desserts."

By her teen years, Gwen had taken those lessons and turned them into a dessert catering business. The pair even worked through all of Julia Child's recipes together years before the Nora Ephron movie "Julie & Julia" hit theaters in 2009.

"All of our best memories were in the kitchen," Gwen said of growing up. "We still are either in her kitchen or mine."

However, like all relationships — be it friends, family or business partners — they have their ups and downs, but always manage to "iron out their differences," Sills said.

"Our friendship and core relationship sustains us," Gwen said.

This Mother's Day, Gwen and Sills will celebrate both over brunch with friends and then later, a barbecue in which Gwen plans on cooking some of her mother's favorite dishes. Among the menu items will be a rib-eye with a gorgonzola cream sauce and grilled sweet corn with bacon.

"On Mother's Day — and I know that I am — I hope that most children are even more acknowledging and grateful of what their mothers have done for them," Gwen said.

Her mother has been a constant support, and the pair works up to 40 hours a week together to produce Gwen's radio program, Gwen said.

"My mom is the most giving, caring, warm, generous and loving woman that you will ever meet," Gwen said. "She is patient and dedicated and loyal as the day is long, and I try every day to emulate who and what she is."

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