Chef Jameson O’Donnell has been turning out great food at Cake for almost eight years.

by April Lisante

First an introduction: My journey with food began as a child living in a Sicilian household with extended family, and by that I mean grandmothers who like to stuff you with food. My relationship with food has always been healthy and experimental. I was eating artichokes by age 4 and drinking cappuccino by my elementary years. With sushi, I was ahead of the curve, explaining to high school friends why California rolls and spicy tuna were amazing. Factor in my college experience in Washington, D.C., in the mid ‘90s, and you can safely say I became a lover of all foods international, from falafel to Indian naan.

So when I decided to break the barrier from news to features in 2001 at the Philadelphia Daily News, after writing news for about eight years, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to read, write and edit recipes. I wanted to do features about holiday entertaining and everything in between. I was no food critic. I just wanted to approach it as a reporting beat and absorb as much as I could by interviewing chefs, going into kitchens and just learning.

Within three years of becoming the food editor, I met my husband, a pastry chef at City Tavern in Old City. Karma. We got married, opened a restaurant that survived two years, and had twin babies in the interim. Now, I dedicate my writing to exploring new and exciting foods and restaurants, and that is what I would like to do here in this column.

I’d like to feature our area’s best eateries, offer recipes and insights from chefs and owners and essentially start conversations about food, entertaining and life. Please enjoy this first column, and please send feedback and ideas to

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. and if you haven’t made brunch reservations, fear not. Making mom her special meal at home can be an easy affair. This week, we asked Grey Heck, owner of Cake in Chestnut Hill, to help us set an at-home table and cook the ultimate comfort food for mom, with techniques she uses at the brunch mainstay.

Heck, a Culinary Institute of America Napa Valley grad who opened Cake on Evergreen Avenue in 2000, has been in the greenhouse at 8501 Germantown Ave. since 2008, where locals wait patiently for an hour or more to sit for her breakfast and lunch creations. Cake’s quiches are one of the staples that keep diners coming back for more. Heck’s chef, Jameson O’Donnell, has been with her for nearly eight years, creating a cult of sorts with his quiches, from sundried tomato, spinach and goat cheese to ham, leek and Gruyere.

Before we get to the top-secret recipe, we asked Heck how to make Mother’s Day special without having to make a reservation anywhere. First, make sure fresh flowers are on the table.

“I like doing many of the same type of flower, and I like having extra flowers (arranged) so mom can take them home,” Heck said.

Next, make sure fresh fruit is sliced and nicely presented. Heck prefers berries, melons and pineapple. And don’t forget to use herbs in what you are cooking and to garnish the plates. Parsley is perfect, as is rosemary, which is more wilt-resistant.

A basket of baked goods is a must – scones, muffins or Danish. (This is another way to avoid breaking out the waffle iron: if Belgian waffles are a must, opt for frozen Belgian waffles. Wegman’s has a gourmet frozen version; heating them in the oven until slightly crisp rather than the toaster can work.)

For the main course, skip time-consuming omelets and opt for quiche, which can sit out after it is cooked, and each one serves at least four people. Heck pulled the restaurant’s recipe for spinach, sun-dried tomato and goat cheese quiche from the vault to share with readers this week:

Spinach, sun-dried tomato and goat cheese quiche, serves 4 to 6: One 9-inch deep dish pie shell (unbaked); 1 cup chopped, cooked spinach, drained; ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced thin; ½ cup crumbled goat cheese; 6 extra-large eggs; 6 ounces heavy cream; 6 ounces whole milk; 1 teaspoon chopped parsley; 1 teaspoon salt; ½ teaspoon white pepper; ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread spinach, tomatoes and goat cheese evenly in the bottom of the pie shell. Whisk the remaining ingredients in a medium size bowl. Pour whisked ingredients into pie shell to top spinach, tomato and cheese. Bake for 45 minutes, rotating the pie dish in the oven every 15 minutes. Allow to rest for 30 minutes before cutting and eating.

April Lisante is a resident of Flourtown.