Ask A Philadelphia Chef: Top Mother’s Day Brunch Recipes

May 8, 2013 7:00 AM

May 12 is Mother’s Day. Show mom some extra love with a brunch inspired by some of Philadelphia’s top restaurants. Three executive chefs share a few of their favorite recipes so you can recreate them in the comfort of your own home.
Justin Swain
REX 1516
1516 South St.
Philadelphia, PA 19146
(267) 319-1366

Philadelphia’s Chef Justin Swain was trained by Alabamian Chef Regis Jansen before taking over the position of Executive Chef at REX 1516 in 2012. Here, Chef Swain combines his classical training with Southern influences to create the updated comfort food that has made REX 1516 so popular. These recipes for cornmeal waffles and sweet potato biscuits are part of the restaurant’s brunch menu and are excellent for Mother’s Day. Swain serves the waffles with homemade whipped cream, powdered sugar and orange maple syrup, though he notes that they’d also be wonderful with fresh berries. Versatile sweet potato biscuits are offered at the restaurant with eggs, chorizo gravy and sage, but you could also eat them with jam and clotted cheese for a simpler presentation.

Cornmeal Waffles


  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 stick melted butter (cooled back to room temperature)
  • 3 eggs


  1. Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl until well combined without any lumps.
  2. Use a Belgian waffle maker for best results.

Sweet Potato Biscuits


  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potato puree
  • 4 ounces grated frozen butter
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Using a stand mixer, combine puree, butter and vinegar until mixed thoroughly.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together all dry ingredients to fully mix.
  4. Add dry ingredients to puree mixture and mix until a ball of dough forms.
  5. Roll dough on a floured surface, folding dough back over itself each time to create layers in the biscuits.
  6. Roll dough out a final time to a 1/2-inch thick and use a 2-inch ring mold to cut out circles of dough.
  7. Place biscuits on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
Gerald Drummond
Granite Hill in Philadelphia Museum of Art
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 763-8100

Light and airy Granite Hill echoes the elegant yet approachable feel of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is where it’s located. The French bistro-style restaurant is open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday, dinner on Fridays and Sunday brunch. Executive Chef Gerald Drummond recommends this crème brulee French toast, a decadent version of the classic brunch favorite.

Crème Brulee French Toast


  • 1 loaf of large Brioche bread (Challah or Pullman style), cut into 3/4-inch slices
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 7 egg yolks
  • Vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 pint blueberries, washed
  • 1/2 pint strawberries, washed
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons triple sec (optional)


  1. To create the crème brulee mixture, combine cream, milk, vanilla bean and 1 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil and then turn off.
  2. Let the mixture steep for 1 hour.
  3. Combine the remaining sugar and egg yolks and set aside.
  4. With the stove on low, slowly heat the cream mixture until warm.
  5. Slowly add the cream mixture to the egg mixture, stirring constantly.
  6. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer.
  7. Let mixture cool overnight.
  8. The next morning, take the brioche bread and soak in the crème brulee mixture for 5 minutes.
  9. Using a flat-top griddle or cast-iron pan, melt butter and add brioche.
  10. Brown bread on both sides for 2-3 minutes each.
  11. Repeat until all bread has been grilled. (Keep pieces warm while cooking.)
  12. To make maple mascarpone, combine the mascarpone, maple syrup and lemon zest. Set aside.
  13. To make the berry compote, mix all of the berries and add sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  14. If desired, add triple sec and mix to incorporate, being careful not to crush the berries.
  15. To assemble, place two slices of toast on each plate.
  16. Spoon 2 tablespoons of mixed berry compote on top of the toast.
  17. Place a dollop of maple mascarpone on top of the fruit.
  18. Finish with a drizzle of warm maple syrup.
Jim Coleman
Chez Colette at Sofitel Philadelphia Hotel
120 S. 17th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 569-8300

After nine years in Blue Bell, Chef Jim Coleman returned to Center City in 2012 as the executive chef at Chez Colette at Sofitel Hotel. Located just outside Rittenhouse Square, the chic Sofitel brings the charm of 1920’s French décor and cuisine to Philadelphia. Chez Colette is the hotel’s brasserie and offers breakfast every day as well as an amazing Sunday brunch. The lobster salad is one of chef Coleman’s favorite Mother’s Day brunch recipes.

Lobster and Mixed-Herb Salad with Watercress Dressing

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of watercress, stems trimmed
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 sprig of fresh chervil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 4 frozen lobster tails (6 to 8 ounces each), thawed
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh chervil leaves
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • 2 cups mesclun salad mix (or other mixed greens), washed
  • 1 tomato, cut in half, seeds and pulp removed, and julienned
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, seeded and julienned
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned


  1. Puree the watercress, onion, vinegar and chervil in a food processor to create the dressing.
  2. With the machine running, slowly add the oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. To prepare the lobster, add salt, peppercorn and lemon to a large saucepan of boiling water.
  4. Use a bamboo skewer to skewer each lobster tail lengthwise. Add to the pan.
  5. Poach lobster 3 or 4 minutes, or until cooked through.
  6. Remove the lobster tails using tongs. To stop the cooking process, hold lobsters under cool running water.
  7. After pulling out the skewers, remove the lobster meat from the shells. Use kitchen scissors to cut underneath the membrane. Cut meat into 1/4-inch slices.
  8. To assemble the salad, combine the chervil, basil, parsley, tarragon and any other greens in a large bowl.
  9. Add the dressing and toss to coat evenly.
  10. Arrange the salad in the middle of four serving plates and fan the lobster pieces around the greens.
  11. Garnish the salad with the tomato slices and peppers.
Michelle Hein is a copy editor for a women’s fashion company in Bucks County by day and a self-proclaimed food and drink fanatic by night and weekend. She enjoys attending wine classes, trying new recipes in the kitchen and going to old favorites and new restaurants alike in the Bucks County and Philadelphia area. If the writing gig doesn’t pan out, she constantly dreams of owning her own bakery…perhaps connected to the restaurant/bar that her lawyer boyfriend would love to open.

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