Roots

Chef Dan Jackson Returns to His Roots for Father’s Day

By: Hannah Lee Leidy

For chef Dan Jackson, of Osteria Georgi, running a restaurant and being a father share a lot of parallels. Both places—restaurant and home—require leading with empathy and kindness, and it’s important that everyone has fun while making progress.

But the restaurant industry holds significance beyond Jackson’s leadership style: He and his wife Stephanie met while working together at Eleven Madison Park in New York, where he worked in the kitchen while she was in the front of the house. Jackson built his experience over the years, working in other prominent restaurant groups and, notably, winning FoodNetwork’s Chopped in June 2021.

Jackson and his family left New York in 2020, returning to Jackson’s hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. There he works as the executive chef and partner at Osteria Georgi, a modern-upscale Italian concept from North Carolina restaurateur Giorgios Bakatarsias.

Returning to Chapel Hill is more than just a relocation for Jackson and his family. He grew up in the heart of the university town, where he became enamored with the school and the community. Sharing his expertise in the heart of town, Jackson’s role allows him to gives back to the community he loves. And most importantly, he’s introducing his three children to memories and experiences from his own childhood.

Fathers Day Shoot Food

Dan Jackson, of Osteria Georgi, on Father’s Day

For you, cooking is centric in your professional life. What role does it play in your personal life, is it different? How do you separate cooking at work versus cooking at home?

Since I’m cooking all day at work, I don’t like to go home and cook. But I do prepare breakfasts and lunches for my kids. We have five-year-old twins and a seven-year-old. When I was growing up, my dad always prepared breakfast, so I’m a little nostalgic about this.

Do you think fatherhood has influenced your approach to cooking and leading a staff?

Yes! It’s like two teams that I’m responsible for, and I approach them similarly. Our team at Osteria Georgi, we all really enjoy working together. That’s important. We have fun together and want to be around each other. I’m not a big disciplinarian, but you do need to be to some degree. You also have to lead with empathy and kindness, and I try to do that in both places. I love both families, and I try to lead that way.

What do you like to cook with your kids?

Brunch is probably my favorite. I let them do what they can. They love to crack eggs and mix batter. It’s all about keeping it simple and fun. We make my dad’s famous scrambled eggs, which he finishes with cream cheese (something I grew up with that he learned growing up in Ohio). And there’s always bacon! Currently, it’s from Kinston, North Carolina. Plus pancakes or waffles—my son loves them with peanut butter. And fruit.

Fathers Day Shoot Jackson Family

What Father’s Day traditions are you looking forward to celebrating this year?

Well, it definitely begins with sleeping in after a busy Saturday night at Osteria Georgi. Then coffee and the New York Times, followed by a day of hanging out with my kids and watching the US Open, which usually coincides with Father’s Day.

We’ll head over to my parent’s house for an early dinner. But our first Father’s Day in Chapel Hill was two years ago, and it coincided with Stephanie being diagnosed with brain cancer. She’s cancer free now, and we’re so thankful, and enjoying developing new family traditions.

If you could pick one dish to make for your own father on Father’s Day, what would it be?

My dad is a meat-and-potatoes guy. He loves fried chicken! This is true picnic chicken. This recipe is one of Gabrielle Hamilton’s that I’ve tweaked. I love the idea of intentionally frying chicken to serve the next day, and this recipe ensures it holds up well.

I add onions to the buttermilk marinade, which is a trick from Eleven Madison Park. We used to make fried chicken for a Kentucky Derby party. You know, Mama Dip’s put Chapel Hill on the map, and they’re known for fried chicken, and I think it really resonates here with my community. Oh, and I cast iron fry it in duck fat!

Dan Jackson’s Father’s Day Menu

Picnic Fried Chicken 

Spring Pea and Strawberry Caprese

Tuna Tramezzini

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