Everyone's got a "Big Daddy" in their family -- that charismatic uncle, aunt or grandma who knows how to work the pots and get everyone into the holiday, reunion, or Sunday dinner spirit.
At Aaron McCargo's house, and on the Food Network show he hosts, he is Big Daddy.
It's a name that garners squeals and applause from adoring (female) fans at the cooking demonstrations he's been hosting across the country since winning the fourth season of the cooking competition "Next Food Network Star," but McCargo maintains that he's just "that average dude, just keeping it real and keeping it simple," when it comes to Sunday dinner.
McCargo's TV stardom calls for lots of time on the road, so when he is home, a home-cooked meal is one thing he says he cherishes the most. So important is it, in fact, that he plans his menu in advance and solicits the help of his son and daughter to prep it a day in advance.
Cooking With Kids
"If you see what goes on in my house, you'd say 'Dude, you are the real deal,'" McCargo jokes, running down the list of ways his kids pitch in on dinner. "They get in and I give them jobs they can handle. At 5 years old I know [my daughter] can pick rosemary, at 7 years old, [my son] can zest lemons and give me the juice. I give them things that they're either going to smell and remember or they're going to eat and say, 'Wow, I love this.'"
He says he's also called on them to crack eggs and peel veggies, while he does the bulk of the heavy work.
McCargo's dishes aren't steeped in any long-standing family traditions, but are instead an opportunity to create new ones. "Since I've been married and had kids, we find it important to sit down at the table and eat dinner at least two or three times a week," he explained. "We try to set Sunday aside as one of those days."
Sundays at Big Daddy's house are simple. There's fellowship at church, football with his brother and then there's the food, of course. McCargo's mastered the art of using ingredients he has on hand, as he did the weekend he sat down to chat with The Huffington Post. Leftover limes from his tequila, some jalapenos from a recent taco night, and boom, his Jalapeno-Lime Chicken dinner was done.
"You don't have to get real deep with cooking," he said. "If I have to go to five different stores to get these eclectic ingredients, I don't want to make the dish. Now it's a job and I don't think cooking should be a job."
This season, McCargo's got lots of savory baked goods in the works, from lasagna and ziti to a beef brisket he plans to use for an entire week of meals, including with gravy, inside a quesadilla, and slathered in BBQ sauce.
For those who can't make it over, McCargo shares one of his beef recipes -- Barbecued Beef with Pickle Slaw on Toasted Soft Rolls -- plus four other Sunday favorites from his debut cookbook Simply Done, Well Done.