By Kristi Willis
Photography by Kate LeSueur
On a weekend morning, the activity at the Byreses’ ranch-style house in North Dallas wavers between energetic and chaotic. Tim and his wife, Mo, merged their families a few years ago, bringing together under one roof Tim’s teenage boys, Liam, age 16, and Finnley, age 13; Mo’s daughter Frankie, age 10, and mom, Mimi; as well as several cats, dwarf hamsters and a bearded dragon.
With that big of a crew, life gets a little hectic, and weekend breakfasts have become the time for the family to reconnect before Tim heads off to his popular restaurants, Smoke and Chicken Scratch. Waffles are a favorite on Sunday mornings and, over time, the family created a recipe together for toasted coconut and caramelized banana waffles—adding tastes for everyone at the table.
“The first adaptation was substituting coconut milk on a day when the regular milk was long gone,” says Tim. “Then came the toasted coconut flakes. The sugary banana was for Finnley, who had a short, but solid obsession with the word banana. My older son, Liam, can eat all the bacon on the plate if not patrolled, and my daughter, Frankie, dips and drizzles with sorghum—first brought home from a Deep South excursion. The apricots are for Mo because they’re bright and fresh, just like her smile.”
Everyone pitches in to make breakfast: Liam grabs the mixing bowl and finds ingredients, and Frankie helps set the table while Finnley sits on the side “supervising” Dad. Mo’s the traffic director—scooting kids around the kitchen and out from under Tim’s feet and shooing curious cats searching for goodies away from the counter.
Despite Tim’s restaurant success, the kids are unimpressed with any fancy preparations in the home kitchen. One night when Mo was out, Tim made coq au vin for dinner and only Liam would eat it. The other two headed for the cereal box.
Mo forgets about Tim’s skills, too, even though they met while working at the Mansion at Turtle Creek. Tim offered to make a cake for their Halloween party and Mo began to question whether he could make it to her satisfaction. He answered, a little incredulously, “Honey, I’m a trained chef. I can make a cake.”
Those chef skills are apparent in the tasty touches to the waffles, too, like folding the toasted coconut into the batter, rather than just sprinkling it on top. Tim also shows off his knife skills by coring the lemons to remove the seeds—making them easier to squeeze onto the apricots without getting unwanted seeds in the mix.
This morning, Tim gets creative and decides to put the bananas inside the waffle iron with the batter. Mo raises her eyebrows and asks, “Is that going to work?” Tim shrugs and says, “We’ll see.” The kids look suspicious and the boys lean over the counter to get a better look, or possibly to be closer when the first plate is ready.
The aroma of banana and coconut fills the kitchen while Tim tends to the thick cuts of bacon in the cast-iron skillet. “Dad, please don’t burn my waffle,” Finnley prompts—fearing Dad might have become distracted.
Tim removes the first waffle from the iron and one of the kids exclaims, “You did it!” Tim sighs and answers, “Surprised?” He runs a growing restaurant group, but he may face his toughest critics at home.
With the final plate dished up, everyone adds their toppings: a little fruit, a drizzle of syrup, a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Finnley and Frankie show off their playfulness by decorating their waffles with smiley faces, and then they dig in. Tim starts dipping his bacon in the sorghum syrup and everyone follows his lead. A chorus of “this is good!” rises from the table as they move into the easy chatter of a family happy to be spending the morning together enjoying their favorite meal.