Cooks At Home Chief Bernadette DiPino

By Megan Greenberg / Photography By Kathryn Brass-Piper | November 17, 2016
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Cooks At Home


Tradition. What does that even mean these days? In an era where new trends crop up every 9.64 seconds, and "old school" thinking gets a bad rep, it's hard to know what constitutes classic or what one should consider obsolete.

Ah, but food. That's our go-to as humanity, the cord that keeps us connected. Sure, different cultures may have different customs and picky eaters may create a spiral in the strand, but ultimately breaking bread is common amongst us all. Whether you're from Florida, France or Fiji, we all share similar memories of holiday gatherings and family feasts. And you can be damn sure an Italian police officer from Maryland has more than her fair share of iconic images to fuel her love of food.

"The best thing about cooking is socializing and sitting down with loved ones," says Bernadette DiPino, who currently serves as Sarasota's chief of police. Though she's considered one of the best cooks in her family, her job often keeps her away from the kitchen. However, when holidays roll around, Bernadette serves a heaping helping of her heritage by cooking family recipes and gathering her group to celebrate. "Every time I make one of my grandparents' dishes, it brings them back to life," she says earnestly. "Food is tradition, it's memories and sharing love, it's a special connection with the past."

Bernadette has a long list of family traditions. She's been in law enforcement for 31 years, following in the steps of her father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Her daughter, another gastronome, is also an officer. In case you lost count, that's five generations of law enforcement and only the tip of the iceberg of how far back this family's love of food goes.

Most of Bernadette's mealtime memories center around her grandparents' kitchen. Her best hand-me-downs are stuffed artichokes and holiday honey cakes, a crispy fried treat dripping with sweet honey and covered in crunchy nuts.

"My grandparents only taught a few of us how to make them, so it's a secret family recipe even within our family. It's not just about sharing the recipe; my grandfather taught me to understand the dough with my hands, how to measure the silkiness and to be able to feel when the dough was ready," she adds. "It's something I get to pass down to my daughter and she can pass down to her kids."

"Tradition was such a big part of our family ritual," Bernadette says. "Every single night we would have a sit-down, home-cooked meal. We would share what happened in our day as an opportunity for our family to bond," she continues. "We're missing that in today's society."

Considering the chief of police has more insight into the community than most of us, I'm bound to agree. There's something sweet about the nostalgia of yesteryear's mealtime– an ingredient missing in far too many homes.

"Whether you're mourning someone, celebrating something, or just having Sunday breakfast, food is a part of the process. Food brings families together."

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