"He chops, cooks and talks fast."
An accurate description of his father from 14-year-old Tre Cesta. Meanwhile, Vernon Cesta is cutting salad fixings at an alarming rate of speed.
Cesta, of Vernon's Cafe fame, is cooking at home today, something he doesn't mind doing.
Vernon Cesta displays grilled salmon and shrimp, roasted red peppers and salad that he made at his home in Niles.
"I have a passion for food," he said. "I love to cook. I love to eat, also."
Cesta said Sunday and Monday are his days off - part of them, at least. On those days, seafood and pasta are usual fare at home.
"During the summertime, even during the wintertime, we love grilling out," he said.
Grilled Salmon and Shrimp
4 salmon filets, 6 to 8 ounces each
Salt and pepper
Freshwater, tail-on shrimp
Brush salmon filets with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Lay salmon on plate and season with salt and pepper. Mix it around to incorporate the seasonings into the fish, and let it marinate just a little bit.
Make sure grill grates are clean. Spray with cooking spray or brush with oil.
Lay filets down on grill heated as high as it will go (600 degrees). Do not turn until they release from the grates - if it sticks, it's not ready - about 1 1/2 minutes. Once flipped, turn grill heat to medium. Total cooking time about 4 minutes, depending on filets. The fish will be translucent inside.
When seasoning the shrimp, the balsamic vinegar can be omitted. The shrimp doesn't take as long on the grill - it's done as soon as the skins start turning pink.
Roasted Red Peppers
Brush peppers with olive and vegetable oil. Place on grill - high heat if you're watching, medium otherwise. When the skin starts to turn black, put them in a bowl and cover. Let them steam. If desired, remove the skin before serving. They can also be roasted in the oven.
Today's menu is a healthy one, featuring grilled salmon and shrimp with roasted peppers, asparagus and a salad. As listed in the recipe, that's pretty much all that is needed.
"As long as you got salt and pepper, you can do just about anything," Cesta said.
He starts the roasted peppers, which have been brushed with vegetable and olive oil, on the grill right away, then races back in to work on the salad and seafood. The grill is heated to medium, but only because he's busy.
"If I was watching them, I'd turn 'em on high and burn 'em all up," he said. Cesta prefers his with the skin left on.
This chef recently started a backyard garden, which he says he does in his "spare time." That means in the early morning. This bundle of culinary energy goes on about three or four hours of sleep a night.
Cesta offered some tips for working with seafood.
When picking it out at the grocery store, he actually asks to smell it and touch it. As long as it doesn't smell, it's good. And it should be firm to the touch.
"It should smell fresh like the ocean," he said.
Most importantly, he said, don't overcook it, because "you can't go in reverse." The fish should look translucent inside. While this is not what some of us are used to, rest assured, it melts in your mouth.
The kids - there are three at home - eat pretty much everything put on the table, Cesta said. Tre's favorite of his father's cooking is alfredo.
"I don't really have a favorite. I just like it all," said Marina, who just this week graduated from high school.
Wife Janeen cooks on the nights when her husband is working, but she admits that with their schedule, things get pretty crazy.
"If we're busy, I'll call Vernon and say, 'I'll take three chicken parms,'" she said.
The kitchen at home features commercial-grade, stainless steel appliances with a design that opens to the living area. The faucet turns on with just a touch.
If the meal at home is pasta, the sauce might include garlic, olive oil, mushrooms and asparagus. Or just butter and Parmesan. Sometimes, they use Vernon's sauce, too.
Although he tries to keep it healthy, Cesta has a passion for another food.
"I'm a big hot dog freak," he said.
The most he's eaten in one sitting is 12, and he likes them with hot peppers and mustard.
"We'll tear up some wings, too," he said.
Cesta cleans as he goes - he doesn't like making a big mess. The grill is brushed immediately after cooking, which means it will be ready for the next meal, whoever the lucky recipient of that will be.
"I don't consider my type of work a job. I love it so much," he said. "I enjoy making people happy."