“Mac and cheese is the universal problem solver,” Donny Delessio, chef/owner of Queens Comfort, a comfort food style restaurant in Astoria says. “We grew up eating mac and cheese, and the mac and cheese you get in restaurants is a better product than the boxed mac and cheese we grew up eating.”
Delessio serves three different kinds of mac and cheese at his restaurant, plus a deep-fried, spicy mac and cheese appetizer called “Atomic Fireballs” -- named after the hot cinnamon candy. Nostalgia, and food nostalgia in particular, is the central theme of his restaurant. Vintage toys serve as decor. Childhood photos from customers line the walls. He uses kids’ cereals, like Cap’n Crunch, instead of breading on his fried chicken.
Comfort food is about recreating that safe space in your cooking. What could feel safer than elevated versions of the dishes you ate on your childhood living room floor while watching Legends of the Hidden Temple? Especially, if you can’t make them yourself.
In a study by Morgan Stanley, 53% of millennials eat out at least once a week, a 10% increase from our parent’s generation. Combined, men and women spend about 110 minutes cooking each day -- but in the ‘60s, that number was closer to 150 minutes per day, according to a national survey. Basically, for as much as millennials love food, we’re not cooking for ourselves the way our parents, or grandparents, used to. So, we’re turning to the experts to give us what we want.
“I think American consumers are really, really -- if you’ll pardon the expression -- hungry for [nostalgia],” says Marc Halperin, a food trend expert and co-founder of CCD Innovation, a San Francisco food and beverage development company.