Family Dinner

For Radio City Rockette Khori Petinaud, Family Dinner Is Often “Fast & Furious”

During the week, it’s all about subscription boxes and carb-loading. But Sundays are for feasting with family.

In her first year as a Radio City Rockette, New York City-based dancer and performer Khori Petinaud’s working mom life is “fast and furious.” And, while most of us can’t relate to performing up to four 90-minute shows back-to-back — with no intermission, mind you — many of us can relate to being the busy working mother of a toddler. When Petinaud wraps up at Radio City, she heads home to her husband Wayne and their toddler, Carver, with just enough time for a quick family dinner before tucking their almost 2-year-old into bed. The juggle sounds impossible — and doesn’t it always? — but she pulls it off, and with a little more Rockette sparkle than most, of course.

We caught up with Khori between shows at Radio City to chat about the joys of marrying into a huge, food-loving family, how subscription boxes help on hectic weeknights, learning to carb-load between shows, and the best pecan pie recipe, ever. Here’s how she balances a demanding schedule with the demands of motherhood.

What does family dinner look like for you right now with the schedule of a Rockette at Christmastime?

Well, family dinners during the week don't really happen consistently. My son is at school until my husband gets off work. Once we're all home together, we're focused on getting our son fed and getting him to the bed. We do try to eat together, but it’s pretty quick on weekday evenings. On Sundays we love to do a family dinner. My husband was born and raised in Brooklyn, so his whole family lives in New York.

Petinaud and her fellow Rockettes at Radio City.MSG Entertainment

So, let’s talk about a busy weekday. When my son was Carver’s age, we would feed him and then we would eat later. Is that kind of what it looks like for you right now?

That's basically what it looks like! Yeah, because we want to get him into bed. My husband picks him up from school and I take him to school, so when he gets home, the first thing he says when he walks in the door is “eat, eat, eat.” My husband typically has his dinner in the oven on a very low temperature, ready to go, so that as soon as he walks in the door, my son can eat.

Do you meal plan or meal prep?

Yeah, we try to. Carver loves [Jamaican] beef patties, so we typically make a whole bunch of those and then freeze them so that they can be popped in the oven and I’ll make some kind of vegetable to go with it at the top of the week. As for me, typically I’m always kind of loading up on carbs. Especially during the Rockette season, because we’re doing so many shows that I'm trying to make sure I'm keeping my energy up. And then when I get home I wanna make sure that I’m having a lot of protein. We do Butcher Box [a meat subscription box], so I have a whole bunch of different meat in the freezer or ready in the fridge for either myself, my husband or my son.

Wow, so you do a lot of top of the week meal prep?

Well, I try to. It doesn't always happen! Sundays are typically the day that I like to do it, so it just depends on what our Sunday show schedule is, like whether I'm tired when I get home. And my husband will also do a lot of prepping as well. He’s really more of the cook in our family than I am.

That's awesome. I think that's a great division of labor! I'm interested to know what you like to eat. You said carbs are important for energy, that makes sense! As an athlete, you must be burning so much energy. Do you do two shows a day? Or more?

Well, today we did three. I think the max that we’ll do this season is four in one day. So it's definitely a long day of shows. So I’m trying to make sure that I’m staying properly nourished, but also not wanting to eat too much because I still have a lot of shows to do. It’s a balance that, to be honest with you, I'm still trying to find. Today, I feel really good. I had some avocado toast and some fruit and yogurt. That was delicious and I felt like it gave me a great mix of fat and carbs and all the things I needed, but it also didn’t feel like too much. Lots of carbs, but also light, which felt good to go into the next show.

But, then when I get home, I'm planning on having a big, big, big, big dinner. I meal-prepped a bunch of chicken, and I'll make some rice and vegetables. That’s really typical for me, I'm kind of boring. My husband is the fun cook, and he’s always making fun and fancy things. I'm just like — a meat, a carb, and a vegetable.

On Sundays you often have big family dinners with your husband’s family. I want to hear about what those look like.

Yes! We host them. We've been doing it for a really long time. My husband and I have been together for 16 years, and married for 12, and pretty much from the moment I met him we were doing Sunday dinners. It used to be that we would go to my mother-in-law’s house and she would cook all these amazing things that we would have for Sunday dinner. And then once we had my son, Carver, everyone started coming to our place.

So we host, but my mother-in-law is still cooking the food, because all of us love her food and she's such an amazing cook. It’s one of my favorite things that I do with my husband’s family, especially because my husband has a bigger family than I do. I'm an only child, and one of the things that I really loved about my husband when I met him was how loving and big of a family he had. I always wanted that growing up, so it was really cool to join that family tradition with my husband and to be able to share that with him.

What did family dinners look like in the home you grew up in? It sounds like maybe there wasn’t so much cooking?

Well, my mother is a very successful business woman, so she was always very busy and not a cook. And I always had ballet or something after school, so we were a stop-and-pick-something-up kind of family, all the time. I was trying to stay relatively healthy, because I was dancing, but we would order out a lot because my mom just didn't have time to cook very much. I didn't even get home most days until seven or eight o’clock.

So that was a big transition for me when I moved to New York to go to college. It was the first time that I was really learning what I needed to do for myself to make sure that I stayed nourished. I needed to feed myself healthy things, but I couldn’t afford to be going to restaurants every day. I had to get creative and figure out the things that I liked. One of my roommates from college — who is still my best friend now — would cook a lot of pasta dishes and I started to copy her, and it just kind of evolved from there.

Backstage at Radio City. The Rockettes do their own hair and makeup!MSG Entertainment

If you have a little time to cook, do you have a favorite meal or recipe that you’re really jazzed to make, or a go-to comfort meal?

Yeah. Pecan pie. I was in a culinary class in high school and I won a competition for this recipe. I make a very, very good pecan pie. I have a secret way that I make it. For Thanksgiving, I made a bunch of pecan pies. Actually, I'm probably gonna make some tonight because my sister-in-law is a nurse, so she wasn’t able to be with us for Thanksgiving. I had made a pie and of course my husband and I ate it all, and she called and she was like do you have any pie left? And I was like, oops. So I'm gonna make her one tonight so she can have it to take home.

So, pecan pie is a big thing that I love. But, I'm really a meat-and-potatoes kind of gal. I love steak. If I could eat that every day, I would, because I love a big steak. Like a New York strip steak with mashed potatoes and green beans. If it was healthy to eat that every day, I would. I also love salmon. My husband and I have a few subscription boxes for different things and we have a subscription box for fresh fish that we get every week. So we have fish at least twice a week that we can defrost and it's easy to make. Carver will eat it, too.

I think he's going to love this show, and then it's just like, the cherry on the pie that I'm also in the show.

Let’s go back to Carver. What does he eat? Has he gotten picky yet?

He's a little picky. It's funny, he's like a color snob. Like, he won't even taste something if he's looking at it and he doesn't like the color of it. He’s such a toddler. He loves broccoli, but then anything else green he hates. Yeah. So it's very strange. You know, I try to ride away with him, but I also... like my husband and I, before we even had him, we were also very firm about, Hey, we're not gonna be making five or six different meals for you to eat. This is what mommy and daddy made, so we gotta eat this.

With the holidays coming up, is there a specific holiday food that you're super excited to make or that you think Carver is gonna be excited about?

Yeah! I think this is going to be the first year that we can actually start to implement some traditions that I'm hoping that we can start doing regularly. For example, my husband is actually bringing my son to the Christmas Spectacular next week, which I'm so excited about.

Oh! That is so exciting. Has he seen you perform yet?

He's never seen me perform! He's been too young, and everything that I've been in prior to the show wouldn't have been appropriate for him to see anyway. So I'm just so excited for him to be able to see the Christmas Spectacular and for him to just enjoy the magic. He's at the perfect age, and he actually really loves dance. So I think he's going to love this show, and then it's just like, the cherry on the pie that I'm also in the show, which I think is gonna be super cool.

[Ed note — a few days after this chat, this happened!...]

When you get through this really busy holiday season, will your schedule calm down a little bit?

Unfortunately I'm not going to have much time off. Once I'm done with the Christmas Spectacular, I'm starting another project that's gonna put me back on a Broadway show schedule, so I won't have my evenings anymore. Family dinner time will actually go away for a little, which I'm kind of sad about. It was one of the things that I’ve loved about the Christmas Spectacular schedule. Because I'm in the blue company, and we do shows in the mornings, it's allowed me to have my evenings with my family, which I haven't had in a long time because I had been on a Broadway schedule where we work at night. So in January, I'm going to be going back to that schedule, and I'm really trying to savor this time.

How do you make that work? Are you able to carve out some time with Carver in the morning? Does breakfast become more of a family meal time?

Well, it’s not a family meal time, but it is a mommy-and-me time. I do the mornings and my husband does the evenings, just based on our schedules. I wake up sometime between 5:30 and 6 so that I can get myself together before Carver gets up. Then we have breakfast together and he loves, loves, loves this fancy oatmeal that my husband makes him. My husband typically will make like a huge, huge batch of it and then I can heat up in the mornings. And then to get to his school, we have to take a train and then it’s a mile walk on either side. We have that whole time where we're walking together and we sing songs and so on. So the morning is Mom-and-Carver time and then the evening is Daddy-and-Carver time.

What is in this magical oatmeal?

Oh yeah! So it’s oats, obviously. And then my husband puts cashew butter, chia seeds, vanilla extract and milk and he crushes almonds in there. My son is obsessed. He loves it. It's delicious.

That sounds amazing. What does your husband do? It sounds like he’s a great cook.

My husband's a recruiter actually, but he just enjoys cooking. I think it's because he grew up with a mom that always cooked him like three-course meals for every meal. His mom would make him, like, pancakes and eggs and bacon every morning, like he'd have a whole spread for breakfast in the mornings. It’s just something that he also enjoys when he has the time and energy to do it.

You know, we’re a fast and furious family. Just two working parents juggling a lot of different things, but we do find time to have those special meals together and I really love that about my family. I'm just feeling really blessed right now just to be able to actually have the family dinners, especially this holiday season.

Khori Petinaud’s Pecan Pie

3 eggs

1 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 and 1/2 cup of pecans (blended until they have a crumbly texture)

1 cup of light corn syrup

2 tablespoons of butter, melted

1 store-bought pie crust (I like to use regular and not deep dish)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, and butter. Fold in the crumbled pecans.

Pour filling into the pie crust and bake for 60 to 70 minutes. Let cool for about an hour and enjoy!