WHERE do chefs develop their tastes, techniques and recipes? Cooking school? Apprenticeships? More often than not, it's an education that started in mum's kitchen . . . although they sometimes didn't appreciate it at the time. Jean-Luc Amann grew up in France surrounded by a huge garden. This idyllic situation was a source of abundant fresh vegetables, but a delight the young Amann, now executive chef at The Repulse Bay, was sometimes blind to. ''In the summer my friend would say 'Jean-Luc, come swimming or fishing', but I had to stay behind to work in the garden.'' If it wasn't digging, hoeing or picking, then it was pickling vegetables. But he does admit this is where his love of top-quality produce comes from, and he still relishes the seasonal nature of vegetables: ''When the spinach was over, there were turnips and potatoes to look forward to.'' This is reflected in his own cooking. ''When you've got good items, why cover them with sauces?'' But for Karin Joffe, home cooking was anything but traditional - occasionally with alarming results. ''My mother was always very adventurous and usually things worked out,'' said the executive chef-general manager of California Restaurant. But not the day she produced spaghetti and tinned sardines. ''When it appeared on the table, we kids started yelling and screaming. For years we'd kid her about it and she'd go red with embarrassment. These days, of course, everyone puts pasta with fish.'' Despite this setback, the Los Angeles native credits her mother with instilling in her a love of unusual dishes. ''She always ordered the strangest dish on the menu. I do that now, I have a compulsion to pick the oddest things.'' Chow Chung, executive chef of Hyatt Regency's The Chinese Restaurant, has a lot to thank his mother for - except the recipes for his favourite dishes. ''My mother was the only person in my family to recognise my talents as a cook.'' Having put him ''on the straight and narrow'' as he puts it, she introduced Chow to many traditional dishes. But she didn't tell him everything. ''Even after years my mother still refused to part with her secrets.'' One day Chow hid in the kitchen cupboard and peeped through a crack as she prepared ingredients for braised pigeon stuffed with eight treasures. ''I carefully remembered the amounts of the soy, ginger, salt and sugar she so secretly set aside. But you know, when I tried to prepare the dish, it still wasn't the same as hers.'' The food at Jennifer Migliorelli's home was anything but traditional - like Peking duck for Thanksgiving and sashimi for Christmas - and she now appreciates the culinary education her mother gave her. ''My dad travelled a lot with the military and he would create a menu and my mum would execute it,'' explains the executive chef of LA Cafe who grew up in California, Virginia and Tennessee. Her friends would offer her money for her school lunch bag. ''I took the money and bought junk food,'' she laughs.