Constantly creating a visual feast for her loyal patrons is chef Dawn Burrell. The former Olympic athlete has been running up the ranks in the food industry since she first earned her chops as sous chef at Austin’s Uchiko. Now, the James Beard nominee is busier than ever—starring in this season of Bravo’s Top Chef, opening the doors to Midtown eatery Late August (lucilleshospitalitygroup.com) and constantly concocting new ways to give back to the community.
Burrell’s new concept Late August is set for a spring launch in Midtown. PHOTO BY AMY SCOTT
Every dish Burrell whips up is just as beautiful as it is delicious. PHOTO BY AMY SCOTT
Obviously you are no stranger to taking on new culinary endeavors. Anything in the works for this year that has you excited? I am most looking forward to opening Late August, my new restaurant project under Lucille’s Hospitality Group. I’m so excited and proud to be part of the LHG team. The projects that we have on the horizon will not only provide wonderment through our restaurant efforts, but our work through the nonprofit—Lucille’s 1913—is going to help so many people.
Let’s talk Top Chef Season 18. What can we expect? Ah, ah, ah, I’ll never tell! You’ll have to tune in every Thursday on Bravo TV to find out! What I will say is that this experience was truly one of the most challenging but rewarding experiences of my life—even in comparison to making it to the Olympics. It’s a goal I’ve been working toward for quite some time, so to be a part of Season 18 in Portland and meet so many amazing chefs who are now family truly feels surreal.
What would you say is the best part of your job? The enlightenment I gain through cooking and teaching. I love seeing my cooks at work absorbing what has been taught. And there is nothing better than seeing the emotion on a guest’s face after trying something that we created.
What would you say is your driving force? Every day that I can wake up and create beautiful and nourishing food is an exciting day. What keeps me motivated is knowing that tomorrow I will have another day to do what I love even better.
When did your love for cooking first begin? My love for cooking started when I was very young with my love for food. My fondest memories of my childhood were associated with food in some way. I realized I was a good cook in college. I remember making a West Indian feast of jerk chicken, snapper escabeche, and rice and peas—all with no recipes. I had the meal a few weeks prior, and I remembered the flavor profile. I remembered how the dishes smelled and tasted, then reproduced the meal intuitively. I remember everyone raving about the meal, but I also remember feeling pleased with my work.
Secret weapon? I can pretty much make a dough out of any starch very quickly. I use it to make delicious pocketed bites for an easy but impressive appetizer. No matter what you put in it—baked, fried or steamed—it’s always a crowd-pleaser.
What’s next on the horizon—sky’s the limit? I am treating the world as my oyster; more nonprofit work, other food and beverage projects, and a cookbook are all part of my next set of goals. Right now, I am just going to celebrate this moment!
Photography by: Amy Scott