Chef Ray Dawson Dishin’ with DOB
With an early job as sous chef at Asia De Cuba in Los Angeles, an unbeatable work ethic and a love for adventure, Chef Ray Dawson chatted with doB about inspiration, ingredients and influence.
“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” – Julia Child
Who: Chef Ray Dawson, Culinary Coordinator and Chef
Where: The International Culinary Center in New York City
Who has been the biggest influence in your life, personally or professionally? Personally, my Father. Professionally, Chef Daniel Roberts.
How did your teenage job as a dishwasher convince you to pursue a career in the culinary arts? During my time as a dishwasher I began to assist the cooks with prep and developed an interest in food. The more of an opportunity I had to work with the food, the happier I was. It came to a point where I was looking forward to going to work. That is why I chose to become a Chef. Not many people can say that they are excited about going to work.
Does your passion for the outdoors, hunting and camping influence your style of cooking? My hobbies (the outdoors) play a significant role in my cooking. I enjoy cooking over open flames (campfire) and working with wild game.
What were some difficulties you faced on the road to success? Some of the difficulties working your way up as a Chef are the long hours. In my early and mid twenties, as a line cook and Chef, there was not much time for social engagements. I lost many of my old friends because I just wasn’t around. However, I made many new friends from working in restaurants. My wife being the best one.
If you had to choose a favorite breakfast, lunch or dinner recipe, what would it be? Breakfast: Belgian waffles with real maple syrup; Lunch: Italian hero; Dinner: Grilled steak.
What do you think of molecular food…soulless or inspiring? I think that molecular gastronomy is very interesting and certainly has its place. However, I think that people should first learn how to cook the old-fashioned way before they try to use newer techniques.
What are your favorite ingredients? Truffles, olives, red meat, seasonal produce.
Tell us about your worst disaster. As a young line cook cooking steaks for a large party, I mixed up my trays of cooked meat and the majority of steaks went out cooked incorrectly. They all came back and the Chef was not happy.
Tell us about your greatest success. My greatest success has been expediting very busy kitchens in excess of 600 covers a night.
What advice would you give to aspiring chefs? Follow your passion and work hard. Ask good questions and listen even better.
What would you say to someone who is intimidated by cooking and won’t set foot in the kitchen? Don’t be afraid of the kitchen. For amateur cooks, just follow the recipe, and for professional cooks, just do what the Chef says. The kitchen is a great place to be creative and to let who you really are come through.
Follow your dreams. In the end you’ll see how truly grate you are.