LOVELAND, Ohio - We invite you to dig into our column spotlighting chefs from the Greater Cincinnati area. Each Sunday, WCPO contributor Grace Yek, takes you into their kitchens and talks to them about their food. The chefs reveal their inspirations, philosophies, and provide a glimpse of their authentic selves.
David Cook learned as a teenager you should never eat the food that is meant for meal service.
“I was working at LaRosa’s. There was a shrimp left over after I had sent out an order of shrimp and fries,” Cook recalled. So he ate the extra shrimp. According to Cook, his boss said, "You can't eat that shrimp," and then showed him the door.
Today, Cook is the chef and owner of Daveed’s NEXT Restaurant & Catering in Loveland. Cook, who is originally from New Jersey, moved with his family to Cincinnati at the age of 14. He started working in restaurants because of one thing:
“I wanted a motorcycle, and my mom and dad weren't going to buy it for me,” he said.
After his abrupt departure from LaRosa's, the undeterred Cook found a job at the Twenty Mile House. For the next ten years, Cook worked his way up from busboy to cook, and ultimately took charge of the kitchen.
"By the time I was nineteen, I was in charge of a kitchen of 15 to 20 men, and they were all older than me,” Cook recounted.
Cook then went to work for the Comisar family at a number of their restaurants--most notably, Maisonette. He served as the chef tournant there when Georges Haidon was the executive chef, and later, when Jean-Robert de Cavel took over. Cook has also held executive chef positions at restaurants like Ciao Baby Cucina and Chester’s Road House.
Cook's desire to have his own restaurant took form when, one day, a young cook showed him a flyer of a restaurant for sale.
That moment turned into a 14-year reign in Mount Adams. Daveed's at 934 opened in 1999 to wide acclaim, which it consistently enjoyed over the years.
In 2012, Cook and his wife, Liz, renamed the business Daveed's NEXT, and relocated to Loveland. Perhaps coming full circle, Daveed's NEXT is only a stone's throw away from the now demolished Twenty Mile House, where Cook first learned the restaurant trade.
Food and cooking philosophy
"I've always been a person who's grown my own herbs and tomatoes. I buy as local as I can from the farmers down the street, and I also support local businesses."
"I like fresh products simply done. There's no need to always over-exaggerate, turning them into gel, although those applications are needed here and there," Cook noted with a smile.
"I've evolved to become a more comfortable cook. Now, I keep things simple, and not over-reach, like take too many ingredients and throw them all together," Cook said. " I was thinking more is better, but now, less is better."
Essential ingredients & tools
Cook's kitchen must-haves include:
- Fondant funnel (or sauce gun). Cook uses this for catering events to quickly dispense sauces, demi-glace or even broth
- A micro-plane (a type of zester/grater)
- A Masamoto carbon steel knife (see photo above). This knife was given to him by Chef Jeremy Lieb (of Boca) more than 20 years ago. Cook has its image tattooed on his leg.
- Locally grown mizuna (a Japanese mustard green)
- Fish sauce is Cook's "go-to ingredient"
David Burke , who is also from New Jersey, inspires Cook.
"His philosophy on cooking and eating is both serious and whimsical. I'm inspired by his playful approach to food," Cook said.
Cook looks up to his "mentor chefs," Jean-Robert de Cavel and Georges Haidon, from the days at Maisonette.
"Jean-Robert brought a whole new approach, and lightened up French cookery. On the other hand, Georges Haidon was very classical French in his approach. It was perfect to learn haute cuisine from him," Cook explained.
"The Curious Cook by Harold McGee is a very enlightening, and 'hi-tech' book. It makes you think about what food is and how it reacts," Cook added.
Favorite meal to cook at home: Whole roasted chicken
"I cook quite a bit at home," Cook said. He enjoys the simplicity and wholesomeness of roasting chicken that he gets from local farmers.
1 whole chicken, locally raised, rinsed and dried
1 lemon, cut in half
5 garlic cloves
5 sprigs thyme
5 sprigs rosemary
1 ½ tbsp Daveed's All Purpose Seasoning
1 ½ tbsp Madras Curry
1 tbsp Daveed's Red Wine Sea Salt
3 tbsp Daveed's Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¾ tbsp cracked black pepper
You can purchase Daveed's brand ingredients at the restaurant.
- In a large container, while wearing gloves, massage bird with all above ingredients, inside and out for 5 minutes.
- Place all herbs, lemon and garlic inside of bird.
- Refrigerate for 6 hours.
- In a 425° oven, roast chicken for 12 minutes
- until golden brown and crisp.
Grace Yek is a faculty member at the Midwest Culinary Institute, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. Connect with her on Twitter: @Grace_Yek .