dezi boznow.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Dezi Bonow's fiery kimchi is featured on several dishes at Dahlia Lounge.
Dahlia Lounge sous chef Dezi Bonow's approach to cooking


Dahlia Lounge Sous Chef Got His Start At Taco Del Mar

dezi boznow.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Dezi Bonow's fiery kimchi is featured on several dishes at Dahlia Lounge.
Dahlia Lounge sous chef Dezi Bonow's approach to cooking is beautifully simple: "I love to cook for people. I love food." And it shows. Dezi's got his fingerprints all over the menu at Tom Douglas' flagship restaurant. But his fire burns brightest when he's talking kimchi, the wicked hot Korean condiment he started making a few years ago. All he needs is a cabbage crown and you could call this serious chef the Kimchi King.

SW: You started cooking early. Is that what you always wanted to do?

Bonow: My first cooking job was at Taco Del Mar when I was 16. The guy who was like a stepfather to me when I was growing up, my Mom's boyfriend, taught me how to cook. We used to hang out and cook. When I was growing up, we would eat lots crab and salmon. Oysters were my favorite when I was like 5.

SW: How did you end up working for Tom Douglas?

Bonow: I was working for this catering company, around time Tom Douglas catering was getting started. Tom did Conan O'Brien's wedding, but they brought us in to help out. I was working the raw bar for a while with Tom and Thierry and I was really intimidated. I was still kind of a bum when I first got hired at Dahlia a couple of years later. I was working for Mark Fuller. He's so good, he makes you want to be a better cook. My very first day, I was working pantry and way behind, probably spinning around and shit. And this dishwasher asked me to push these plates up on a shelf for him and they went crashing through the other side. I broke like 30 plates. Mark didn't speak to me for a month after that.

SW: He didn't scream at you?

Bonow: No. The guy I worked for at the catering company was as screamer. One time when things were going wrong and the chef said: "Go put this in a cambro", I had to go back to him because I didn't know what a cambro was. He freaked out. Later, we got along fine, he was great, but I think everybody who starts out has a story about the guy who screams at them.

SW: What the hell is a Cambro anyway? And how long does it take to understand the language of the professional kitchen?

Bonow: A Cambro's just a big container. The language comes pretty quick, but I think this job is like one of the hardest jobs in the world. It's like the toughest parts of being like a coal miner, well, not quite, but it's physically exhausting and hot and long hours. To get good takes years and years at entry level pay, so you've got to love it. It's good to start when you're young because there's so much to learn. The first few years at Dahlia were spent learning the basics.

SW: Now you're the sous chef. What does that title mean?

Bonow: You've basically got the chef's back. Make sure they have nothing to worry about. It's different here. It's not as uptight as a lot of places. Cooks can say stuff to us without us getting freaked out. If they have ideas, we want to hear about them. That's probably one reason why there's not a big turnover. Lately, I've been trying to be a better leader. And I love to teach. Right after we finish this interview, I'm going to do a lesson on kimchi.

Tomorrow, check out part two of our Grillaxin' Q&A with Dahlia Lounge sous chef Dezi Bonow, when he fills us in on how he learned important kimchi lessons he learned from a master at a mini mart.

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