Executive Chef Dean DiLuciano
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Number of people fed each day: 800
With Bon Appétit Management Company since: 2007
“Working with Bon Appétit has opened my eyes to what Ohio farmers have to offer. There’s so much here: From honey, to maple syrup, to winter squash, to native heirloom apples, chicken, and grains. It’s so easy to cook with these ingredients. The trick is to do as little to them as possible, get out of the way, and just let them speak.”
Why I’m a chef:
I remember getting up early to make breakfast on Sunday mornings starting when I was about 10. I’d just go into the kitchen, see what was there, and start cooking for my family. Later, we’d go to my grandmother’s house for a big family-style meal. My family is Italian on both sides and my grandfather always had a big garden with fresh tomatoes and all kinds of other produce. I’d help my mother and aunts make sauce from just-picked tomatoes, still warm from the vine, and then we’d pull some pickles or other home-canned, homegrown vegetables from my grandmother’s pantry shelves to complete the meal. Cooking is in my blood. I started working in a local pizza restaurant when I was 14 as a dishwasher. By the age of 15 I was working the line. It just felt natural to me and I loved the pace, but I still wasn’t sure it was a career. I went to college for television-radio broadcasting and realized that what I really wanted to do was cook. I graduated from the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute and from there went to the Omni Hotel.
What sustainability means to me:
In the classic white tablecloth restaurants where I was trained, the focus is on giving the customers whatever they want, even endangered seafood, which I never felt good about. We don’t operate that way here. Sustainability is being able to utilize the offerings from nearby farmers, and showcase them in dishes that customers don’t even know they want because they haven’t seen them before. For example, one of our most popular salads is made from local Stutsman Farm wheat berries, broccoli, red onion, and a honey mustard dressing that we make from local honey. Cooking this way takes me back to those days in my grandmother’s kitchen when we prepared fresh produce straight from the garden. Another dish that has become a favorite is our quinoa salad with local apples, grapes, and peppers, accompanied by a chicken kabob from Gerber Poultry, a local Amish farm. Quinoa is new to some of our customers and it’s such a healthful grain to introduce to people. Once a week we set up a mini farm stand in the café where the farmer brings the harvest to us. Every week we feature a different farm and farmer. It’s thrilling for our diners to get to meet the farmer and sample and purchase some of the produce to take home. That’s when we’re able to bring home the message that fresh, local produce has better flavor, better color, and more nutrition. I love that we can help customers discover they can get all this great stuff right in their own backyard and not rely on produce trucked in from far away. And, meeting the farmer makes the idea of supporting their local farmers more personal and less of an abstract “good thing to do.”
Why Bon Appétit Management Company is Different:
We give people the best tasting food and much more. We give them food that is healthier for them and the planet. We have a wonderful opportunity to educate the public through our food. Through our farm stands and by using our chalkboards and signage to convey information about where the ingredients in the dishes come from, and why whole grains are a healthy choice, we’re giving people tools they can use in their lives, not just lunch. Every day is a new teaching opportunity.