Executive Chef David Rushing to Cook at the James Beard House

To say that David Rushing is passionate about food would be like saying that Jacques Pepin is “pretty good” at deboning a chicken.

David Rushing

David Rushing

As a Bon Appétit executive chef at Washington University in St. Louis’s Danforth campus, David has brought students approachable cuisine while continuously pushing the envelope. He blends classics like his gnocchi (which has a cult following) with innovative ways to use the local produce he sources daily. Think sashimi with pickled ginger, but now make all of those from a variety of Ozark Forest mushrooms. Boom.

Now it’s David’s turn to geek out at a culinary mecca, and we can’t wait to see what ensues! Although it’s not his first time in the spotlight, it’s his first trip to New York City. He’s heading to the James Beard House, where he will be part of the team cooking for a “Florida with a Southern Twist” dinner to raise funds for the James Beard Foundation on Saturday, April 11 at 7 p.m. The menu includes grouper with grilled asparagus, ramps (which just came into season), Savoy cabbage, sea beans, and green garlic butter as well as a 22-hour-smoked brisket with melted garlic, bone marrow turnover, sweet-and-sour mirepoix, peanuts, and cilantro.

We were wondering just what’s on his mind and how this exciting opportunity landed smack dab in his lap. April Powell, Bon Appétit’s Director of Marketing and Communications at Wash U, sat down with David to find out.

April: You mentioned that your friend, Brian Cardenuto (of Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox and Joey’s Italian Grill & Bar in Florida) invited you to be part of his team for this experience at the James Beard House. How’d that come about?

David: This opportunity says a lot about the chef way of life. Brian and I worked together when we were 18 down in Florida. We were two young, eager chefs trying to prove ourselves in a brand-new hotel opening, Watercolor Resorts. We were the youngest in the kitchen with the most to prove. After a year of working together, I moved back to St. Louis, and he moved to Seattle. We tried to keep in touch but just got wrapped up in our careers.

Fast forward to 10 years later — we were friends on social media, so we’d chat every now and then. A few months ago we started chatting again, and he brought up the James Beard event. He asked if I wanted to come and help. I am honored to go cook at the James Beard House. It was on my list of things to accomplish as a chef. Along with being in Chef Works magazine, which happened three years ago!

What tools of “chefery” are in your suitcase?

Packing my clothes was easy — clogs, jacket, jeans, and the usual. My knife bag, on the other hand, is a whole different story. I have everything laid out on my dining room table, picking every tool properly. I actually bought a new, bigger knife bag so I could take as much as possible. Must-haves: my peeler (French-made Matfir, of course), Japanese mandoline, immersion circulator, and obviously my knives! Japanese blue steel is my knife of choice. I have a few molecular gastronomy items as well; ultratex and malto just in case. Unfortunately, there will not be any room for my cut glove. Just kidding.

Any “must dos” you’re looking forward to in New York? Where do you plan to eat?

This being my first trip to NYC, I have to hit Chinatown! I want to try every hole in the wall possible.

Actually, I have dinner planned at Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant Rooster in Harlem, so I am stoked about that. I can’t wait to have the whole “New York” experience!

By April Powell, Director of Marketing and Communications, Bon Appétit at Washington University in St. Louis