Chef David Mullen
Angle | Palm Beach
David Mullen grew up in Central California, immersed in different
cultures, food, flavors and techniques. After graduating from the
California Culinary Academy, Mullen completed his apprenticeship
under Julian Serrano at Masa’s, a strong start to
a career path that would lead him through some of the biggest names
in contemporary American dining today. Mullen worked with Serrano
at Picasso, with Chef Laurent Gras at The Fifth Floor,and
with Laurent Tourondel at Cello before heading to New York
City for an opening position with Wylie Dufresne at 71 Clinton
Fresh Food and a sous chef position at Daniel.
In late 2006 Mullen took the chef de cuisine position at Angle
at The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach, where he focuses on highlighting
regional cuisine with an emphasis on fresh fish. His exquisite dishes
come from a serious culinary pedigree, and his cuisine is creative
and seamlessly executed. Mullen’s dishes feature exciting
techniques, but as a chef he’s rooted in the basics. His sauces
and broths are deeply flavored, rich and impressively delicate,
just as they should be. His hamachi dish is crisp, clean and fresh,
with fun ingredients and textures: delicate apple gelee, fresh,
crunchy jicama, and an airy, crunchy, homemade jasmine rice cracker.
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SC: Where have you worked professionally as a chef?
DM: I’ve had the distinct honor of working with some of America’s finest chefs. I worked with Chef Julian Serrano at Masa’s and Picasso, Wylie Dufresne at 71 Clinton Fresh Food, Laurent Tourondel at Cello, Paul Bartolotta at Bartolotta, Laurent Gras at Fifth Floor, and Daniel Boulud at Daniel.
SC: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks?
DM: Absolutely, at the minimum a short program because you need to learn the basics to get started. I always look for education, but I have worked with and hired chefs without a culinary school background if they have the drive, skills and talent.
SC: Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
DM: Wylie Dufresne is definitely a mentor who has taught me a lot about technique and flavor combinations – he’s also inspired me to attempt the unexpected in order to achieve something special. Kim Canteenwalla has helped introduce me to decision makers that have given me some great opportunities, which ultimately led to me helming my own kitchen.
SC: Have you done any influential stages?
DM: I have only staged once at L’Epi Dupin in Paris – it was a wonderfully influential experience because of the importance placed of having heart and soul in your cooking. Everything here was for a reason – even the Epi baguette held a place of importance.
SC: What question gives you the most insight to a cook when you’re interviewing them for a position in your kitchen? What sort of answer are you looking for?
DM: I ask: What are you reading? Where did you last eat & why? What flavors or spices do you like & why? What cooking references do you read? I am looking for honest and natural responses that come from the heart. If they have to think about it too long or if the answers seem rehearsed, then I know it isn’t the right fit.
SC: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
DM: Getting started is challenging and often intimidating. Most chefs will expect you to prove yourself, and you should expect the same from yourself. Try to choose work experiences that match your culinary interests and learn from those who have the skills you need. You are in your first kitchen to learn – so keep your head focused on what you’re doing, keep your eyes, ears and palate open to everything. The culinary field is a small community and you’ll cross paths with your fellow professionals again in the future, so always try to make a great impression by always being courteous, respectful and hard working.
SC: What ingredient that you like do you feel is underappreciated or under utilized? Why?
DM: I love using Piment d’Espelette on my fish. I like the balance of heat and flavor that it brings to the dish – it’s a bit more subtle than pepper and it’s a little unexpected, as not many diners are familiar with it.
SC: What are your favorite flavor combinations?
DM: I love acidity – citrus and vinegar.
SC: What’s your most indispensable kitchen tool?
DM: That’s easy – a Vita-Mix. I blend a lot of various ingredients and would not be able to get the results I demand without it.
SC: Is there a culinary technique that you have either created or borrowed and use in an unusual way?
DM: I have evolved a technique that I learned from Laurent Gras that uses proteins in a cheesecloth instead of a traditional raft for a consommé. I think the art of sauce making is getting lost with many new chefs, so I’m committed to creating flavorful sauces and preserving the techniques for the future.
SC: What are your favorite cookbooks?
DM: I love Art Culinaire and anything from the Alain Ducasse series. I love Thomas Keller’s books, and I also like checking out new international cuisine books as well.
SC: Where do you like to go for culinary travel? Why?
DM: New York is one of the most inventive and exciting culinary destinations in the world. You can travel a few blocks in any direction and find authentic cuisine from any region.
SC: What are your favorite restaurants off the beaten path in your city?
DM: Cucina is a great little Italian restaurant that converts to a club after the evening’s customers finish eating – it’s also open until into the middle of the night, which is good for a working chef.
SC: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry now?
DM: One trend in dish construction is the deconstructing protein and other products and reassembling them in different shapes, sizes and textures. I’ve been playing with this technique myself.
SC: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
DM: If you start with great ingredients and a vision for a dish and an experience you hope to achieve, then you don’t need to cloud the dish with unnecessary ingredients and garnishes. I like a clean flavor profile that’s exciting to eat. Dining should be fun and engaging – and I think the dining room and the food need to work together
SC: Which person in history would you most like to cook for you?
DM: If Escoffier wanted to cook me dinner, that would be great – but for it to be perfect, I would love for us to dine together and talk about food.
SC: What are some of your favorite food-related charities?
DM: I have supported and participated with Share Our Strength. I like the philosophy that we all have a strength that we can share to help eradicate hunger.
SC: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be doing?
DM: Maybe I’d go back to driving a beer truck – but honestly I can’t imagine not being a chef – it’s in my soul.
SC: What does success mean for you? What will it look like?
DM: Success is the smile on someone’s face when they see my food coming to the table, it’s the satisfaction they get when they eat the dish, and it’s the empty plate at the end of meal. I feel successful right now – I’m running Angle with a great team and it’s amazing – especially for a kid who put himself through culinary school driving a beer truck up and down the Pacific Coast Highway.
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