Unlike his friends who grew up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Shane Devereux discovered his passion for cooking as a child, nibbling on Vietnamese snacks like crispy pig ears in the kitchen of his family’s suburban Philadelphia home. Food was an important part of daily life, and Devereux was always around to help out in the kitchen. The fact that his was a Vietnamese family brought an element of diversity into Devereux’s early contact with food, giving him an appreciation for ethnic cuisine that continues to influence his cooking style today.
Devereux fueled his passion for food by accepting a position of pantry cook at a local private club outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Quickly realizing he had found a way of life, Devereux moved on to work for three of Philadelphia’s most respected certified French Master Chefs: Dominique Filoni, Jean-Marie LaCroix, and Jean-François Taquet. Devereux not only developed a passion for French cuisine; but he also expanded his skills exponentially. At Filoni’s Bianca Restaurant in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Devereux worked his way from pantry cook to sous chef, learning all aspects of the kitchen from preparation and menu creation to logistics.
Prepared to man his own kitchen, Devereux moved to Atlanta to open Peasant Bistro. And after embedding himself in the local culinary scene, Devereux joined the team behind Top Flr, merging hip music and creative cuisine. As a sounding board for their future ventures, the crew launched Dinner Party Atlanta, creating unique restaurant experiences throughout the city (think pop-up dinners in an airplane hanger or cemetery), and later opened Sound Table. But it’s at Devereux’s newest venture, The Lawrence, where the chef’s talents really shine, in a menu inspired by the ethnic ingredients of his childhood, the French techniques of his training, and his own personal (and dare we say, addictive) spark.
Interview with 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Shane Devereux
Katherine Sacks: What inspired you to get into kitchens?
Shane Devereux: Watching my family cook. I grew up in a city where all the kids ran rampant on Sundays, but my dad always cooked with fresh ingredients on the Vietnamese side. With my mom and dad working all the time, when we did have time together, we all had to do something. My sister would clean green beans, I would clean the chicken. I could see it starting there; I just wanted to be involved in cooking.
In high school I took four home economics classes for no credit because I had already taken too many. I wanted to go to culinary school because I worked a couple grills as a part time job, but my mom told me I could always go to art school. So I went to college to play to football instead, and decided it wasn’t for me. I moved home and started working in Philadelphia.
KS: What is your style as a chef?
SD: I do have a lot of Vietnamese influences and things I like to cook using some of the sauces or spices I grew up with. I use them today in my cooking a lot. I like a lot of flavors. I do try and incorporate what I was taught. Since I’ve been on my own, my style would be whatever I want to do without sounding vague or pompous.
KS: What is your proudest achievement?
SD: It has to be opening The Lawrence. I haven’t always wanted to open my own place because I have seen what it can do to people. I’ve always taken a lot of initiative even when I was just a cook; what’s going to happen when I am an owner? It just fell into my lap. You always expect the unexpected and I didn’t expect it to happen so fast
KS: What had been the most difficult thing you’ve done?
SD: It’s difficult to hear people talk about you. I’m very uncomfortable with that. I love what I do, which is why I continue stressing myself out, but it’s been very hard to accept the positive sometimes. It was also tough moving to a new city, leaving Philly and coming to Atlanta. If you move to a new city, you start fresh.
KS: Where will we find you in five years?
SD: Still in Atlanta. Ultimately I don’t know. My five year plan is ending right now, so I am thinking about what I will do in the future. In five years I want to be just creating another different dining experience through Dinner Party.