2014 Los Angeles Rising Star Chef Cole Dickinson of Ink
8360 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
Cole Dickinson learned about mirepoix, stocks, and vinaigrettes from Emeril—on television as a kid growing up in California. He knew he wanted to cook from a very young age. Dickinson also wanted to make some money, so, at his mother’s suggestion he got a job as a fine-dining busboy in wine country. When Charlie Palmer opened an outpost in Sonoma, Dickinson bussed there until he “finally grew a pair” and asked for a job in the kitchen. Later, he traveled Europe and cooked for a short time at The Fat Duck.
At 21, Dickinson met his mentor, StarChefs.com Rising Star Chef Michael Voltaggio, at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. He worked closely with Voltaggio over the next six years at Hemisphere at the Greenbrier in West Virginia and Bazaar by José Andrés in Beverly Hills. Striking out on his own, Dickinson worked for Wolfgang Puck in private catering, traveling the world and cooking with him. After a stint with Laurent Gras at L20 in Chicago, Dickinson teamed up with Voltaggio again to open Ink, as the restaurant’s chef de cuisine. At Ink, he works tirelessly to cook personal, thoughtful, and wildly creative dishes. Dickinson has been named an Eater Young Gun and one of Zagat’s “30 under 30"; he also won Food Network’s “Chopped” in 2013.
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Why: I support Share Our Strength because they help feed hungry children and I think that is a very important cause.
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Interview with Los Angeles Rising Star Chef Cole Dickinson of Ink
Antoinette Bruno: How did you get your start cooking professionally?
Cole Dickinson: I knew what it was that I wanted do when I was younger. I loved to watch Emeril. I never went to culinary school, so that was my learning—learning about mirepoix, stocks, vinaigrettes. My mom was smart and I wanted to make money, so she told me to be a busboy. I did that. She was even smarter, and told me to get a job in fine dining, where you make more tips. I did and was up in the wine country—Sonoma County—and after that Charlie Palmer opened up a restaurant, I was a busboy there. I finally grew a pair, as some would say, and asked the chef if I could have a job there and the rest is history.
AB: Have you had a mentor in your career?
CD: Michael Voltaggio. I worked with him most of my career. Some other chefs had a big impact on me, too: Mark Stark and Mark Purdy. The most important thing I learned from Michael is creativity, and I learned a lot of discipline from Mark Purdy.
AB: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
CD: We go to the farmers market, do events, go out to eat on every single one of my days off. A lot of people we’ve trained here are now working in other restaurants, and we see a lot of what we taught out there. We contribute by teaching discipline, which is something that is lacking in a lot of restaurants.
AB: What’s the hardest thing you’ve done in your career?
CD: I feel like every single day is hard. Yesterday was really hard, and I've been cooking for 12 years. It was really, really hard.
AB: What's your five-year plan?
CD: I would like to be the chef of chefs. I would like one of my sous chefs to be the chef here and me to be the chef. I would get really bored going to the same place every day. I want to open more restaurants. I worked for Wolfgang Puck, and that’s something I would like to do, managing a lot of different operations. That's what I'm interested in doing: keeping it different, not in the same kitchen every day for 14 hours, visiting different kitchens, different concepts. It will be with Michael; we’ve worked together for so long that we can do it together.
AB: What is your work relationship like with Michael?
CD: He’s intimately involved with everything, but it's coming to the point now where he trusts me. I can make up stuff and put it on the menu. It's his restaurant and his menu, but like any good team, we work together. When we have a new dish, I make it up, sit him down, he tastes it, and either we put it on the menu or think about it a little more. Ultimately, he has say as to whether it goes on the menu or not.
AB: Could you articulate your sustainability ethos and outline the steps you take in your restaurant to achieve this?
CD: As far as sustainability goes, we buy as much as we can that is in season and local to Southern California through relationships we’ve built with local farmers. It’s very important to us.
AB: What’s your philosophy on food and dining?
CD: The most important thing to me with food is flavor, of course. I feel a lot of times people will put food on a plate out of ego. Or put a technique or texture on a plate just because. Less is more in my opinion. Sometimes I’ll get carried away when cooking and I'll have to bring myself back to the base of what we’re doing. The most personal thing anyone could do is prepare food for someone to consume. Often times we forget that and over manipulate the food we’re dealing with, especially with vegetables.
AB: How do you describe your cuisine?
CD: Thoughtful and creative.
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