2015 Seattle Rising Star Concept Chef Monica Dimas of Neon Taco

2015 Seattle Rising Star Concept Chef Monica Dimas of Neon Taco
November 2015

Neon Taco
209 Broadway East
Seattle, WA 98102
www.neontacoseattle.com

Recipe

Photos

Monica Dimas has a certain delicacy of appearance that belies her ferocity of appetite, personal and professional.

Dimas first got into food when she took time off from pursuing her English degree, and found herself begging for a position at Gasperetties, a high-end restaurant in her native Yakima, Washington. A relative newbie to cooking (her mom, originally from Mexico, had done all of it when she was growing up), Dimas was suddenly where she was meant to be.

During the course of more than a decade, her career took off, especially once she hit her next stop, Café Campagne. There, mentor Daisley Gordon showed Dimas clarity of vision, maturity, and balance in the kitchen. From Campagne to Spinasse, to Monsoon, Anchovies & Olives, and Mkt, Dimas' fine-dining acumen was leading fatefully to one place: Neon Taco. The pop-up version of which was an unmitigated success, originally conceived by Dimas as a kind of hangover-cure Sunday brunch.

Putting off offers to return to fine dining, Dimas was approached by Rachel Marshall and Kate Opatch of Rachel's Ginger Beer and Nacho Borrach. They gave Neon Taco a home within the later of their restaurants in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Dimas now straddles operations at Neon Taco and the recently opened Tortas Condesa, inspired by the popularity of the torta on Neon's menu. Dimas has plans for more concepts based on specific Mexican foods in the future.   



Interview with Seattle Rising Star Concept Chef Monica Dimas of Neon Taco

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start?
Monica Dimas:
I got my first job 12 years ago in Yakima where I grew up. I was a line cook at the nicest restaurant in town, Gasperetti's. I had to beg my way into the restaurant because I had never had a job before.

SK: How did you go from there to owning your own concept?
MD:
I wasn't enjoying my life that much or even enjoying cooking. I wanted to make a change so I did a pop-up last year. It was a brunch with hangover cure foods like pozole. I got a lot of good responses, and it was so much fun. I was offered a project in fine dining, but I wanted to do this instead. When Rachel Marshall and Kate Opatch approached me to start a partnership, I took the offer. I like being a business owner and putting puzzle pieces together to find success. With this I feel like I'm cooking and providing for the community.

SK: Who are your mentors?
MD:
Chef Daisley Gordon of Café Campagne. He showed me an even keel style of training, kitchen atmosphere, and mentality. I carry that with me and constantly make sure that things are chill, mature, and great. I try not to be in a bad mood and I never raise my voice. I want to create that same open warm kitchen vibe. Tyler Lawrence was also an influential chef. His food is simple but done well.

SK: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
MD:
I do a lot of events, like On the Boards dinners. A bunch of chefs do it. The LG Film Festival, Burning Beast, the Smoke Farm Symposium—a far out version of Ted Talks. I've been doing that for years.

SK: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
MD:
Opening Tortas Condesa is going to be a big challenge.

SK: What's your five year plan?
MD:
I'm hoping to expand the Neon Taco brand. I want to expand on the concept by using slightly different ideas and focusing on one thing like a taco or torta.  

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