Rising Star Chef Dennis Leary - Biography

January 2011

At age 14, Dennis Leary began his professional culinary career as a dishwasher at The Red Lion Inn in his hometown of Cohasset, Massachusetts. By the time he graduated high school he had already moved on to become a line cook. While attending Wheaton College to study English literature, he worked at both Kimball's, also in Cohasset, and at the renowned Parker House Hotel in Boston.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa, Leary moved on to line cook positions at the Boulders Resort in Scottsdale and at the Carmel Valley Ranch in California. It was then that Leary met Alain Rondelli, who hired him to work as pastry chef at his eponymous restaurant in San Francisco. A year later Dennis started at Drew Nieporent’s legendary Rubicon as sous chef and was appointed executive chef within less than two years.

In 2005 he finally decided to start out on his own, and he opened Canteen, an intimate 20-seat restaurant in the Commodore Hotel, to considerable local and national acclaim. "I wanted to do something different," he says, "and create a restaurant totally stripped of all pretension, the kind of place where I can cook for a small group of customers, interact and improvise, and offer very personally prepared, unique, and accessible food." As the sole cook in the establishment, he personally prepared nearly every dish in the restaurant, from amuse-bouche to salad to dessert. Notably, Leary financed almost all of the construction and operating costs for Canteen out of his own pocket, and is without any major investors or backers.

In 2008 he opened Sentintel, then in 2010 followed it with The Golden West, a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch on weekdays. In 2009, he secured The House of Shields, one of San Francisco’s Old School bars, and conducted an extensive refurbishment of the historic bar.