The man, the myth, the legend…
Learn more about the culinary brains behind Del Frisco’s Grille from head chef Shawn Quinn.
How did you get started in the culinary world?
I discovered my love for restaurants and the food business in general oddly while studying economics at Florida State University. Economics to culinary seems like a strange jump, but it was outside my studies I found my passion. During college, I started working as a dishwasher at a local restaurant and fell in love with the teamwork, intensity and focus that goes into this industry. No matter your position in a restaurant, we came in as a team everyday wanting to grow as workers and excite guests with our food and hospitality. I learned it’s a people first business and, still use what I learned as a dishwasher to guide how I train and work with others. Past the teamwork, food has always had a special place in my heart – I consider it to be a universal language and think the differences in cuisines and cultures is amazing. Through my time in the restaurants, I really honed my love of food and turned into a culinary passion and a dream to eventually be a chef. After school, I joined the DFRG family at the Double Eagle in Philadelphia as a sous chef working my way up and, in 2017, landed my dream job as the concept chef for the Grille. Throughout my time here, I’ve opened 26 restaurants, starting with the Boston Double Eagle, and most recently the Del Frisco’s Grille in Westwood.
What’s your favorite part of being a chef?
The ability to inspire people by cooking. There’s something special in giving guests a seat in your house and knowing that you had a hand in cultivating a great experience. I think feeding people is something more than just providing nourishment – you get the chance to tell a story and communicate with different people through the art of cooking. I love the innovation, the selection of ingredients, the preparation and the presentation. Getting to work with quality ingredients and find ways to innovate classic dishes is what’s fun for me with the Grille brand – we get to take a modern look at American food and I have a lot of room to create. Whether it’s lunch, brunch or dinner, we focus on elevated twists of American classics, inspired international flavors and the heritage of Del Frisco’s signature steaks. Also, we get amazing opportunities to work with high-quality ingredients like USDA prime beef, dock-to-door seafood from Foley Fish and hand-picked produce from local vendors to ensure that what we serve our guests is excellent from prep to plate.
What are you loving on the menu right now?
Eggs in Purgatory. It’s a play on a classic Uova in Purgatorio – you get a little bit of egg, some tomato sauce, the avocado flatbread and it’s like you get a bit of everything. I’d say that texturally and flavorfully it’s my favorite. For lunch it’s the ribs – they’re house smoked and brushed with bacon fat which almost confits them, that way when we recook and glaze the ribs the flavor is held in nicely. Lastly, for dinner, I’d go with the Pan-Seared Scallops – again, kind of that exotic flavor profile and it’s a little bit more forward-thinking than your traditional scallops.
Favorite food or cuisine?
That’s tough, it’s a 50/50 split between wood-fired pizza and ramen. I love noodles so anytime I get to try new ramen, or a play on it is great. With wood-fired pizza there’s a tradition of Neapolitan-style pizza and the ingredients & certification that goes into making it, but at the same time you can build it any way you want. I’ve had the chance to travel to a lot of new places to try their authentic cuisines and am always trying to use pieces of what I learned during my travels when it comes to creating new dishes at the Grille.
Tell us a strange food combination you love.
Potato chips and caviar with a little bit of crème fraiche on top – really highbrow meets lowbrow. Usually people use blinis for this, but I love a Lays potato chip, a scoop of some Baeri Royal Caviar and sour cream.
What’s your favorite thing about food in general (outside of eating it)?
I think cooking is an interesting way to express yourself, whether it’s at a restaurant or in someone’s house. Food is something that can have deep emotional meaning to people, so getting to learn about who someone is through the food they value and nourish others with is awesome. It doesn’t matter if it’s your mom making you homemade pasta or soup, or you’re going to a fine-dining restaurant, there’s some heartfelt emotion going into what they are making. I think that’s my favorite part about food because it comes down to the person that creates it – it always has some expression of themselves in it and differs with every person.
You will probably see me drop in on the blog from time to time (look for a note on our new brunch menu very soon!), so I’m glad I could introduce myself to you all. Peace and happy eating. – Shawn