Shawn Bennigsdorf

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"I remember as a kid I was always fond of being a chef."

Take us back to you as a kid. Who did you want to be?

I remember as a kid I was always fond of being a chef. I remember rummaging through the garden finding different tomatoes, and peppers to slice and put on my sandwiches. 

What was last Monday like for you?

Last Monday I spent a good part of the day grinding sausage and making a few different types of salami.

Walk us through the days leading up to you being a chef?

Becoming a chef is more than just a title that you are given. I believe it takes patience and an understanding of the seasons that only comes from years of working with food.

Describe one of your favorite dishes to make.

One of the dishes I make at home a lot is spaghetti and meatballs. There is just something comforting about a simple bowl of pasta with a glass of wine that helps me unwind after a long week.  

What chef or experience has inspired you the most in your creative journey?

I have been fortunate enough to work with great chefs that have molded me into the chef I am. I learned a lot about seasonality from Chef Michael Bailey (former executive chef at Embassy Club), and Chef Enosh Kelly helps me hone the technical skills required to work in a fine dining atmosphere. 

"There is just something comforting about a simple bowl of pasta with a glass of wine that helps me unwind after a long week."

How do you stay focused?

To a certain extent, I believe you have to try and separate personal life and work in order to not get overwhelmed by some of the pressures of the career.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

One of the biggest challenges of being a chef is trying to let the ingredients speak for themselves. It takes a lot of restraint not to just keep adding more to a dish to show off how many different techniques you know. 

How did you overcome it?

Working with local farms is a great way to connect with different ingredients, and allows you to respect the effort the farmer has put in. 

Someone is getting into professional cooking. What would you say to them if they came to you for advice?

Becoming a chef takes patience. It's not something that happens right after graduating from culinary school. 

Why Des Moines?

I grew up in the Des Moines area, and I feel the culinary scene has been growing rapidly here.

"Working with local farms is a great way to connect with different ingredients, and allows you to respect the effort the farmer has put in."

You can grant Des Moines one wish. What’s that wish?

I would love for Des Moines to finally get some national recognition with one of our many talented chefs finally becoming a James Beard award finalist.

For someone new to DSM where do you suggest they go?

I would suggest that they go to the downtown farmers market, to experience all the amazing ingredients our soil can produce.

Derek Jensen