As a Pastry/Sous Chef, Steven is working with a friend on something called Dinner with Strangers and very proud of his Mama and brothers.
As a kid what do you remember doing all the time? Skating. I was always on my skateboard and I was able to explore the city because of it. Fortunately this got me out of my surroundings at a young age and I was able to see things so many things outside of my world.
Why do you call Des Moines home? I've traveled a lot around the U.S.— visited a lot of great cities and even lived in a few. I loved those cities and really enjoyed traveling, but I was always looking forward to coming home to my friends and family to share my experiences. I see the potential for my city to grow — Des Moines is on the cusp of being something cool, it just needs that nudge.
"Des Moines is on the cusp of being something cool, it just needs that nudge."
Let's get going with this nudge. What do you feel it will take? I think its just going to take a few individuals to push it. To get Des Moines out of what it is used to be and comfortable with.
What’s currently keeping you busy? Work, always work. I have a few things going on. I've been doing some consulting now for a couple years on top of a FT Pastry/Sous position.
A friend and I are planning an outdoor dinner series this summer — we're thinking three dinners, seven small courses, limited tickets. I am also slowly and methodically working on my own concept. I'm fine with busy, what else would I do? Party? Nah, I don't have time for that. Life is too good now.
Walk us from idea to final product when it comes making one of your dishes. I usually start an element that I've been excited about and want to build a dish around. Something usually work up in my dreams, thoughts, ideas always come up as im trying to sleep. I keep an idea book next to my bed for that reason. Then I start researching and experimenting. I have my own library of dozens of recipe books.
"I'm fine with busy, what else would I do? Party? Nah, I don't have time for that. Life is too good now."
What's currently your favorite dish to make? I've focused a lot on pastry for the last 5 years of my career and I love it but I'm always craving to learn new and innovative techniques. For the last year I've been studying Molecular Food science as well as completely obsessing over different (rare) animal cuts. I'm currently working on a special dish for Valentine's: Braised Octopus with Lamb Prosciutto, Sweet Potato Purée and a Blood Orange Chili Dressing finished with Blackened Duck Heart Dust and Fermented Rose.
How much work and how long has working on this special dish been taking? It depends. This particular dish is something I've been thinking about for awhile now, six months maybe? It goes through various stages and changes multiple times in the process. In fact, I'm thinking of tweaking it again.
"If you work really hard, you're going to get something back from that."
What are you most proud of and why? My Mama and my brothers. We come from some humble beginnings. Mom worked very hard for us and did it all on her own. My brothers are both happy doing what they love. That's what I'm proud of, I'm proud of them.
To any existing or aspiring chef out there what advice would you give them? Just to work hard, put your head down and grind. If you work really hard, you're going to get something back from that. There are definitely a few serendipitous things that have happened during my career that have helped me get to where I am today, and I believe it's because of that focus. Head down and grind.
"Head down and grind."
Who is someone you admire that others may know in the Des Moines area and why do admire them? Frankie Farrell, he gets it. I love what he is doing over at Black Sheep, I think that could make a really rad scene for Des Moines. I admire him for stepping out and trying something new and pushing Des Moines to step out of the comfort zone.
Where do you see the food scene going in Des Moines over the next few years? I don't know, thats something that I think about a lot actually. I hope we catch up to what the restaurants and chefs are doing on the East/West coasts. There is a lot of cool food coming out of kitchens out there. I just feel that the midwest in general is 5-10 years behind what others are doing. I want to help change that.
There are a few chefs around in Des Moines that I admire what they are doing and the new things that they are trying. I hope to see that a lot more in the next few years.
And Des Moines being in center of this agricultural driven state, we have a ton of great product within arms reach... there isn't any reason that we couldn't be doing cooler shit than anyone on either coast.
"The midwest in general is 5-10 years behind what others are doing. I want to help change that."
If you could grant the Des Moines one wish what would it be and why? Walkability and alternate public transit. Downtown is on the cusp of being pedestrian-friendly. I think that this is a step in the right direction for a city culture.
Final question, fried egg, omelet, or scrambled? Fried. Runny Yolk. You can put that on anything I'm eating.