Sundown Chef Patrick Stark Talks Sourcing Locally and Scorching Hot Pans
Originally from Akron, Ohio, Patrick Stark, chef at Sundown at Granada, enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America fresh out of high school at 17 years of age, partially because he just wanted the get the hell outta town. He's worked throughout the United States, a few spots in Europe and had a two-year stint in Mexico. After serving as a private chef in Dallas, he's now loving his new gig at Sundown and, more than anything, his new band.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
So you enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America at 17. That's pretty young.
My dad wouldn't let me graduate from high school early unless I had a career in mind.
Why such a rush to get out of high school? Minimal overhead and the food is great.
I just hated high school. I really didn't connect to that mindset much. I graduated with honors and all that, but I was a punk kid. I quit sports my freshman year and joined a band. My older brother was constantly on me to not get stuck in the town.
What was your first gig in a restaurant?
While in high school, I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant with CIA alumni. These guys were super nice and let me study on my breaks. They introduced me to music and took me to concerts and stuff. It was nice to have a mentor in that capacity. Then one Friday night, a guy didn't show up so they asked me if I wanted to work the grill, and I said sure. I ended up getting a job on the line, so, I was like, "All right, Dad, if I have to roll the dice, I'm going to be a chef."
Was dad supportive of your culinary ambitions?
He wasn't sure that I understood the industry -- the drug rate, the divorce rate, the alcohol rate. He said he would totally support me if that's what I wanted to do, but he wanted me to get a bachelors degree so that in case I didn't like it later in life, I had a safety net. And I recommend this to anyone going into culinary or any industry that has to do with art.
What was your first job or stage as a young chef?
I worked outside Chicago at the Sunset Ridge Country Club with master chef Steven Jilleba. I credit him for separating me from the boys and giving me my stripes.
I was really young at the time and he would test my limits. The first few weeks he wouldn't even let me in his kitchen. He'd bring out these 50-pound bags of carrots, onions and celery and show me a dice cut and say, "Whenever you chop all of these you can go home." And he would come down and if they were too big or too small, he would swipe them into a stockpot and make me start over. He was testing my integrity.