The City of Ate Interview: Grape Sous Chef Danyele McPherson on Life as Luscher's No. 2
The Grape's sous chef, Danyele McPherson, sat down with us last week to chat about the life as a sous. Let's just jump right in.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
How did you initially get into cooking?
Well, I went to normal college - got a degree at North Carolina at Chapel Hill and worked in offices full time, in a cube.
Cubes are fun, huh?
No. I made a few customizations to my cube and they didn't like that.
Well, I stood on the top of my cube and stapled colored folders around the florescent lights to make them a little less harsh. But, they didn't like that. They basically said, "You're trying to be an individual and we don't really need that here."
How long did you last in the cubicle?
Not long. I also worked in a library, but that was actually fun. I processed fines and worked the circulation desk.
Wait. So, do you have tips for fine forgiveness?
Oh, man, I heard every excuse out there.
Really, like their kids wrapped the books as Christmas presents and gave them away? Even that one?
At the end of the day, you know, the fines are really cheap, I don't understand why people don't just pay them. They're usually like fifty cents.
Say the fine is more like fifty dollars...
You can try to say the library lost it, but they have ways to trace that. It's the library, man. You just have to pay the fine.
So, what was your first job at a restaurant?
I'd work my day jobs in cubes, but would also work a few shifts at restaurants at nights and on weekends. I just loved working at restaurants. Everyday I would think, "I can't wait to get done with this shit so I can go to the job I really like."
Then at some point, I just realized I had to make a change and enrolled in the CIA.
You initially came to Dallas to work at Stephan Pyles. How did you land that job?
It was initially just for my externship. A lot of students want to get jobs in New York City or Chicago, but I really like the south. And there were a few chefs at the CIA that had worked here in Dallas and they encouraged me to come here. So I applied at Stephan Pyles and they said come on down. I started four days before Valentine's Day - had my first rodeo.
Were you nervous about moving to Texas?
Well, I drove over a thousand miles with just my cat. That was a little crazy. I was suppose to stay for four months, but towards the end I talked to Tim Byers, who was my chef at the time [at Stephan Pyles], and asked him if he thought I should go back to school or not and he was like, "Man, you're already working here, you already got a job. Who cares about culinary school?"
So, I stayed.
Hope that advice works out. Honestly though, it has to be hard to leave a great job with a fantastic chef to go back to culinary school so you can get another good job. It seems like a conflict for a lot of students when they do their externships.
I understand the set up -- you're supposed to go out there and get this experience then return to school with this knowledge of what you're facing. It all sort of depends on your experience when you started. If you're going in to hone the vernacular of the job, then I understand that.