Kyle Dunn, Chef for College Chefs at Tau Kappa Epsilon, may call himself one of the younger chefs of the company, but at just 24 years old, Chef Kyle has a wise outlook. Chef Kyle seems to stop at nothing when it comes to giving his residents outstanding, fresh cuisines.
Finding a Passion
At the age of 17, Kyle never gave cooking much thought as a profession when he got his start in the restaurant world as busboy. Clearing tables and washing dishes seemed to be less interesting compared to the line cooks in the kitchen. “I wanted to be in the kitchen,” he says of his first job. He managed to put in his time washing dishes until he turned 18. Once 18, Kyle finally found himself amongst the bustling kitchen. “When I experienced the thrill of cooking on the line, I became mesmerized,” he says. Kyle soon discovered that there was not enough opportunity to be creative within a corporate restaurant setting; he wanted something more. Not settling for average, he went and got a job working in private restaurants which gave him more creative freedom. “I wanted to make people happy,” he says of his creative cuisines. His first job at a private restaurant was as a line cook for Robbie’s Bar and Grill in Decatur, Illinois. It was at Robbie’s Bar and Grill that he met Chef Josh Irby. Chef Josh went to Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago and to Kyle he was a mentor. Chef Josh taught Kyle many aspects of food, some of which he holds true today. “He taught me that food is not correct, technique still applies but artistic power is limitless,” he says. Kyle learned to be innovative and push boundaries. During his time cooking he realized that he wanted to attend culinary school. He attended Richland College in the fall of 2011 and he recently graduated in December of 2013 with a degree in culinary arts.
Taking a Chance
After losing his job, things started to look up for Kyle. His sister happened to find a posting on College Chefs’ Facebook page for a position. He went on their website and submitted his resume. With a little bit of self-doubt, he got a phone call from College Chefs. They quickly set up an interview and he got hired the same day. The biggest aspect of his job and his reason for taking the job was creative control. “I get to run the kitchen and make the menus,” he says, “ and I like that I get that opportunity being so young.” Being young can be a challenge at times in the cooking industry. However, Kyle remembers all that he has learned. It is easy to get deflated, he explains. “I remind myself that this is what I love doing and I should not get complacent,” he says. Now with confidence, Kyle strives for flavorful foods, one being pork-braised tacos with a cucumber slaw. “Presentation is essential but it is only there for 30 seconds, so I like to concentrate on the flavors,” he says.
Freshest in the Business
Chef Kyle enjoys working for his house and College Chefs and believes they stand above other companies because of their mantra to fresh ingredients. “That is all I want to be putting and using in my kitchen,” he says of his ingredients. He admires College Chefs‘ motto of cooking fresh. “They give their chefs the opportunity to cook their own meals and a lot of houses have set meal plans that are based around pre-made and frozen foods,” he says, “but we cook with fresh ingredients which forces you to be more creative and original.” Kyle goes on to explain it is important for the chef and the house to work together to achieve success.
When Kyle is not working in the kitchen for College Chefs, you can still find him in the kitchen at the restaurant Taproot in downtown Decatur. “I am not happy if I am not in the kitchen,” he says. He goes on to explain that he stays in the culinary field throughout the year. However, Kyle does have a hobby playing ice hockey. He plays on a league in downtown Decatur. When finishing his interview, Kyle left with some wise words for a young chef in the industry. “Keep your head up and cook with confidence,” he says, “your attitude and mood will reflect on your plate."
By Ashley Skoczylas