Born and raised in Dayton and a graduate of Colonel White High School for the Arts and Ball State University School of Business respectively, Chef Anthony T. Head’s culinary journey began as a child with the adult responsibilities of buying groceries and preparing meals for his family.
His first cooking job outside of culinary school was an internship opening up The Wine Loft franchise out at the Greene. He was the first cook hired and helped set up the kitchen and trained under the late Richard Pignetti of Houston. He says, “Chef “Pig” really set the tone for my career with his terse language and instruction.”
He worked as a volunteer at an HIV/AIDS testing clinic in West Dayton, the Mt. Olive One Stop. Among his responsibilities, he worked with the kitchen staff where he strived to provide well balanced meals, not through instruction, but through grocery shopping (selection). Chef Head says, “people always brag about ‘where’ they went to school or worked, but rarely about what they’ve ‘learned.’ The most important lesson I learned in culinary school was HOW to shop. Anybody can cook, but most people don’t know where to go to get certain ingredients or how to prep them for cooking.”
After his service term ended with Americorps, he was the first cook hired to help Jenn DiSanto open Fresco. The job at Fresco was an internship required as part of his culinary education at Sinclair. As a member of Sinclair’s State Hot Foods competition team, Chef Head added a 3rd place finish and ACF bronze medal to a growing list of awards and credentials from Sinclair’s American Culinary Federation certified program and was named 2011 ACF Jr. Culinarian of the Year for the Miami Valley.
He was then hired to assist Kim Collette open Olive. He says his contribution to Olive was limited to some recipe development and helping staff her crew with some of his best friends before taking a consulting gig at De’Lish Cafe with Chef Mark Brown (who is now at Taste in Trotwood). He’d worked with Mark, catering several events throughout the city after he volunteered to work with him at the African American Wellness Walk (held at Island Park each spring)a couple of years ago. That lead to a temporary job help train the prep crew at De’Lish and before long, Chef Brown ended up staying on to become their Executive Chef and naming Anthony his Sous Chef. Chef Brown groomed Anthony and groomed him to take over at De’Lish Cafe, which he did in in early December 2011.
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
Love, and I know it sounds cliché or even corny, but it’s what makes the difference in my kitchen. From the music that plays in our kitchen to how a cook feels on a given day, to who we’re cooking it for-it (or lack thereof) comes out in the food!
What ingredient do you dread? All food is good (on some level). It’s what people do to it that makes it bad. That said, most things canned leave no room for improvement.
What’s your favorite dish to make? Any kind of risotto. It’s such an intimate dish that requires your full attention. Like many of the analogies in our kitchen, the process of making risotto is like date night. Since this a family show, I’ll give you the PG version: you have to be thoughtful enough to have all the ingredients in place and once you get started you can’t stop until well, it’s finished 😉
What’s your favorite pig out food? Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Chip Brownies (slightly undercooked) and Hagen Daz Ice Vanilla Ice Cream (that’s why it’s on my menu at De’Lish!)
What’s your best advice for home chefs?
People are pretentious, not food. Cook what you have, the way you like, for people you like. That’s how it’s been done Best throughout the course of history.
If you could invite any 4 guests to a dinner party who would they be and why?
That’s easy, my late biological and foster parents. They loved me in spite of myself and constantly bolstered my confidence in every endeavor I ever undertook. They stoked my passion and made me realize that I could do anything I put my mind to, if I cared enough to do it!
Who do you look up to in the industry and why?
Wow, too many to name them call, but a few come immediately to mind: Julia Childs for making French cuisine accessible and learning with such a genuine interest and passion for so many years on public television. Thomas Keller for his penchant for culinary and experiential perfection and successfully leveraging a network of artisian suppliers and Ming Tsai for being a locally grown
talent (I always root for our hometown heroes!)
What do you do in the Miami Valley on a day off?
I’m a young Executive Chef what is this “day off” you speak of? Now, in my “time away from the kitchen” I’m usually slaving away in my home kitchen for my own family, reading something or working on my electric bicycle that I ride to work most days.
Share a kitchen disaster, lucky break or other interesting story:
In the kitchen, aren’t they usually all the same kind of story? Well, I was selected as the 2011 Jr. Culinarian of the Year by our local chapter of the American Culinary Federation. Well, we chef-folk, usually so humble in nature, and me, ripe out of culinary school, I often reminded my staff that I’m only “chef of the year for X amount more days.” Well, on the last day of the year, we’re hosting our New Years Eve event and I took it upon myself to personally cater to our VIP Section. One of our VIPs made mention that “he didn’t like shrimp” but loved seafood. So when an appetizer plate came up with shrimp on it I simply removed it. Several minutes later he mentioned that he was “having a reaction” and I asked to what? Well, turns out he didn’t like shrimp because he was allergic to it! While there was no shrimp on his plate, we did have other shellfish in one of the other apps. I ran down the street to a drug store and got some Benadryl which halted any further symptoms, but laughed about it the rest of the night to think, on the last day of my “chef of the year” year, I almost killed one of the most important friends of our business. Fantastic!