Meet Chef David E. Diaz, “Just Show Up and Be Good at What You Do.”
Beaumarchais’ Chef David E. Diaz has had a decorated career. Learning his craft all over the world, Diaz has a unique and unparalleled culinary style. Born and Raised in New York, Diaz says that his childhood vacations to the Dominican Republic to visit his extended family inspired him. At a young age Diaz recognized his passion for cooking, “I’ve liked to cook since I was a kid. I don’t know exactly what inspired me; the level of creating, I always liked to mix stuff. I always cooked for myself as a kid and wanted to do something when I grew up that I loved and would get paid for.”
In 1998 Diaz took his passion to another level when he attended the New York Restaurant School to hone his culinary skill. “I was 21 years old, I went to Saint John’s for a little and realized it wasn’t my thing. My parents questioned it at first but I was persistent and they finally let me go to culinary school.” Looking back Diaz recalls how studying cooking and working in the real world were totally different. “Culinary school was a whole different ball game, there’s science behind cooking that I didn’t know before. Once you learn the technique, which was the most important thing I learned there, then you get into the real world and you learn flavors and organization. School got my foot in the door and real world experience has made me the chef I am today.”
After graduating from school, Diaz got his first job as a garde manger at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant, Vong, for a year and a half. “At Vong I learned to organize myself. I worked with great guys that took me under their wing. I learned the melding of different flavors and understanding of how to balance out a dish,” said Diaz. He then served as a garde manger at Quest for six months, eventually returning to the Jean-Georges restaurant franchise, working in the meat and fish stations at JoJo.
Diaz stayed at JoJo for three years then moved to vacation hot spot Nantucket. In Nantucket, Diaz worked in the Straight Wharf and The Galley, “… Nantucket was cool, it was a lot of work but the food was good and it had a great atmosphere; laid back and that long summer feeling…” Upon returning to New York, Diaz accepted the job as sous chef at Geoffrey Zakarian’s Country.
Again Diaz moved away from New York, this time to be a chef de partie at the Foundry on Melrose in California. Diaz has fond memories of the East Coast saying, “People from California were a lot friendlier, the produce was amazing….” After six months Diaz came back to New York to be a sous chef at Shorty’s .32 where he stayed for two and a half years. It seems that wherever Diaz goes he always finds himself back in his hometown, “…New York is my home, every time I leave New York I want to come back. New York City is a 24-hour city, there’s no other place you can find a pizza place or bagel store open at 4 a.m., and you don’t need a car.”
That brings Diaz to 2009 when he accepted a job as executive sous chef at Bistrot Bagatelle under executive chef Nicolas Cantrel. In 2010, Cantrel was invited to compete on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.” Cantrel brought Diaz along to battle it out as his sous chef. They beat out Chef Marc Forgione. “We went in there with a good attitude. Cantrel is an amazing chef. We had fun, we didn’t put pressure on ourselves. We saw the ingredients and just went with it. We worked with each other for so long before that I knew what he needed and we had good chemistry, and won,” said Diaz.
Since the win, Bistrot Bagatelle turned into Beaumarchais. When Cantrel moved away to the Philippines he left Diaz Beaumarchais. Diaz became executive chef of the French Mediterranean restaurant. This year Beaumarchais expanded from New York to East Hampton.
Diaz lives by the philosophy, “Just show up and be good at what you do,” Simple and professional. When asked if he could cook for anyone, who would it be? “Seth McFarlane,” good answer.