GET TO KNOW THE OWNER – Chef Dustin Allen of EDGE
Get to Know the Owner – Chef Dustin Allen
We recently interviewed Chef Dustin of EDGE, By Chef Dustin Allen to get to know him a little and some aspects of running his business.
Q: What inspired you to be a chef?
A: “ I’ve been around this business my whole life. My family started restaurants about 48 years ago now and personally I’ve been in kitchens for 18 years, so just growing up in them and the love of watching people’s reactions and making them happy through food. Food is that one thing that we all need. That no matter where you’re at on the planet, your beliefs, or anything everything we do revolves around food.”
Q: Who are your influences?
A: “ The people that influenced me as a young kid would have been my grandparents and their restaurant doing diner food. Doing eggs and bacon was not my cup of tea. As I was becoming a teenager and into working in kitchens, Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller probably became the 2 chefs that really influenced my style of cooking and how I approach it today.”
Q: What is one of your favorite ingredients to experiment with?
A: “My favorite ingredient to experiment is what ever is fresh and picked that day from the farmers. What ever ingredient that they bring me and I can see it, I can feel it, I can smell it, I can taste it is how we create our dishes. So what ever is that day, we don’t approach it as a favorite.”
Q: How do you select your wine?
A: “Our wines are selected through a lot of tasting which is the best part of it. We are very particular on what we are looking for. We are looking for wines that accompany our food, that accompany the complexity of our food and the flavors of our food. Any given month we will taste 60-70 different wines from around the world. Our big take on wine right now is that we are doing a lot of import wines from France and Italy in particular. We’re really enjoying the complexity of that old-world style of wine with our foods.”
Q: What do you do to insure the quality of the food going out to the customer?
A: “ It starts at the farms. We have totally control over our food system because we know whats being planted, when its planted, who’s growing it, and how they’re growing it. One of the things that helps us with our quality is that we only use certain farms for certain products. What ever they grow best on their land or the meats they raise their is step 1. Step 2 is we have a super talented team. Not only myself but the whole team behind us in the restaurant are all super talented cooks so we take that quality very personal in our dishes. We want people to know we are the best restaurant in Peoria, we want to know that the best quality is going to be put out there every night. That’s one of the reasons we run a small menu, so thats all we have to focus on.”
Q: How would you describe your cooking style?
A: “ My cooking style has been describe a lot as a kind of freeform jazz. I approach it everyday a little different based on whats there. My technique is rooted in classical French but when you use products that change so often you learn to cook in so many different styles. Creativity influences my cooking because a lot of times i’m going to use ingredients, especially the wild edibles, that remind me of something that we know but we have to figure out how to utilize it in another form.”
Q: Why is it important to support local business?
A: “ Everybody that knows me and my restaurant knows that we are a huge believer in supporting the local economy and the local businesses. The easy answer is that you get out what you put in, so just this week we put $20,00 into one local community here not far from Peoria buying from their local farms. We use the story of asparagus that we can buy from Peru for cheap but only .10 cents goes back o the people that grew it. We have a husband and wife farm that’s $4 a pound but all $4 goes back to their farms thats not only thirty minutes away. It pays their staff who live here and in return, puts that money back into the local economy. We can make our economy better locally without the help of government if we just focus on ourselves instead of trying to buy everything the cheapest from wherever we can around the world.”
Q: How did the concept for your restaurant originate?
A: “ The concept for our restaurant originated almost 5 years ago now, we were in transition from a restaurant we were at. I was a chef at Magnolias and my wife and I were looking to move and we had some offers to go to other cities and run restaurants. We were asked if we wanted to build our own restaurant here, so from there thats kind of where the idea started for opening Edge here. Through the planning of our opening team, the name kind of came around as we were trying to find names. How do you describe a restaurant that is designed to evolve, designed to change with the seasons and somebody had said, “it just feels like we are on the edge of something.” Edge kind of became the meaning of everything that we were doing, we were pushing the boundaries of how we could run a restaurant, we were pushing the edge of where I was at in my career as a chef. All that kind of lead into what is known today as Edge and we are three and a half years into this project.”