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Dana Cree

Chef Dana Cree
Photo © Christian Steel

F&W Star Chef

Restaurants: Pastry chef at Avec and Blackbird (Chicago)

Experience: Lampreia, Veil, Poppy (Seattle); Alinea (Chicago), Spago (Beverly Hills), WD-50 (New York City), The Fat Duck (Bray, England), Noma (Copenhagen), Kadeau (Bornholm, Denmark)

Education: The Art Institute of Seattle

What recipe are you most famous for?
I have this little one-bite called a Nutter Butter, which had a little cult following in Seattle and is still on the menu at Poppy, and we have them on the menu at Avec now. It’s basically a tiny, crunchy, peanut buttery base with milk chocolate in it. The top is a burnt sugar white chocolate ganache. It’s everything that’s wonderful about an American candy bar in a tiny one-inch square.

What’s your current food obsession?
The ingredient I keep coming back to is Magic Shell. It’s one of those things that we grew up with, squeezing it out of a bottle, and we figured out how to make it. It’s not complicated. If you add coconut oil to melted chocolate, it makes the whole solution harden very quickly over ice cream.

What ingredient will people be talking about in five years?
One of my favorite ingredients is Steen’s Cane Syrup, which kind of tastes like brown sugar with a hint of molasses, but not nearly that sweet. We use it to sweeten ice cream.

What will we always find in your fridge?
Green peas. My go-to snack when I get home from work is thawed frozen green peas with a little feta or a sesame tahini vinaigrette with some diced onions.

What restaurant are you dying to go to?
I worked at a restaurant in Denmark called Kadeau. It was out on an island, and they recently opened an outpost in Copenhagen. I haven’t been back in a couple of years and I know that they’re just growing and accelerating and becoming so much better. The food is so, so poetic and beautiful.

What is the most cherished souvenir you’ve brought back from a trip?
I probably shouldn’t admit to this, but I have an apron from Noma. I think it’s a common form of theft. I use it at my house all the time. When I competed in a competition, I made sure that I wore that apron because it was a reminder of a place that pushed everything to its extreme.

Do you have any food-related superstitions?
Sometimes I throw salt over my shoulder, but the only superstition I am really die-hard about is lucky pennies. I pick them up, but it’s a little embarrassing.

Do you have any pre-shift rituals?
I’ve just started eating breakfast—it’s a new ritual for me—and it has made my day go so much smoother. Burning the candle at every end, waking up and chugging coffee and waiting until the 4 p.m. staff meal to have my first meal is no longer something my body is happy about. I eat Ezekiel sprouted grain raisin cereal.

Also, I take one shot of ginger juice every day. I try to get everybody else to take it, and only a few brave souls are willing to shoot fresh ginger juice with me. I laugh because these cooks can take shots of some of the most disgusting things I’ve ever heard of, but try a little ginger juice and they’re like, “Ewww!” I quit drinking a while ago.

What is your hidden talent?
I am a champion builder of Ikea furniture, and I love it.

1 recipe by Chef Dana Cree
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