Colleen Narup | Editor
He has posted his experimental food creations for years on social media, worked at several restaurants throughout the St. Louis area and graduated from East Central College three times. These are just a few things that Stephen Danso, 30, of Union, has done in order to achieve his goal of opening his own restaurant.
Going by the alias “Chef Stevie D,” Danso is currently employed at Orlando Gardens’ Catering and Saint Louis Club. After working at John G’s Tap Room and The Tilted Skillet, he has worked his way up to where he is now, catering to huge parties while working with Orlando’s and working under Chef Pierre Chambrin—the former White House Executive Chef—at Saint Louis Club.
“I had never heard of Pierre before, and I just Googled him and everything popped up and I’m like ‘whoa!'” Danso said. “A former coworker told me about the job, so I put in my application, and in less than 24 hours [Chambrin] contacted me and asked me to come in for an interview. I went there, and he pretty much hired me on the spot.”
Growing up, Danso was influenced by his family to start learning how to cook different dishes.
“My grandmother cooked, my mom did the majority of the cooking and my step-dad at the time did a lot of cooking,” Danso said. “My biological father is from Ganda, Africa, and he would cook a lot of foods from his homeland like fufu. He would always have that available whenever I was over at his house, and I liked to try the different foods and spices.”
He also learned a lot from cooking shows on television, specifically the ones hosted by Julia Childs and Martin Yan. Even to this day, their techniques inspire him to improve.
“Martin Yan is a legend. He has these ‘clean as you go’ techniques,” Danso said. “He’d talk to you, chop, chop, chop, clean, clean, clean. That’s the thing that I’m still trying to learn to get down today. I’ve always struggled with it. My mom always taught me that you can’t work in a mess, that ‘cleanliness is next to godliness.’ I’m getting a lot better with it, though.”
Every restaurant Danso has worked at has challenged him and helped his skills develop, from exercising teamwork at Orlando’s to working in a culturally-diverse kitchen at Saint Louis Club.
A restaurant in downtown Washington is where he first “got [his] feet in the water” in his journey in the culinary business.
“When I was working at The Tilted Skillet, the chefs there really taught me a lot about myself, and I really got the chance to develop myself as a chef,” Danso said. “The owners there, Tom and Justin, really helped me get adjusted and learn how to ‘dance’ in the kitchen—like moving and pivoting with a steady flow rather than running around like a chicken with your head cut off.”
Originally hoping to open a food truck, Danso has now set his sights on opening his own restaurant—a dream that he is slowly working toward while getting his name out there.
“There’s a couple of names that I’d go with [for my own restaurant],” he said. “Danso’s Place, or just Danso’s because it’s my last name and it’s kind of catchy, Chef Stevie D’s Eatery, Danso’s Eats and Treats—I could come up with a million different ones off the top of my head.”
Danso gives credit to the positive enforcement from his friends, family and former instructors at ECC—mainly Ted Hershey, former head of the culinary department. After spending so many years attending college, he encourages everyone with a goal to continue their education until they receive their diploma.
“Education is the key to success,” he said. “Make sure that if you’re in college, that you’re furthering your education. Stick with it, let it marinate. No matter how long it takes for you to get it done, get it done, because it will pay off.”
Check out Danso’s work on his food blog, “Chef Stevie D’s FoodArt” on Facebook and on Instagram @chefstevied.