Chef David Burke
Blazing across distinctions between chef, artist, entrepreneur, and inventor, David Burke is one of the leading pioneers in American cooking today. His fascination with ingredients and the art of the meal has fueled a career marked by creativity, critical acclaim, and the introduction of revolutionary products and cooking techniques.
Burke trained at the Culinary Institute of America, and soon thereafter the New Jersey native headed to France to refine his skills and take in the wonders of Michelin-starred cooking. After several stages with notable chefs such as Pierre Troisgros and Georges Blanc, he detoured from savory cooking to study pastry arts under Gaston Lenôtre. The precision and chemistry of baking were highly appealing, and he immersed himself in it fully, supplementing his course work by baking bread and making chocolate at a local patisserie. He returned to the U.S. and spent three formative years as Waldy Malouf's sous chef at La Cremaillere in Westchester where he developed a solid foundation in French cooking.
His mastery of this elusive technique was confirmed when, at age 26, Burke became the first American, and one of the youngest chefs on record, to win France's coveted Meilleurs Ouvriers de France Diplome d'Honneur, an award given to the chef who shows unparalleled skill and creativity with his native cuisine. This same competition also saw Burke receive Japan's Nippon Award of Excellence, another high culinary honor. The awards and nominations continued: In 1995 he was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Best Chef, NYC award, in 1996 he received the Robert Mondavi Award of Excellence and was one of the first Americans to receive the CIA's August Escoffier Award, and recently, he was named one of Nation's Restaurant News' 50 Top R&D Culinarians. In 2003, Burke received honors as "Best Culinary Prankster" from Time Out New York.
Burke went on to apply this deft technique to American cuisine at the River Café, working first as a sous chef under Charlie Palmer, then ascending to Executive Chef and earning three stars from The New York Times. His dedication to the restaurant's pastry program, which gave the same serious consideration to desserts as to the savory aspects of the meal, became a benchmark of his tenure as executive chef. At this time, Burke began experimenting with interesting ingredients and cooking techniques. Pastrami Salmon™ (now available through Perona Farms), flavored oils, and tuna tartare, all mainstays of today's culinary lexicon, were among Burke's inventions that were revolutionary in their time.
In 1992, Burke opened the Park Avenue Café with Smith & Wollensky CEO Alan Stillman., and then in 1996 he took on the formidable position of Vice President of Culinary Development for the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group. During this twelve year period, Burke poured his creative energies into further product development, and enduring favorites were born, including his Swordfish Chop, the Crackling Pork Shank and his line of GourmetPops™ (found at www.gourmetpops.com).
Chef Burke is actively involved with culinology, an emerging discipline which marries traditional culinary arts with innovative food science to vastly improve the nutritional and flavor profiles of mass-produced foods. A board member of the Research Chefs Association, he is the advisor for J. Manheimer, Inc., one of America's oldest flavor developers, and the consultants to such well-known companies as Aramark. He is also the spokesperson for Sam Adams beer. David has also dreamed up some very creative products. Easy flavor-transfer spice sheets help home cooks season their proteins like chefs without the confusion of measuring or the hassle of keeping many different spices in the kitchen, and the new Flavorsprays, a line of intense flavors that can be sprayed on an array of everyday foods, designed to eliminate fat while keeping the flavor. "We are looking to develop foods that stay ahead of the curve of what America eats," he explains enthusiastically.
Burke's first cookbook, Cooking with David Burke was published in 1995, and his second, David Burke's New American Classics, by Alfred A. Knopf launched in early April.