We took a peak into the kitchen of the Mondrian South Beach and got to know a little bit about Executive Chef Dustin Atoigue. Gotta pay homage to the mind behind the menu!
Tell me a little bit about how you started your career in hospitality? Was there a moment in your life where you knew cooking was your calling and you wanted to pursue it as a career?
I grew up in Guam and I started to help my grandmother out in the kitchen, she had the biggest influence on me growing up. She had me doing all the dirty work, cleaning the guts and scaling the fish. I fell in love with it. I was probably 8-9 years old at the time. At 15 years old, I got a job as a dishwasher at a local coffee house and worked my way up from there.
How did you make it from Guam to Miami?
I started in Los Angeles and went to school there where I became a trained chef. I was then recruited by Ritz Carlton and became a corporate chef in Puerto Rico. I then transferred to Las Vegas and ran the steakhouse at the Mirage. That same group sent me here and we took over the Delano in 2010.
How would you say your travels have influenced the way you cook and your style in the kitchen?
Working with different chefs is one of the greatest experiences for a chef. You are constantly learning from people who are interested and inspired by the same things and it really helps you grow.
What motivates you every day in your work life?
My daughter. I strive to be the best for her and show her that hard work does really pay off.
What is your specialty cuisine?
My soul food is food from my country, Guam- it reminds me of my childhood.
Favorite childhood dish?
Oxtail soup. It's also my favorite dish to cook at home.
Last year you participated in the Chef Showdown cooking competition. Tell me a little bit about that experience and what dish brought you home the winning metal.
Chef Showdown invited me to compete because there had been a lot of talk about one of my skewer dishes I had on my menu here at Mondrian. I knew that was going to be the dish I would make and it was. I have to defend my wining title this year again!
Who are you competing against this year?
Chef B from Naiyara. I hope he’s ready.
Whats the process of branding a restaurant and curating a concept?
You always need to see what the market has out there- you always want to go for something that’s not already being done. There’s a lot of trial and error involved in choosing the menu. It’s all about execution- you need to know how to be consistent when you’re doing 300 covers a night.
What is your most popular currently at the Mondrian?
The most popular dish at the pool right now is my burger. It was voted the best burger in Miami- I use two grilled cheese sandwiches as the bun. It’s called the Wagu Cheezus Burger (like jesus but with cheese).
What is your ultimate goal in the food and beverage industry?
My goal is to open my own restaurant. I would do either a concept from guam or a latin style concept.
If you were stranded on a desert island what one food would you pick to survive on?
Uni. Hands down.
What is your personal food philosophy?
Season perfectly, always!
Salt. Without salt cooking is bland.