Chef Dadisi Olutosin is a Morehouse man, former information technology executive and now is executive chef at Park View Patio, in the Columbia Heights Parkview neighborhood of northwest D.C. Rolling out talked to Chef Dadisi on reinventing his career into doing something he loves; the culinary arts.
Becoming and Executive Chef at a new Washington, D.C. restaurant was a big step. Can you tell us a little bit about your background as a professional?
This is the first restaurant I’ve worked at where I have 100 percent control over the menu and I get to cook my food [as] opposed to cooking the food of another chef. The big step for me was actually making a transition from my previous career to becoming a chef in the first place. Prior to this transition, I spent 25 years in the information technology industry as both a corporate executive and entrepreneur. Most people don’t believe it, but I’ve only been a professional chef for right under 3 years.
The goal for blacks for years was to shun the kitchen and get a desk job. Why did you go into culinary arts?
I am a self-taught chef and I took the road of apprenticeship over culinary school. There are a number of reasons for that, but the first one is I had no time for it. It didn’t fit into my three to five year plan for my activities in the restaurant industry. I often tell people [that] although I’m a chef; I’m a businessman and entrepreneur first.
My goal has always been to become a restaurateur who happens to be a chef, opposed to simply being a chef and never owning a few restaurants of my own. When it comes to black people in the kitchen, there are a number of social and cultural reasons for it being seen as a negative. Much of this is traced back to the days of slavery and Jim Crow America. But it’s a different day and more and more black men and women are in the kitchens professionally. However the numbers are dwarfed by the number of Latinos you will see in the kitchens.
The immigrant Latino population has become the backbone of the restaurant industry due to readily available labor based work whether they have skills or not. Many blacks coming into the industry, based on my very subjective observations, have attended culinary school and often have hopes of becoming a celebrity chef; or at the very least, owning their own restaurants.