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Meet the Chefs

Ray Leung, Executive Chef, Dragonfly Sushi

rayWhat inspired you to become a chef?
At an early age, I grew up watching my dad cook and was always helping out in the kitchen. From something as simple as stirring, grabbing ingredients or throwing ingredients into the wok or just setting up the table, it was always fun when it came to kitchen time. I guess after just being around the kitchen so much growing up, it just felt natural and everything came natural when in a professional kitchen. I started working professionally in 1995 in a small mom-and-pop Japanese restaurant on University across from The Swamp as their resident dishwasher. I loved it and hated it at the same time, just because you can end up super soaking wet by the end of the night. So, I knew I had to learn other things so I could improve my skill set. I started doing sushi, and ever since, I fell in love.

What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is being able to work with many different characters and to be able to teach and also learn from future leaders and culinary artists. It’s also great to be in an industry that requires me to keep honing on my skill. Knowledge is endless and so is cooking.

What is your specialty cuisine?
Japanese cuisine, for sure — from sushi to comfort Japanese cooking.

What sets you apart from other chefs?
Not much, we all (as in chefs) have the same lifestyle. We work long hours, we grind together and we celebrate together. Work hard, play hard, as they say.

What can you bring to the Taste of Gainesville competition?
A different style and cuisine. And also representing Dragonfly — people think all I know is sushi and can’t cook.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
That one of my favorite sushi rolls is a California roll.

 

Taylor Dukes, Executive Chef, Great Outdoors Restaurant

Taylor DukesWhat inspired you to become a chef? The novel “Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain. After finishing college, I was working as a line cook, unsure of what career I wanted to pursue. I picked up “Kitchen Confidential” just because I was curious and finished it in two days. The experiences and people Bourdain talked about inspired me to continue my culinary arts career.

What’s the best part of your job? The staff at the Great Outdoors Restaurant, hands down. We are truly a family of talented industry workers that cares for each other with the same passion as we care for our guests.

What is your specialty cuisine? The unique menu at the Great Outdoors Restaurant allows me to dip into all cuisines, but I really love cooking Florida fare. The vast diversity (both in its culture and local ingredients) of this state opens up amazing possibilities for food that truly cannot be found anywhere else.

What sets you apart from other chefs? I like to bring in ingredients that our customers might not be used to and expand their knowledge of food. I love talking to customers after they have dined with us about their experience with my creations.

What can you bring to the Taste of Gainesville competition? I am an up-and-coming chef in the area who works at an amazing restaurant set outside of the main Gainesville culinary scene. My goal is to win, obviously, but also to win by bringing a fresh, new outlook on Florida food to the public eye.

What would people be surprised to know about you? Percussion was my first passion. My last game playing with the Florida drum line was the 2006 National Championship…what a way to go out!

 

Valero Alises, Executive Chef, Sabore

ValeroWhat inspired you to become a chef?  My parents were the greatest influence in my choice to become a chef.  From them, I learned the value of both a great meal surrounded by friends and family and the wonderful conversations around the dinner table.

What is the best part of your job?  Getting to see a smile on the face of a restaurant guest or an emotional response after they have enjoyed one of my dishes.

What is your specialty cuisine?  My favorite cuisine is rooted in Spanish culture, but creativity with seafood ingredients is my specialty.

What sets you apart from other chefs? I strive to use the freshest ingredients prepared from scratch every morning. It’s labor intensive, but it assures the best quality of dishes for our guests to enjoy.