Houston ‘Top Chef’ finalist Dawn Burrell whipping up tasty foods and serving inspiration

If there’s one thing we’ve uncovered about Chef Dawn Burrell, it is that she by no means stops doing work. 

The Philly-born Houston resident is a former Olympian, getting received a gold medal at the 2001 IAAF Environment Indoor Championships. She also represented the United States at the 2000 Summertime Olympics.

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Her time as an Olympian ultimately ignited a further passion: Cooking.

Burrell is the former sous chef at the award-profitable Uchiko restaurant in Austin, previous government chef at Houston’s contemporary Southern restaurant Kulture, a “Best Chef: Texas” 2020 James Beard Award nominee, a “Top Chef” time 18 finalist and lastly, a companion and govt chef at Chris Williams’ acclaimed Lucille’s Hospitality Team.

Burrell spoke to Chron about her distinguished job in and exterior of the culinary globe.


Chron: How did you get started out as an Olympian? What was that like?

Burrell: “I am originally from the Philadelphia place, and I started competing at a young age, about 14. I stopped managing in ninth quality, and my brother convinced me when I went to substantial college. That discussion was very impactful for me. He was also a observe and subject athlete, he has a stellar collegiate vocation and even additional stellar specialist career. He told me he realized I might be profitable if I ongoing to contend due to the fact of what he was able to do. So I took his tips and I begun competing all over again, and he was ideal. And I did truly perfectly on the higher college level, and that’s what brought me to Houston.”

Burrell sooner or later adopted her brother to Houston and attended the College of Houston article-superior faculty.

What was the awakening instant where by you recognized you could nicely, cook?

“I realized that I cherished cooking from a really young age, I would normally invest time in the kitchen area, producing points and earning sweets that I would enjoy to consume. I was also the youthful adult that was cooking whole on meals in her dorm room, that variety of factor. After I stopped competing, I understood that I experienced to dig deep to figure out what else I appreciated to do, and I landed in the culinary area. It was a time that I could seriously pay attention to myself, my other wishes, for the reason that my track and field daily life was in excess of. So it was sort of silenced and I experienced to find something else that I appreciated to do.”

Why did you make a decision to end competing?

“Thanks to injuries. I was an indoor globe winner in 2001, I produced the Olympic workforce in 2000. I was Grand Prix winner for the 2000 yr, then I tore my ACL correct right after I won the indoor globe championship. For the following 7 several years, I would get to my aggressive brink, form of competitive on the intercontinental degree all over again and not injure myself. That occurred for seven a long time straight.”

Burrell instructed herself if she did not make the 2008 Olympic staff, which was the third a person she’d tried using out for, she wouldn’t contend anymore. 

“Not only was I not capable to make the Olympic staff, but I could not even compete for the reason that my personal injury flared up again.”

Explain to me a little bit about your journey to “Best Chef.”

“My journey is a exclusive one,” she started. “I began promptly from culinary university catering, striving to figure out what to do in that discipline for the reason that I experienced hardly ever operate a organization like that right before, and I struggled a small little bit to make that happen. Then I decided, very well, I am going to group up with a neighborhood chef I definitely admired, her title is Monica Pope. She taught me a good deal throughout my time with her and she also taught me how to do farmer’s markets due to the fact she was also a seller, so I produced a marriage there and created a sustainable job by turning into a vendor on my individual. Right after that I traveled a bit to perform in kitchens internationally, then immediately after that I began operating with the Superior Hospitality Team, and I worked there for a few and a 50 percent decades, working my way from prep cook dinner to sous chef.”

What was your favourite section about becoming on the demonstrate?

“I truly relished remaining challenged in that way. I’m a all-natural competitor, which is what I am designed of innately. And I also liked the associations that I designed and the comradery, all of that was really, quite significant for me. The staff members is good, it was just an overall definitely fantastic working experience.”

What would you say was your biggest lesson realized?

“Wow. The lesson that I uncovered quite honestly is that I am good adequate. I am fantastic adequate, and I just desired to study that by way of complicated myself in that way.”

How does your time as an Olympian correlate to your now-occupation as a chef?

“Being a expert athlete is a extremely tense situation. Getting in individuals truly competitive, significant-impact, quick-paced moments seriously aided me be to be a intense competitor in the present. Not only that, pushing myself past what it is that I at any time think that I can do is something I am incredibly common with, due to the fact that is what you have to do to be an elite athlete. All of my exercise sessions, my resolve, my perseverance that I had to have as an athlete have organized me to be the chef that I am currently.”

What suggestions do you have for anyone wanting to break into the culinary world?

“Uncover you a very reliable, educating kitchen, and address it like faculty, get the job done your way up and be a sponge and you will depart with understanding that will enable you to be the most effective chef that you can probably me. The critical is to find a educating kitchen area, not one that is company or limits you creatively. You want someplace that will variety of assist you cultivate your competencies and nourish your creativity. And you will find numerous out there, you just have to know what you might be searching for.”

What has been a person of your most memorable moments pre-popularity?

“That is a tricky problem for me, for the reason that I just form of hold urgent ahead, so it really is tricky for me to say ‘Oh, that was a daily life-transforming time in my occupation.’ I can say that any slight marketing that I’ve ever gotten is always meaningful for me, for the reason that that exhibits I was building progress in what I was carrying out and they deem me worthy to have that promotion. That is from doing the job in distinctive devices. At Kulture, metropolis nods were nice, like if I was ranked at Prime 20. Those had been fairly substantial moments for me. But over-all, when I visit a table and they are delighted with what I do or they are touching their coronary heart due to the fact they just ate something that was soul-shifting, those people are moments that I genuinely, definitely cherish.”

Are you planning to watch the Tokyo Olympics? Is there anybody in unique you’re rooting for?

“I possibly will check out some. I’m a minimal bit out of the loop as much as athletics are concerned, for the reason that just staying in this sector is variety of all-consuming. So outdoors of what my nephew is undertaking an athlete for case in point, I’m actually not aware of what’s heading on with the athletes of the generation. But I would like to find out, and the way that you learn that is by viewing the match, so if I have some time, I’m there.”

Burrell added that she is a fan of Alyson Felix, who was on the staff with her in the 2000s.

What is actually following for Chef Dawn Burrell?

“Late August is up coming, and that’s also extremely time consuming. With Lucille’s Hospitality Team, there’s a ton likely on there, we just a short while ago proven our fermentation lab, which will help us go toward a zero-squander entity. We will make the most of the scrap and overages of create from every single of our entities and ferment them and pickle them for diverse employs to protect them. We will also farm above 50 acres of land that we have in Fort Bend County, so which is heading to involve some time, also. We’ll be rising deliver primarily for Late August and for the communities that are bordering the farmland. We are going to be opening retailers mercantile for people communities that are basically foods deserts, and instructing people how to increase their very own foodstuff. So we have a lot likely on as an entity. Outside the house of Late August, there’s a large amount to be accomplished.”

Is there just about anything else you’d like your lovers and supporters to know?

“I feel they can notify I really like what I do, and I really like my fans and I love serving to individuals, in circumstance you hadn’t seen. That is aspect of the explanation I agreed to get the job done for Lucille’s Hospitality Group, since each and every one entity that we have will have a philanthropic part hooked up to it, and that was actually key for me to signal on.”

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One thing’s for positive, Burrell’s vocation failed to end with “Prime Chef” — she’s just obtaining started off.



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