American Chef, Culinary Diplomat, Restaurateur and Author William Dissen is known as one of America’s most sustainable chefs, where his farm-to-table cuisine at his restaurants The Market Place and Billy D’s Fried Chicken focus on local ingredients and artisan products. We sat down with Chef Dissen over Doce Mezcal cocktails and chatted all things food, hospitality, trends and more.
Pursuitist: Tell us about yourself. How did you get started? What inspired you to be a chef?
Chef Dissen: I started working in restaurants as a dishwasher when I was 15-years-old. One day the restaurant was short-staffed, and our chef asked me if I could work at the garde manger station, an entry-level station in a restaurant kitchen, to make salads and cold appetizers. I haven’t looked back since! From that day on, while I worked my way through high school and college, I worked in restaurants.
I loved the fast-paced environment. I hold several degrees today, but as a young man, my first was a Bachelor of Arts in English and French from West Virginia University. My French studies gave me a deep sense of appreciation for fine French food and wine. That, combined with my life-long experiences of working in the industry helped me realize that Culinary Arts was calling me. After graduating, I moved to New York to attend The Culinary Institute of America, a private culinary school that specializes in culinary, baking, and pastry arts education. It was there, I realized I’d found my life’s calling. I jumped headfirst into my studies and started learning how to become a professional chef. After the CIA, I went to the University of South Carolina and earned a Master of Hospitality, Restaurant & Tourism Management. Those early years in higher education were critical in giving me a strong knowledge base for how to cook and run restaurants, but the decade of field experience that came afterward is what set the stage for becoming a sustainable food systems pioneer and fine dining chef.
What trends do you see in the culinary world right now?
Chef Dissen:I think that now more than ever people want to know where their food is coming from. They want to know if the ingredients are healthy for them and for the planet. Sustainable sourcing is becoming one of the most important trends in food right now.
What culinary destinations are on your bucket list?
I’ve hit all my culinary bucket list destinations, so for anyone reading this here are my recommendations.
- Lima, the capital of Peru! It’s a South American, coastal country known for its amazing seafood preparations, like ceviche and tiradito, but it’s also home to some of the most amazing heirloom vegetables and fruits on the planet. When you combine their South American flavors with the large immigrant Japanese Nikkei culture, you get some of the most outstanding food on the planet.
- Sicily in Italy is another bucket list culinary bucket list. The small Italian island sits just across from the bottom of the “boot” and has some of the freshest Italian food you’ll find. Their wine culture is equally as inspiring as the one country to the north on the mainland. Pasta alla Norma and Caponata di Carciofi are among some of the standout recipes from their island nation. Enjoy a glass of Frappato and the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
I would be an entrepreneur or an outdoorsman. I love adventure through creating businesses or finding inspiration in the outdoors.
Guilty pleasures: what do you eat when nobody’s looking?
Leftover pepperoni pizza for breakfast with a fried egg and a cup of black coffee!
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