Chef François Kwaku-Dongo

by Rachel Dushkewich | February 7th, 2013 | Chef Interviews

If you’re in search of a truly unique dining experience, search no further than Eleven14 Kitchen in Greenwich, Connecticut! Growing up in the Côte d’Ivoire and traveling to Japan and France, Chef François Kwaku-Dongo blends experiences from around the world with local, quintessential New England flair. His food mixes exotic flavors and spices, traditional French culinary technique, and top-quality ingredients. The atmosphere is an eclectic blend of casual, upscale, and innovative – an outdoor dining area can be used nearly year-round and is adorned with a fireplace, pool, and lush gardens! Or, for indoor options, you can enjoy a gourmet meal in their warm, vibrant dining room or host a special event in their library, wine room, or board room. I had a chance to talk with Chef François Kwaku-Dongo to learn more about him and Eleven14 Kitchen:

RD: You have such an amazing life story! Could you explain a bit about your background?

CFK: I came to New York as a teenager and worked all over, including as a dishwasher at Alo, Alo on 61st & 3rd Avenue. From there I moved to opening Remy on 79th Street. At Remy’s I met Wolfgang Puck’s brother Klaus; we became very good friends. He told me, “I’ve got a brother who is a chef in California named Wolfgang Puck. Why don’t you go see what he does?” So they sent me to California the night of the Academy Awards! I saw the convertibles and the palm trees in Los Angeles and I thought, “This is the life for me!” I started as Wolfgang’s pasta chef, got promoted me to Sous Chef, and a couple of months later they sent me to Japan, then France. When I get back they made me the Executive Chef!

RD: How did growing up in Côte d’Ivoire influence your restaurant?

CFK: My mother influences my cooking in the spices that I use. She used to cook with curry, cumin, and a lot of bold flavors. With the food that I do, most of the sauces are influenced by what I learned from Wolfgang and his French technique mixed with the bold flavors that I learned from my mother.

RD: What are some of your favorite dishes currently on the menu?
CFK: The roasted chicken.

RD: You pride yourself on using sustainable, local ingredients. How does this affect how your restaurant operates?

CFK: When I was in California I saw chefs like Alice Walter and Wolfgang Puck doing what people now call “farm to table.” There was a third generation family growing vegetables exclusively for them in Rancho Santa Fe near San Diego. We would get the vegetables before we decided the menu. Then we would go through ideas and create the menu based on those vegetables. It is the same idea I’m trying to bring here, with my Sous Chefs working with what’s in season on the East Coast or in Canada. Our menu is based on what’s East Coast driven, and using as much local food as we can.

RD: What makes Greenwich, Connecticut an ideal location for Eleven14 Kitchen?

CFK: It’s close to the greatest city in the world; New York! It also has a wonderful international clientele base that appreciates great food and seasonal ingredients. There are also a lot of great farmers along the coast that service chefs from Boston to New York.

RD: What kind of atmosphere can diners expect at Eleven14 Kitchen?

CFK: It’s an upscale restaurant with a homey feel.

RD: You also enjoy giving back to the community. What specific charities do you work with?

CFK: My chocolate company is involved with Greg Jennings, a professional football player who gives scholarships to students so they can travel abroad, as well as ALS, The Red Cross, and Meals on Wheels.

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