CHEF DONTAYE BALL
Gumbo is the most important food to American culture.
To Chef Dontaye there’s no doubt: Gumbo is the most important food to American culture. It’s a dish that comes from the soul, and it’s social at its core. Much like the ingredients that come together to make a good pot, gumbo has the power to bring people together and establish community.
Gumbo is nothing new for Chef Dontaye. His grandma first served it to him when he was eight, and it made a deep impression. He recalls her cooking the roux slowly with a wooden spoon in a cast-iron skillet. As soon as the gumbo was ready, he remembers his neighbors eagerly gathering for a taste.
To Chef Dontaye, gumbo equals jazz—in that a lot of different players contribute, but no two solos are the same. He firmly believes that the pot should taste as the cook is feeling at that moment. And right now, he’s feeling better than ever.
The pot should taste as the cook is feeling at that moment.
He never forgot his first bowl. And over the years he learned to blend his knowledge of traditional African stews with his classic French Escoffier training. He learned the basics—the gumbo guidelines, if you will—and then learned how to break them.