Chef Dustin Ward
Chef Dustin Ward Hits Prime Time at The Blue Monster
By Robin Jay
It’s certain. Thirty-three-year-old Chef Dustin Ward has made it to the Big Time. How do I know? Simple: His track record of impressing celebrity chefs, famous hothead executives, and my very picky foodie family. Case in point: When Ward cooked at Cielo in Boca Raton, his culinary brilliance kept him immune from kitchen rants from Superstar Chef Gordon Ramsey, notorious for bellowing things like, “My Gran can do better – and she’s dead!” Then, Chef Ward earned the honor of being selected to open The Bazaar in South Beach. He was hired by none other than renowned Chef Proprietor Jose Andres, molecular gastronomy guru from Spain’s El Bulli – which was awarded, repeatedly, as the No. 1 restaurant in the world.
But Ward’s coup d’etat occurred when, earlier this year, Mr. “You’re Fired” himself, Donald Trump, along with ESquared Hospitality, wooed the hotshot chef into opening BLT Prime at the Trump National Doral Resort – on, no less, the very first day of the PGA Cadillac Championship. No practice runs for this talented Chef de Cuisine and his crew.
“It was a very intense experience – not having some of the equipment and not having a public opening before serving professional golfers like Tiger Woods – but the pressure is what makes it fun. We chefs are a different breed; we thrive under the pressure,” Chef Ward said, as he flexed his tattooed arm.
The son of a Navy man, Chef Ward is the ultimate commander in chief when it comes to running his kitchen like a well-oiled machine – and I have the ultimate inside source to prove it. My son Ryan was (and is) by Ward’s side in the kitchen on BLT Prime’s opening day. He called me on his break. “Mom, you won’t believe it!” exclaimed Ryan, a 19-year-old culinary student at Johnson & Wales. “Chef Dustin [as he calls Ward] was just handed an undercooked dish of au gratin potatoes by the guy on Veg [the vegetable station]. Chef smashed it against the wall and screamed, ‘nothing gets served on my watch unless it’s perfection!’”
Sounding like an episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen (which, incidentally, was once won by Chef Ward’s BLT Prime esteemed colleague Paul Niedermann), I asked Ryan if he was ready to find a job closer to home. “No way, I LOVE this place!”
How Ward Earned His Stripes –
and Culinary Palate
“Growing up, I lived in San Diego, Virginia Beach, San Antonio, Manchester, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Moving a lot means tasting tons of different cuisines, which gave me a really broad palate. I fell in love with food really early on, and assumed the role of Executive Chef in my house at age 6,” Chef Ward said with a smile. “My mother would probably tell you how I would make really weird food concoctions and convince my siblings to eat it. I figured out that pretty much anything with bacon works.”
Intrigued, I managed to pry more of his mom’s secrets about her son. “I’m a sensitive guy, despite my tough exterior, and I really became a chef because I loved experimenting, but was not cut out to be a scientist.”
But make no mistake, Chef Ward is no mama’s boy. He’s a wife’s boy.
“My lovely wife is a pastry chef at another restaurant. I’ll be honest – she usually does all the cooking in the house. For holiday and birthday parties, I’ll help her prep the savory dishes, but in our house, the kitchen is definitely her territory.”
Chef and Entertainer
BLT is owned by ESquared Hospitality, which stands for Exceeding Expectations, something Chef Ward always aims to achieve. “Our guests come here for more than just a good piece of meat [select steaks are dry-aged for 28 days], they come for the complete dining experience we deliver.
“My philosophy toward cooking is, first and foremost, to respect the food. Everything we eat, from plants to animals, was once living and therefore has an untold story. Countless people worked hard to harvest plants, raise animals, and even delve into dangerous waters to catch seafood, and as chefs, we need to be cognizant of that. For me, it’s always been important that my love, passion, and respect for food shine through on the plate,” said Chef Ward, whose favorite dish on his haute cuisine menu is the Cowboy Steak with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms. Staying on par forces you to get creative and make new things happen – always reinventing the menu. That’s the magic of the restaurant industry – especially here at BLT.”
Take a bow, Chef. Well done (or should I say medium rare?)