Chef François Kwaku-Dongo has made his way around the globe, including the Fairfield County restaurant scene.
WAG last spoke with Kwaku-Dongo for its August 2012 issue when he joined Greenwich’s J House hotel as the executive chef of its eleven14 Kitchen. Three years later, he is bringing his worldwide experience to David’s Soundview Catering in Stamford.
Originally from West Africa’s Côte d’Ivoire, the James Beard-nominated chef has cooked at l’escale, the Provençale-style restaurant in the Delamar Greenwich Harbor hotel, as well as at eateries in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. He was also trained by Wolfgang Puck, who thought so highly of his protégé that he made Kwaku-Dongo a partner at Spago in Chicago and called on him to expand his catering and events company.
Earlier this year, Kwaku-Dongo left J House to work on his chocolate business, Omanhene Cocoa Bean Co., which he started while at the hotel. The chocolate is made with cocoa beans from Ghana and produced on site, giving it the intense, robust flavor of the soil, he says. (He incorporated the chocolate into desserts at J House and plans to do the same at David’s Catering.)
But after having a leading role at Wolfgang Puck Catering, he was again seeking the free rein of the catering world. At David’s Catering, Kwaku-Dongo and his chefs are cooking Indian food for a private event one day; Tex Mex or Asian-inspired dishes the next.
“Restaurants don’t usually offer that, such variety,” he says.
The 17-year old catering space attracted the chef because of its strong reputation in the community. Kwaku-Dongo says he and chef/owner David Cingari also share a commitment to bringing hospitality to catering and making sure customers have a good experience.
Guests have enjoyed Kwaku-Dongo’s French-inspired tuna tacos with wonton crisps and avocado mousse, his original Moroccan lamb sausage and his bacon-duck spring rolls with orange ginger mustard, a twist on duck à l’orange.
The chef also specializes in simple, seasonal three-ingredient dishes combined with spices from around the world. This method preserves the natural flavors of the food, he says. The chef maintains that asparagus soup should taste like asparagus. His recipe calls for the vegetable, oil and stock (plus salt and pepper, if you’re counting).
Kwaku-Dongo looks forward to making menus for The Landing, an event space overlooking the Stamford harbor recently acquired by David’s Soundview Catering.
“I’m excited about it, because it gives me a chance to create a menu that is very Mediterranean, or North African,” he says. “Because of the sea and water, the food becomes really, really healthy. It’s an excitement when you have a great space that you can work with.”
For more, visit davidscatering.com.
Chef François Kwaku Dongo’s Bulgur Wheat and Farro Piccolo ‘Power Salad’
- 2 teaspoons lime juice, fresh
- 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
- 1 each garlic clove, purée
- ¼ teaspoon salt, kosher
- ½ teaspoon pepper, black, ground
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted, ground in spiced mill
- 1 teaspoon Dijon, mustard
- ¼ cup grape seed oil
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 ½ cups water
- 1 ¼ cup onion, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon allspice, ground
- 1 each bay leaf
- ½ cup bulgur wheat, coarse
- ¾ cup farro
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 cup lemon, juice
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon salt, kosher
- ¼ teaspoon pepper, black, ground
- ¼ cup seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise, cut into ¼-inch dices
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
- 1 cup lettuce iceberg, soft, chopped
- 2 Roma tomatoes, small, diced
To make the vinaigrette
Combine the lime juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, cumin and Dijon mustard in a small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk in the oils. Whisk or shake in a jar before serving.
To cook the grains
Combine broth, bulgur, onion, bay leaf, salt, allspice and pepper in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add farro and cook until bulgur is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove the grains from the heat, discard the bay leaf and stir in lemon juice.
Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and pour over cooled bulgur and farro.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine cooked bulgur wheat, farro with diced cucumber, tomato and herbs. Toss the grain mixture with the vinaigrette and serve immediately in a salad bowl. Serves 4.