Major: Culinary Arts
Job Title: Chef/Owner, Brigaid
Location: Washington, D.C.
Finding answers to challenging questions has always been a driving force in Chef Daniel Giusti’s career. When he was a young man, he tried and failed to recreate his Aunt’s Sunday gravy. All he wanted to know was “why!” That curiosity and drive to meet a challenge has shaped his entire culinary life.
During his sophomore year in high school, Daniel became interested in the culinary arts and thought about attending The Culinary Institute of America. “I met with an admissions representative who advised me to get a job in the industry,” says Daniel. It was Chef John Guattery ’80, then the corporate chef for Clyde’s in Washington, DC, who hired the 15-year-old and took him under his wing.
Daniel took the opportunity to attend a week-long program at the CIA’s Hyde Park campus. “Afterwards, I was 100% convinced the CIA was the right school for me,” he says. “The school prepares you to be a real professional and opens up your options by exposing you to every kind of flavor profile and food service style. It would be very difficult to find a singular restaurant where you could learn that much during that amount of time. Plus, the CIA faculty, the facilities, and the resources available to every student are top notch.”
Daniel’s CIA externship at Auerole had a big impact on his career and future. “It was the first fine-dining restaurant I had ever worked in and it was very busy and very hard,” he recalls. “I was cooking with ingredients I had never seen before and was expected to learn how to work very fast. I genuinely got hooked on the pace and pressure of a kitchen operating at a high level. The challenge of keeping up is what has pushed me throughout my career.”
After graduation, Daniel traveled to Italy to explore regional Italian cooking. Returning to Washington, DC, Daniel helped open Clyde’s of Gallery Place. He then worked at Guy Savoy’s two Michelin-starred restaurant in Las Vegas, NV. Just shy of his 24th birthday, he returned to Washington, DC as the executive chef at Restaurant 1789.
After three years at the helm of 1789 and Daniel was eager for a change. “I was ready for a new challenge and wanted to work at one of the best restaurants in the world,” he says. So Daniel phoned a colleague he met while on externship. Chef Matt Orlando was the chef de cuisine at Noma, Rene Redzepi’s groundbreaking restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark that was number one on the S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in both 2012 and 2014. “The food is unique and the way people work there is amazing,” Daniel says. “But it was the culture that was the true selling point. The kitchen is comprised of chefs from all over the world so the setting is super international.” Within a year Orlando tapped Daniel as his successor, second in command only to Redzepi. Redzepi felt Daniel not only had the culinary chops but also the temperament needed to manage a large kitchen staff. “He’s just a natural leader who is not afraid of making decisions, which is one of the biggest factors in becoming a head chef because you have to make decisions constantly,” Redzeipi says. Daniel took over as chef de cuisine in January 2013 and maintained the restaurant’s two Michelin-star rating.
In January 2016, Daniel left Noma and moved back to Washington, DC with plans to take on a bold new challenge—school food. “Everyone talks about school food as this unsolvable problem,” Daniel says. “The more I researched it, the more I locked onto the idea and it quickly became the focus of my new company, Brigaid.”
“From a simple standpoint, we’re talking about putting kitchens in schools with professional chefs. My goal is to design a singular model, prototype kitchen that’s cost-effective and has only the equipment you need along with a professional chef,” says Daniel. “By having chefs present in the school kitchens on a daily basis, I hope to introduce a model that not only provides students with quality meals but also furthers their understanding of what they are eating through basic food education.”
On March 23, 2016, Daniel received the approval from the New London, CT Board of Education to launch a pilot program, which will bring one chef each to the kitchens of the six schools within the district serving 3,300 students. When he began the hiring process he received 275 applications. Daniel’s first hire was fellow alumnae April Kindt ’04.
His high profile background along with his choice to concentrate on school food rather than open a restaurant has drawn attention from interested investors. “I want to put my skills to good use where I can make the biggest change. It’s clear that chefs are ready to solve bigger problems than ever before, and I want to do my part,” Daniel says.