Rockit Ranch warmly welcomes Chef Kris Delee on board as the new Executive Chef of The Duck Inn! Check out our first ever ‘Chef Q&A’ to get to know the creative mastermind behind this popular venue’s brand new menu.
- What is your first notable food memory? How did it influence your career?
My mother’s unbelievable fried chicken has been a constant in my life ever since I was a child. To this day it remains my favorite meal. Even in my years as a confused vegan I would break for this chicken! My mom’s simple dish seemed to comfort everyone who ate it and I like to think that her soothing influence is at the core of my thinking when it comes to creating menus of my own. If you walk away from my table in a better mood than when you came in, I did something right.
- How did you get your start in the restaurant industry?
I left home at an early age and needed to make ends meet, so I took a job as a line cook in a local pub. Having only ever cooked a pizza up until that point, the thought of being left alone in the kitchen was terrifying but also thrilling! After a few weeks –and a lot of trial and error– I started to get the hang of things and began to enjoy the rush of a busy kitchen. Learning to create new, innovative dishes became my passion. Even at this point in my career, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new or get inspired by what’s going on around me – it’s my favorite part of the job.
- Do you have an industry mentor/idol that you look up to? Why do you look up to this person?
My mentor is Chef Kyle Johnson of Bourbon Steak in Los Angeles. He and I have been best friends since the moment we met 15 years ago –corny, I know. Kyle gave me one of my first big career breaks at Alize in Las Vegas and since then has given me a deep, intrinsic appreciation for fine dining, as well as a lesson in what it means to lead by example.
- What excites you most about your new role at The Duck Inn?
I’ve always felt like a starving artist in my career without an outlet to truly let my creativity flow freely – until now. Working as the Executive Chef at The Duck Inn has allowed me to explore a whole new aspect of my culinary wild side without having to worry about pulling back. Chef Hickey has truly ‘let me off my leash’ and it’s a great feeling to be trusted so much by a man with such an impressive industry reputation.
- What are three words you would use to describe your new menu? Elaborate on each, please.
Technique-driven – I’ve worked for some amazing chefs in my time who have shown me fantastic tricks and tools along the way, from making a foam that stands up correctly to the importance of basting fish just right. I’ve brought a little bit of each of those influences to each of my dishes for The Duck Inn.
Whimsical – I didn’t take myself too seriously when designing this new menu. Each featured dish is not only fun for me to make, but fun for guests to eat! For example, our Fois Gras Mousse is molded into the shape of Lego building blocks. I have played with this idea for a menu item for several years, and The Duck Inn felt like the perfect backdrop for its debut.
Unapologetic – People are like snowflakes, we are all different. Certain dishes on my menu may not be for everyone, but hey, it takes all kinds, right?