Hail to the chief. If he wasn’t a chef he would be a rapper, prefers the beach over the city and prefers his mom’s home cooking to dining out. Chef Sonny Pache is the creative mind that just won the Annual Caesar Salad Competition & Fundraiser, which was no easy challenge.
“I was pretty surprised myself, but felt like it might happen when people kept telling me the restaurants line was around the corner,” says Pache. Ocean Prime, the modern supper club, got it’s start in 2006 and now includes nine locations around the U.S. The website says the words “Prime” reflects their commitment to serving the highest steak, seafood, handcrafted cocktails and award winning wines. In many ways, a visit to Ocean’s Prime is similar to indulging in a fantasy world. Every guests request is always met with a resounding yes, and your treated like royalty. The concept is chef driven, and it seems they’ve figured out the key to remaining relevant in this ever-changing culinary environment. I sat down to pick the brain of this young culinary mastermind, and raid his spotless kitchen.
Q: What inspired you to become a chef?
A: My mom is the biggest influence on my decision in becoming a chef. Growing up I was always helping her, and watching her cook in the kitchen. We hardly ate out because she had such a passion for cooking. As I became older, my interest in food became larger and took on a life of its own.
Q:What is your cooking philosophy?
A: To be high on standards and easy on people.
Q: Why did you decided to take the chef position at Ocean Prime?
A: I have been with Cameron Mitchell Restaurants for eight years, and coming into the Ocean Prime brand has given me an opportunity to grow as a chef. I was given the chance to open the Dallas location, and did not want to pass up such an opportunity.
Q: Every restaurant has a new angle these days farm-to-market, vegan, skinny entrees and the list continues. What makes your fall and vegan menu special and different?
A: Our menu is really unique by taking older classic cooking techniques and applying them to more modern dishes.
Q: The Ocean’s Prime vegan menu, especially the risotto, is one of the best meals I have eaten in a long time.
A: Yes, a lot of people are surprised, but our vegan menu is exceptional.
Q: There’re so many great steak and seafood restaurants in Dallas, what makes Ocean Prime different?
A: I would agree that there are a lot of amazing steak and seafood restaurants. We take pride in being genuine and offering a great dining experience. Our atmosphere is very comfortable with the soft woods and accent lighting. Our food is straight forward and prepared with great technique. All of our servers are very hospitable providing an abundance of knowledge.
Q: What lessons have you learned from being a chef ?
A: That nothing comes easy. With perseverance and hard work anything is possible
Q: What’s one of the best lessons you’ve learned from your parents?
A: My parents taught me always to be honest and hard working
Q: I had a chance to tour the Ocean Prime kitchen and it was spotless, how do you run such a tight ship?
A: I believe in teaching people by example, being tough when necessary, and giving second chances when they are needed. I remember when I was in one of my first management positions and my chef instructed me to make sure the kitchen was spotless, including cleaning the lobster tank. Well I forgot to plug the pump back in, and needless to say, the restaurant lost a lot of money. My executive chef was furious, and when I returned to work the next day everyone thought I would be fired on the spot. When I got called to the office he didn’t yell, and actually gave me another chance. He was also known for firing people, but maybe he saw something in me that made him change his mind. Now that I am an executive chef, one of my greatest attributes is being able to adapt to any situation. It’s a kitchen and things happen, but how you react to the situation can make a Big difference in the outcome.
Q: Who is your chef role model or favorite chef?
A: My favorite chef is Thomas Keller. His passion and intensity for food is extremely inspiring. The way he describes and places flavors together is pretty amazing.
Q: What would you request as your last meal?
A: I would request bbq ribs, pulled pork and a large bone-in ribeye. Accompanied by some corn on the cob, panzanella heirloom tomato salad and finished off with a bowl of salty caramel ice cream.
Q: What has been your proudest culinary moment?
A: The first time my family came to eat at the restaurant I was in charge of, and being named the “Executive Chef of the Year” for Ocean Prime a few years ago.
Q: What do you want your legacy to be?
A: I want to be remembered as someone who has a lot of passion, very driven, and willing to do anything for anybody.
Q: What can guest expect from Ocean Prime this fall?
A: We actually have a lot plan this fall. We are planning some great wine dinners, and events to showcase our cuisine. We also plan to strongly continue our efforts in volunteering and supporting great charities in our community.
2101 Cedar Springs Road
Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday: 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Dinner Monday-Thursday: 4-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday: 4-11 p.m., Sunday: 4-9 p.m.
Average price: $50 per person for dinner