Ones to Watch 2022 // Dillon Witte
Sous chef, Farmhaus
Why Watch Him: He’s turned the world into a classroom.
A chef gets out of culinary school and jumps around from restaurant to restaurant, building his profile, until he finally finds the right spot. There he thrives, until he opens his own super-hyped restaurant, and it soars. We’ve all heard that story – but it isn’t Dillon Witte’s. In fact, his is very much the opposite.
Witte probably didn’t think when he was mowing lawns eight years ago that he would become a chef. And he likely didn’t predict while pushing a lawnmower down the street one day that James Beard Award-nominated chef Kevin Willmann would ask him to mow the grass in front of his restaurant, Farmhaus. And, later, when he applied to be a dishwasher at the restaurant, he surely didn’t expect that he’d end up cooking there for years, eventually becoming Willmann’s sous chef. But here we are.
Before Farmhaus, Witte had only made food at home. “I would always cook for my friends, and I’d make breakfast for my sister when I was little,” he said. Now, he’s done everything at Farmhaus from garde manger to the hot line to expo. “I like butchery right now, and tempering chocolate and making bon bons,” he said. “I do it on the side, around the holidays, as a gift.” He’s learned to think seasonally; in the spring, he looks forward to getting green onions so he can char them for ricotta to make ravioli. In other parts of the year, he’s making empanadas with braised beef, ancho peppers and guajillo chiles. This past July, Witte went to France and worked at Table by Le Calabash in Yzeures-sur-Creus. Recently, he’s been learning how to make peri peri shrimp and fish collars.
“It’s hard to speak enough about the raw talent, the natural ability,” said Farmhaus owner and executive chef Kevin Willmann. “Some people just have it. Dillon’s always just had it.” Willmann remembers fondly his first meeting with Witte over that lawnmower, and said that moving Witte from dish to the kitchen was an easy decision. “The biggest thing we noticed, even back then, is how intuitive he is. When someone’s paying attention, you can throw anything at them. The more we threw at him, the better he did with it.”
Now, Witte’s an indispensable part of Farmhaus’ small team. “I don’t know if we can do this if either of us are not here,” Willmann said. “I don’t want to do it without him.” Fortunately for Willmann, his protégé isn’t looking too far ahead – he’s never even searched for other cooking jobs because he’s so happy at Farmhaus. “I definitely want to be my own boss one day, or open my own restaurant. I don’t really have that idea yet,” Witte said. But if the past eight years are any indication, it’ll probably come to him eventually.
Tags : People
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