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The Modern Chef - Chef Bryan Ondre & Coco’s Bistro

October 3, 2019

Bryan Ondre took over Dayton’s renowned Coco’s Bistro as Executive Chef in January of this year, stepping into the former shoes of chef Darin Mitchell, who left to open a new restaurant in Springfield. Looking back on the transition, Bryan says “there were some obstacles to get through, …but there was a good kitchen crew for me when I got to Coco’s and a lot of support for change.”

Serving modern American-fare with a farm-to-table approach, Coco’s mission is to celebrate community through food, and they do this by “celebrating spirits, serving people and nourishing souls,” as their motto states. Coco’s owners, Karen Wick-Gagnet and Jim Gagnet, first opened the restaurant on East Fifth Street in the Oregon District. Now, Coco’s resides on Warren Street, close to The University of Dayton, Miami Valley Hospital, and the greater downtown area. Their current location allows them to seat patrons on a large city patio when weather allows, and host events in a private dining area, as well as an upstairs event space.

 

Bryan’s path towards a culinary career began at age 16 at a restaurant called Pacchia. Working there as a dishwasher, he “fell in love with the fast-paced mentality the kitchen had.” He recalls, “The older I got the more I wanted to learn about the food that the guests were eating. I tried to learn at least one thing from every chef I trained under. Everything I learned made me want to do better and put my own style on every dish.” Now he identifies his cooking style as leaning Mediterranean. You’ll find “French, Italian, and Spanish influences in my cooking,” he explains. Originally from the Dayton area, Bryan gained experience from popular culinary staples, like Salar and Coldwater Café.  However, he also took five years to expand his horizons at Serratto in Portland, Oregon. “Chef Tony Myers taught me a lot when I lived in Portland... Portlanders are a little bit more willing to try new and different foods. But Dayton is getting there. Hopefully I can help us (Dayton) to get on the culinary map.”

With dishes as striking as we’ve seen so far, we have no doubt that Bryan is well on his way. In fact, Bryan makes sure to post what dishes his guests can expect as specials every weekend on Coco’s and his personal social media. Among his plating techniques is using microgreens from local partner Waterfields to top off his dishes. Not only do the microgreens add dimension to the look of the plate, they add a level of sophistication to the taste as well. When asked about the importance of impeccable plating and pristine food photography, Bryan pointed out “The flavor of the food comes first for a chef. But the presentation of the food on the plate comes first for the guest. I think if it catches the guest’s eye and they like how a dish looks, the guest will be more inclined to order it.” Further, it seems that social media is playing a bigger and bigger role in the success of a modern chef. Bryan adds “I think today social media is the key to advertising… It’s good to put yourself out there to further your career. I have met other chefs at different events from around the country based just on our Instagram [accounts] and had awesome conversations about food and what’s popular.”

Chefs aren’t the only ones who are expanding their roles in order to capture the market. In addition to being open for service 6 days a week, and hosting private events, Coco’s also occasionally hosts pairing dinners, a growing trend among the farm-to-table culinary scene. Bryan elaborates “My favorite event so far has been the beer dinner we did with the Toxic Brew Company. The food paired perfectly with beer. I was excited to do different food like frog legs and beef tongue. And the turnout was amazing.” He also says he would like to do a wine dinner before the end of the year.

With the complexity and careful thought that goes into menu planning when cooking for others, we were surprised to learn that Bryan’s favorite dish to unwind with was quite simple. “If I could choose anything it would be a burrito with a beer,” he states. Then again, simple is sometimes best after a long, action-packed day.

 

 

Written by Marianna Marchenko