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Training is Ongoing: Jesse Powell Stage Interview

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In the restaurant world, many cooks learn their way behind the knife by training in the kitchen alongside seasoned chefs. This can occur at a formal culinary institute or as an apprenticeship- known in the culinary world as staging (from the French word stagiaire, which means trainee).

While many stages hope to pursue a career in the culinary world, Uchi Dallas had the privilege of hosting one of Dallas’ most prolific bartenders to learn a little about what goes on behind the scenes at 2817 Maple Avenue.

Photo by Austin Graf

Jesse Powell is the head bartender at Parliament – an uber-hip cocktail bar in Uptown that has an unparalleled approach to hospitality, which makes them a seamless colleague of the Uchi Dallas crew. Recently, this camaraderie culminated in Kaizen and Cocktails: a pop-up event where the Uchi Dallas Culinary Team collaborated with Parliament to create completely original dishes and contemporary Japanese cocktails. Proceeds from the event benefitted Promise of Peace Gardens – another longtime friend of Uchi and Top Knot.

Jesse Powell

The “Sekihan” cocktail from Kaizen and Cocktails- inspired by the aesthetic of a ramen bowl and included Tanqueray 10, Batavia arrack, miso, lime, and topped with a molecular piña colada egg.

We were extremely excited to see Jesse donning the white coat with us both during morning prep as well as dinner service. Despite creating new cocktails for bars and restaurants around Dallas as well as giving interviews for his favorite watering holes, Jesse made time to answer a few of my questions about his experience as a stage:

What motivated you to stage with us at Uchi Dallas? 

Well, I’ll just start off with how much I already love dining at Uchi. The food is always incredible. Lately, I’ve been staging in various kitchens locally as well as in Chicago just to curb my curiosity as to what goes on behind the scenes. I really like knowing how great food establishments operate. As I got to know most of the Uchi Dallas family, it was only right to join them for an entire shift.

Was it a similar experience to working behind the bar at Parliament?

There are most definitely many similarities when it comes to working at Uchi Dallas and at Parliament. The movements, communication, roles of responsibility, tasting drinks, in this case, development, the list goes on. I am a firm believer that the kitchen is a great example of how bars should operate.

Was there anything, in particular, you enjoyed about A.M. Prep?

When I first approached Chef Chad Graybill about potentially staging, my first request was that I learn how to properly break down fish. When I arrived, we did just that. He walked me through how to break down some Branzini and also Red Snapper.

Chef Chad demonstrating how to breakdown an entire fish.

What about P.M. dinner service?

My favorite part about P.M. service was just jiving in the kitchen with the whole team. Feeling everyone move in one rhythm was an amazing experience to be a part of.

What was your favorite thing to plate?

After breaking down the Branzini earlier that day, I would have to say the Branzino dish was my favorite to plate. Being able to start with the whole fish, break it down, cook it, and plate it kind of gives you an emotional attachment as you put the final touches on the plate before you call it out in the pass.

The Suzuki Yaki plated by and photo courtesy of Jesse Powell.

Did anything from the kitchen feel like a translatable tool/skill you could use in bartending?

Knife skills. Definitely knife skills. Chef Andy showed me some pointers and new techniques using a knife.

Do you recall any particular favorite dishes when you come to Uchi Dallas as a guest?

The Hirame dish will always be one of my favorites. The foie ice cream is spectacular as well. Chad was also working on a new dish that I cant recall all of the ingredients, but I do know it was brilliant melon, some sort of white seaweed, and a thai basil oil with a wheat beer foam. Ol’ Rad Chad strikes again.

Finally, is there anything you’d like to share with the Hai Family?

I would just like to express my deep appreciation for each and every one of you. You guys work with a terrific family. Cheers!

A huge thank you to Jesse Powell for his time and for his interest in what we do here at Uchi Dallas! Please say hi to Jesse behind the bar at Parliament and see for yourself why he’s so revered within the cocktail community.

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