Chef Janie Ramirez

Dai Due's Executive Chef stays challenged creating inventive dishes from seasonal & local ingredients

Article by Jennifer Birn

Photography by Doug Still

Originally published in Austin Lifestyle

Chef Janie Ramirez has been with highly acclaimed restaurant Dai Due since nearly the beginning of its days as a restaurant, (it was a supper club and farmers market stand beforehand) starting out in a prep position. Within two months this superstar of the kitchen escalated to sous chef, becoming Chef de Cuisine in 2016, and then Executive Chef in 2018.

You’ve had a journey with Dai Due…

I started in September 2014, about a month after the restaurant opened. As soon as I got the job, I felt I had found my home. Everything about it was what I had been looking for: the sourcing, connection to community, seasonality, and the amazing products we were working with. I even loved the challenges all these things brought - the creative, ever-changing menu, and the work environment.  Many cooks struggle to find the perfect place for them, but Dai Due was right for me. I’ve been there for almost eight years now.

Women account for about 25 percent of chefs in the US. Did you feel like working in a restaurant was challenging for you professionally, being a woman in a male-dominated field?

For a long time, I tried not to think about myself as a woman in the kitchen, I just wanted to be the best, learn everything and be seen for my work, not my gender.  I still feel this way most of the time and this is how I run my kitchen. Looking back now, there were definitely moments where being a woman made things more difficult. There was sexual harassment that I just accepted as part of working in kitchens. There was not being taken seriously as a cook and not being considered someone who would not be worth moving up. I worked harder and didn't ask for help so I would be taken seriously and not be dismissed “as a girl”.

But this wasn’t everywhere. In my heart I think if you work hard, you can do anything. If someone doesn’t see that, move on. When I came to Dai Due, I was shocked at how many women worked there. The culture was so different from anywhere else I had worked before. It was kind and it made me kinder. I don’t purposely hire women; I look at a cook for their ability to do the job.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

I love making relationships with farmers and working with great products. It might seem difficult to be restricted by the seasons - Central Texas seasons at that - but I find it makes my job much easier. You don’t have a lot of choices. It's like a game. Here are the few things you can work with, what are you going to make? I love, love, love to cook but working in restaurants can be high pressure much of the time. Yet just when I feel a little burned out, we will get something new and exciting in, like cherries, and I’m back to being excited about cooking and making menus.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Making sure everyone is happy. I joke about this often, but I wish I had studied counseling. Managing people is tough.  Finding the right people to work in a stressful, often unpredictable, job can be hard. Keeping them happy and challenged is even harder.

What are your three favorite kitchen tools or appliances?

A chef knife is the most obvious one. 

The Vitamix.  I finally broke down and bought one for my house.  You can’t go back to a life before the Vitamix.

Tongs.  My first serious chef at my first serious cooking job didn’t allow tongs in the kitchen. What? I think that most cooks gravitate towards sautéing or grilling and I’m a grill cook at heart. Tongs are life. Can you survive without them?  Sure, but everything is easier with them. 

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