CHEF DENNIS PRESCOTT TALKS FEEDING PEOPLE AND THE CONNECTION FOOD CREATES
Article by Mindy Hargesheimer
Photography by Chef Dennis Prescott
Whether you know him from the Netflix hit Restaurants on the Edge or from his absolutely stunning and mouth-watering food photos on @dennistheprescott on the ‘gram, this former-musician turned internationally renowned Chef, cookbook author, and Traeger Grills Pro Team Ambassador is an amazingly talented, thoughtful, and global trotting force to be reckoned with.
When it comes to inspiration for creating experiences around food and your community, as well as creating travel bucket lists to some of the world’s most unique and delicious destinations off the beaten path, Chef ‘Dennis The Prescott’ is the culinary change maker you’ll want to start feasting on his feed.
Originally an aspiring musician for the better part of 10 years, Canadian-born Dennis Prescott’s journey began while in university with a single invitation from a solo musician who asked him to tour together around the US, eventually taking them to Nashville to begin making records and pursue their musical dreams from there. Little did he know that his life path would eventually open doors not to make music, but instead, to make food recipes and communal dinner experiences that has now become his beloved passion and legacy.
When asking Prescott about his early days working to make a living after relocating to Nashville, he described his multi-year stint in Music City as “rich in experience and the best creative time of my entire life as part of this community of musicians, writers, chefs, and more.”
However, Prescott thought to himself, “I KNOW good food because I have literally traveled all over America, all over Canada, and into Europe with my music, eating great food and learning what I like.”
He said he found his home living amongst an entire city of creatives that he had been searching for for 10 years. Yet, in the midst of all of this, Dennis was not taking care of himself; eating take out, dollar menus, etc. A friend had a come to Jesus moment with him and said “you need to start taking care of yourself.” Having no idea exactly what that meant or how to do so, the advice was simple: “You need to start eating better.” The problem at the time was that the world was different then, and the accessibility to guidance put Dennis at a loss. He knew his bad eating habits weren’t good for the mind, body or spirit, but he didn’t know where to begin. YouTube didn’t exist. He was not going to culinary school at this stage in his life. However, Prescott thought to himself, “I KNOW good food because I have literally traveled all over America, all over Canada, and into Europe with my music, eating great food and learning what I like.”
“Go to the library and borrow some cookbooks,” his friend stated. Dennis looked at him like he was crazy; the library doesn't have cookbooks, what are you talking about?” (Flash forward to today and Dennis’ cookbook Eat Delicious is now in libraries across the country) Dennis went to the nearby library, borrowing 3 books only to have his friend ask why he chose those in particular. Dennis remembers saying verbatim, “I don’t know? The guy on the cover looks kinda good looking, and I feel like I could probably pull these recipes off, and he seems really happy too!”
Turns out they were three Jamie Oliver books; it’s just that he had no idea who Jamie Oliver was before that moment in time. Flash forward again and Dennis’ first dinner experiment was made up of twenty people from the music studio, all sitting in camping chairs with beer koozies and makeshift tables in their apartment, and he assured me that he highly recommends NOT cooking for 20 people as your first foray into playing Chef. #Noted
"I fell in love with food right there at that moment."
And then it hit: “I remember at the time this moment of, okay, the food is on the table, it’s a stressful thing, and then everybody tucks in and they take their first bite, and there’s a moment of hush that kind of came over everyone; it got really quiet just for a second, and then everyone started talking and getting into it and I fell in love with food right there at that moment. I didn’t realize that you can create these beautiful experiential moments at the table in the same way that I did playing someone’s favorite love song. Knowing that that was a thing to me was the most fascinating thing in the world.” So naturally, he just started cooking constantly; that was all he was doing, realizing very quickly that he was actually better at food than he was at music; go figure.
That’s the inception of how he found food. He evolved into adding to his resume catering to the likes of The Hamptons and throughout Canada, running a coffee and donut shop with his brother, and working constantly in and out of restaurants to hone his craft and pursue what he had fallen for.
After working for a while, he realized he was cooking so much that he started to forget what he was even making, so he began a photo journal with his camera phone taking photos of all the dishes. The same friend who guided Dennis into finding his pathway to eating better foods said, “have you heard of this app called Instagram? It’s pretty cool, I think people like it, I think you should download it.” And so it began like it does for most; Dennis began posting photos for the next few years, with every one of them being a food photo.
He “very unintentionally ended up having a food account,” which opened the next door, and then the next, all serendipitously navigating him to the place he is now.
He soon realized there was this “whole global food community who loved to share food stories.” It was his first introduction to how we can all connect with people through social media in ways that are uniting and fun; it’s become a huge part of what he does and has allowed him, on some level, to have a career that he cherishes, and one making an impact.
“All of that was initially with no agenda, no intentionality; I just loved it and I wanted to share. I fell in love with feeding people.” And then after that, he ultimately fell in love with inspiring other people that they can feed people too. That can happen in a restaurant and that can happen in somebody’s home where they’re just showcasing what they are feeding their family.
Dennis loves inspiring people to spend more time at the table. He shares a sentiment that I think many of us are onboard with, that the last few years have proven that we absolutely love sharing food with family and friends, whatever that looks like in our own lives, and we need more time like that. “If I can inspire more time as a community at the table, then that’s a win.”
“If I can inspire more time as a community at the table, then that’s a win.”
Speaking of social media, Dennis’s professional advice?
“Check your DMs.” A person who worked at Food & Wine magazine at the time sent him a DM, asking if he would do recipes for the magazine, which turned into writing a monthly column. That experience helped lead him land a cookbook deal, and because of that he did a wealth of TV and additional media; he states that he owes them a lot taking a chance on him and giving him a platform. Oh, and did we mention he is a self-taught photographer who put himself through a crash-course and now does all of his own food shots? Hint: They are GORGEOUS. Whether you fall into the camp of thinking he’s a chef by trade OR a photographer at the forefront, he’s grateful either way, because all of these innate talents ultimately led him to the opportunity of a lifetime with another slip of a DM from an Executive Producer to result in working with Netflix on two seasons of Restaurants on the Edge, in which “three food and design experts travel the world to revive failing restaurants by connecting them to the local culture beyond their gorgeous views.“
13 episodes over 9 months of traveling and filming, restaurant revivals included 3 in Canada, 1 in the continental US, 1 in Hawaii, and everything else outside of North America, including Hong Kong, Slovenia, Austria, Malta, and Finland.
“I ate food and experienced new ingredients, and I grew so much as a chef just working on this show.” He gave me glimpses into his spectacular journey eating all the foods in their most natural state. “We can all eat a mango that you buy from a great grocery store, and then you eat a mango that you picked from a tree and you go, AHHH that’s what it’s supposed to taste like! And I think that’s what travel does. I’ve been so fortunate to travel and co-wrote The Chefs’ Manifesto for the world food program for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals,” and that brings him a lot to developing communities like Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia.
“Having coffee in and amongst coffee trees. It’s such an honor to be there and I don’t take that for granted, but just from a flavor perspective, the growth that happens when you get to experience these things, you grow so much.”
Favorite Travel Recommendations for Foodies:
“It’s hard to pick one, Slovenia blew my mind. Slovenia borders Italy and Croatia, which is to say there are a lot of shared values in and around food; they have really great cheese, dairy, beef, pasta, but very few tourists, hardly any. So if you love Italy, that kind of specific travel and food experience, particularly Northern Italy, bc you can see the Alps from where they are. It's picture perfect, a beautiful place, and also where orange wine is from. There are towns where every single home has their own cellar, barrels of their own wine, they’ll bring you in, curing their own meat hanging from the ceiling with wine everywhere.”
“Costa Rica is amazing, I can't speak highly enough of that country. It’s perfectly beautiful. Obviously Hawaii is amazing, Finland is incredible.”
"Most people love the idea of travel, but we tend to pick the same places when we travel, and there is nothing wrong with that, they are amazing for a reason, but when you get off the beaten path a little bit, you learn the difference between vacation and travel.” And for Dennis, that travel, that adventure experiencing something that’s brand new “changes you and makes you a better person for it.” Sure, it’s probably not going to be easy, you’ll encounter language barriers and food you’ve never eaten before, but that’s what makes us more well-rounded as people, and that’s part of why Restaurants on the Edge showcased some places in the world that they did; maybe they’re not the first choice, but hopefully they become that for us all.
"When you get off the beaten path a little bit, you learn the difference between vacation and travel.”
Prescott is a huge advocate for supporting local. “Everywhere that you live now you can access local. There are Farmers Markets everywhere. There are also stores that only bring in local.”
If you think you live in a place that local isn't as easy to access, find someone who’s super into food who can guide you in the right way. A great way to do that is to go to your favorite local restaurant and ask the Chef, because he or she will know what’s best. “The chef is the expert in the culinary space.” If they get all of their mushrooms or pork or eggs from a local farm, then you likely can too.
“Everywhere that you live now you can access local. There are Farmers Markets everywhere. There are also stores that only bring in local.”
“Chefs understand that we can only operate with the actual heroes of the culinary world, who are our fishermen, our farmers, our producers and providers. The real heroes are those working the soil.” Dennis shares that chefs get pumped when patrons express that they want to shop local; they love to support those people.
Restaurants on the Edge is important and meaningful to Chef Prescott because it tells stories of why hope and joy and redemption around the kitchen is important. Oftentimes in the food space, it can be stressful. At the end of the day, people just want to spend time with other people that they love.
We want [Restaurants on the Edge] to tell an opposite story of what you see on mainstream television; a story of joy around food and how it brings people together and how food ultimately is the community you break bread with around the table. You don’t see many shows like that, but Netflix is a platform that allows for a little bit of a different voice in the food space.
One of the most common fears Prescott hears about people cooking and/or grilling at home is “where do I start. I don’t know how to get going so I just don’t.”
Rather than overcomplicating it, Dennis recommends cooking the things that bring you joy: Things that are on a restaurant menu you can’t NOT order because you’re so pumped that those dishes are on there. Learn how to make those and those will inspire more ideas and creations.
“Find the things that you love. Take the stress out of food. Feed people bc that’s all they care about is spending time with you. Bring more joy back into the kitchen.”
As a @traegergrills Pro Team Ambassador, “Grilling is inherently communal. You talk to your neighbors, they smell it, they ask you what you’re cooking; the whole part of it is a community.”
Fall in love with feeding people, you will fall in love with food. And that’s just a slippery slope. You fall in love with local, with new ingredients, with new products, you want to travel, you want to eat international; all of it turns into something that’s much bigger than you expected, but at the end of the day it’s because you fell in love with feeding people.
Dennis Prescott is a celebrated Canadian chef and cookbook author with over 600k Instagram followers. A once struggling musician living in Nashville, TN, Prescott learned how to cook by working his way through several Jamie Oliver cookbooks. His studies quickly turned to a food obsession, where he started his booming Instagram account full of photos of mouth-watering food and eclectic recipes. Prescott began working along side chefs in various restaurants, leading him to travel the world as a chef. Having spent time experimenting with countless cooking techniques and recipes, and teaching numerous communities how to cook, Prescott’s expertise have led him to this crucial role on Restaurants on the Edge. His latest cookbook, Eat Delicious: 125 Recipes for your Daily Dose of Awesome is available for purchase now.
About the Author
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