A stint at IHOP® as a college student is responsible for putting Executive Chef Darryl Butts on a culinary journey that brought him “home” to The Gables at Chadds Ford. Sounds unlikely, but sometimes the truth is so tasty that you have to explore it further!
We took a few minutes of Chef Darryl’s hectic day for a Q&A. Check out what makes him tick, and then stop by The Gables, say hello and enjoy his new twists on some of our classics plus new seasonal goodness.
You’ve had an extensive career in the industry — tell us about your journey.
Executive Chef Darryl Butts: Believe it or not, I wanted to be an architect. Then, I took the graveyard shift at an IHOP and realized I really liked food, the energy of being in a kitchen and the creative side. Initially, my mom flipped when I told her I wanted to be a chef, but after she thought about it, she said, “Son, do what makes you happy.” I finished an associate’s degree at Drexel University and went right to the Culinary Institute of America.
You’ve been an executive chef and/or partner in just about every type of restaurant, including large chains. What brought you to The Gables?
It’s true — at Champps, Fox & Hound Restaurant Group, Brickhouse Bar & Grill, Bertucci’s, Movie Tavern, Buca Di Beppo and Sullivan’s Steakhouse — I did everything at some point: training, test kitchen rollouts, budgeting, menu planning, purchasing, cooking and so much more. Yet I also gained great experience and a love for restaurants like The Gables, going from line cook to banquet chef at Fishers Tudor House and the Classic Cafe in Bensalem, and Merlino’s on the Waterfront in Ewing, N.J. I loved how I was able to get my creative juices flowing, developing concepts, scratch cooking and handling large parties. I was looking for more of that, the chance to impact an already outstanding menu and delight some really great customers. That’s why I’m so excited to be at The Gables.
What have those experiences taught you that you plan to implement at The Gables?
Everything has taught me that my heart is in the creative side, and that there’s nothing like working in a kitchen and just doing it.
What’s your chef/food philosophy?
Look at the food! The food has to look good before you taste it. I want you to get excited and to get your mouth watering before you dive in so that you know it’s going to be delicious before you even take a bite.
What’s your plan for The Gables’ menu?
We’re going to keep a few favorites — and enhance them. Think upscale Southern with a European twist! A good example is our popular shrimp and grits. We’ve added more height to it with some frizzled onions and are making the grits with heavy cream, so they’re nice and fluffy. Check out these before-and-after pictures (below)! And we plan to brainstorm regularly to keep the menu seasonal and interesting so you come back for more. Frequently.
What would you like to say to The Gables’ regulars?
I’m here to serve you. To make your dining experience great. It’s not about me or my amazing kitchen staff: It always is, and always will be, about our guests.
Will you continue to cultivate the rooftop garden?
The rooftop garden is our hidden gem; it will live on forever. We’re replanting and will add additional herbs, too.
Tell us a bit more about you!
I became an ordained Baptist pastor three years ago. My wife, Dionne Cosby Butts, was ordained a Bishop five years ago. We’re blessed to have three wonderful children: Dareon, 10, Dominique, 21 and Lexus, 23, and a grandson, Uziah, 15 months. And, of course, our dog, Lucky.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I really enjoy football; I’ve been a Miami Dolphins fan since I was a little kid. I also do some import/export trade from home as a hobby.
The Gables at Chadds Ford is nestled in the heart of the historic Brandywine Valley. Our combination of fresh seasonal cuisine, rustic yet elegant charm and enchanting outdoor dining will keep you coming back time and time again. The Gables is also the perfect venue to host your next special event, whether you are planning a wedding, rehearsal dinner, baby shower or corporate event.
Photos: The Gables at Chadds Ford