OKC’s Sous Chef Stars
Shining a spotlight on unsung kitchen pros
The ideal sous chef is someone who doesn’t complain, works well at volume, is more dependable than the line cooks and gets paid much less than the executive chef or chef de cuisine. Ask anyone who used to be one and he or she will tell you it’s a “bougie” position, or upscale-sounding term for underpaid skilled worker. The best sous chef is the one who runs the kitchen so well the executive can actually take a day off and not worry about the kitchen burning down or crashing.
The chefs featured here either did or are still doing their time behind that title. When done right, working as a sous earns chefs the respect of the industry and prepares them for the chef de cuisine role or executive recognition, but it involves a ton of hours and mostly thankless work. Their chefs love them; most people don’t know their names. We’d like to do our part to change some of that, so these are some of the best current and former sous chefs from around the city.
Dylan Morgan, Executive Sous Chef, Grey Sweater
Grey Sweater’s executive sous chef caught the attention of chef-owner Andrew Black for two reasons: an unbelievable commitment to excellence and a stellar palate. “In the Meatball House days, Dylan would roll thousands of meatballs, and he never complained, but I knew he was special when he tasted a sauce and knew everything it needed. He has a ludicrous palate.”
Morgan’s mother ran a professional bakery for decades, so food has always been central in his life. He left an engineering program at OU because he didn’t enjoy school. A friend at a pizza joint told him about Chef Black, and the two connected immediately. Before Black opened Grey Sweater, he knew he wanted Morgan in the kitchen for his hard work, attention to detail and creativity. Watching them work together now, the mutual respect is apparent.
The engineering mind is still part of Morgan, but he’s using it on plating beautiful dishes. “I like things that are all finesse – where the wrong touch or detail makes it all wrong. There is so much to perfect and master at Grey Sweater.”
Shannon Goforth, Executive Chef, Bradford House
You’ll probably recognize her if you spent any time at Ludivine. Goforth was the familiar, hard-working face of the Midtown restaurant, especially after its move to the new space. She got her start in OKC when she came back after finishing culinary school in New York to help with the opening of Vast. An Edmond native, Goforth never considered a career in cooking until a friend encouraged her.
“I’ve grown to love it now,” she says. “I love the creativity, and the way I can add things to the role from other jobs I’ve held. It’s been a long road to Bradford House, but it feels worth it.”
Goforth now oversees the kitchen at Bradford House, where her focused menu means everything has to be excellent. There is simply no room to hide when you’re only making three or four entrees. Her experience at Vast prepared her to be exceptional with fish, so if there is one on the menu, say yes.
Bryan Wilson, Kitchen Manager, Lua Mediterranean
When Lua reopened in April, Wilson was named kitchen manager, but it’s more a sous chef role. Basically, he’ll be doing what he did so well at Magnolia Bistro: cook, learn and grow. He’s only been cooking for four years – after a dramatic change from his previous situation that he now describes as doing what he needed to do to survive living on the street. Food literally turned his life around, thanks in large part to Chef Corey Harris at Off the Hook.
“I was inspired by him, the way he went from slinging plates out of his house to the truck to the restaurants,” Wilson says. “He’d been talking to me about things, and one day I was headed to Kansas City and his voice was in my head, so I turned the car around at Waterloo Road, and went to work for him.”
Wilson completed the program at Platt College, and his work at Magnolia Bistro caught the attention of Lua chef-partner Shelby Sieg. He enjoys cooking Mediterranean and Italian food, but he has plans going forward, and they revolve around soul food.
“I want a place where I can push the boundaries of soul food,” Wilson says, “and in my head, it looks like my young face with my grandmother’s soul.”
Ashley Gonzalez, Sous Chef, Patrono
Emancipated at 16, Gonzalez moved to Oklahoma City and got her start at Taco Bell. The Texas native grew up with her dad, whom she calls an amazing cook. At 13, she knew she wanted to be a chef, but the Taco Bell drive-through overnight shift (8 p.m. to 4 a.m.) is often where dreams go to die. Not so for Gonzalez. She’s a fighter, and she’s passionate about food. Patrono executive chef Jonathan Krell was first impressed that she is “a beast on the grill,” but he eventually noticed that she gets very good at every task she’s assigned.
Since her program at Platt concluded, Gonzalez has worked in hotels and one other Midtown restaurant, where she got to work with Chef Chris McKenna. Her years at a hotel steakhouse paid off, since both McKenna and Krell say she’s the best they’ve seen on grill – a steak never gets sent back at Patrono.
“Being a chef is who I am,” Gonzalez says. “I was born for it; it’s inside me. I love the lifestyle, the energy, the people, all of it.”
Joel Wingate, Executive Chef, Cafe 501 – Classen Curve
Talk to Joel Wingate now, and he’ll tell you his story has been shaped by Pete Holloway and the Holloway family. The chef de cuisine at Cafe 501 – Classen Curve got his start in food in Dallas, where he worked mainly in Italian restaurants. His wife’s grandfather knew Pete Holloway, so Wingate ended up a line cook at 501 Edmond.
“I come from a family of Boeing mechanics, so it was weird to tell them I wanted to be a chef, but they took it well,” Wingate says. “I can’t tell you how important to my growth Pete and Jeff Holloway – the whole family, really – have been.”
Wingate caught our attention last year when he converted state fair food into upscale, wine-dinner-quality dishes at 501 Curve. He’s been with the company for seven years, though, and he loves where he is professionally right now. “I love that I get to be creative in a different way,” he says. “I can’t draw anything, but I can make a beautiful plate.”
Quinn Carroll, Executive Chef, Frida Southwest
Frida’s executive chef has been in the food business since he was 15. He worked very briefly as a dishwasher at Coit’s Drive-In before being promoted to morning prep cook. “I made the root beer,” Carroll says. He also cracked eggs, prepped onion rings and learned the level and kind of work it took to stay in food service. Eventually, the OKC native made his way to Deep Fork, where he met Chef Ryan Parrot and worked with Chef Clay Faulkner of Signature Grill. The relationship with Parrot would prove important, because during a one-year hiatus from food, Carroll heard from Parrot about a new restaurant.
It took about four months for Carroll to be named head chef at Frida, and he’s thrived in the job. He loves Southwestern cuisine, so the food is exactly what he wants to be cooking. He builds layers of flavor without overwhelming the dishes, and he still manages to plate hearty, sprawling dishes with finesse and beauty. Like so many others in kitchens around the world, Carroll never had time for school; he just worked himself into the job, and the city is better because of it.