Where Are They Now: 8 Notable Dai Due Alums

By Megan Giller  |  November 12, 2013
Credit: Jody Horton

Dai Due chef Jesse Griffiths and his wife Tamara Mayfield do more than make meals that are all-natural and all-local; over the years, they have also fostered Austin’s food scene by nurturing the growth of chefs and food enthusiasts who are now sharing their talents around town. “The other day someone told me that our business is that we have good product and good people,” Griffiths said. “That’s all there is to it.”

Well, that’s not all there is to it. Without even meaning to, Dai Due has been inspiring their employees to do more since opening in 2006. How? Griffiths says by “letting them take ownership and respecting people’s vision.” But he also clearly has an eye for talent, saying that “we don’t necessarily hire people based on whether they’re hot shots or have a great resume or are from New York. It’s more, do they believe in what we’re doing?” In honor of Austin’s most iconic butcher/supper club/farmer's market stand/charcuterie shop recently announcing that it is officially going brick and mortar in the spring of 2014, here are eight people who since working at Dai Due have gone on to accomplish some of their own notable projects.

  • Credit: Tiffany Smith

    Jessica Maher, Co-Owner and Pastry Chef, Lenoir

    When Maher moved back to Texas from New York City with her husband, chef Todd Duplechan, she tried to break into the Austin scene any way she could. She started by making ice cream and writing a recipe for the first issue of Edible Austin. As payment, the editor in chief, Marla Camp, took Maher and Duplechan to a Dai Due dinner. From there, Maher and Griffiths worked on a combined Thanksgiving story for the magazine, and the bond was set. She started working in the kitchen at Griffiths’ supper clubs, moved to front of house and eventually became the first full-time farmer's market employee. She officially left Dai Due in September 2011, when she signed the lease for Lenoir and started working on her own full-time project, which has since become one of the most well-regarded restaurants in Austin.

  • Credit: Thomas Winslow

    Jeremy Barnwell, Owner, Barnison Farm & Catering

    Barnwell was on board with Dai Due since almost the beginning. After providing Griffiths with organic free-range chickens from his farm, the two decided to partner on butchery classes in 2004. They would finish the class with a big dinner using the animals they had butchered, and voila, there sprouted the idea of an official supper club and butcher shop. Barnwell helped prep and cook from 2005 to 2010, when he decided to work full time on his farm and catering company. Barnison Catering now provides healthy, organic school lunches to three Austin area schools. “Jesse had so instilled in me using local ingredients and having integrity about food,” Barnwell said. He harvests produce from his farm and then shops at the farmer's markets to create lunches like chicken and vegetable stir-fries with rice, a mixed green salad and an organic fruit salad. That beats the clucker off frozen chicken nuggets.

  • Liz Baloutine, Owner, Seedlings Gardening

    When the laid-back Baloutine moved back to Texas from Chicago, one of her first stops was Dai Due. She started with Griffiths in 2008 as a server and office assistant at the supper clubs, where she worked until 2010, learning about how to keep it local. From there, Baloutine launched her own company, Seedlings Gardening, which creates and maintains fruit and vegetable gardens for restaurants and private residences. Her list of clients reads like a who’s who of Austin restaurants: Olivia, Elizabeth Street Café, Jeffrey’s, Josephine House, Buenos Aires Café and more. Baloutine takes care to grow hyperlocal plants and always wants to talk shop about sustainable eating.

  • Credit: Applebox Imaging

    Sonya Cote, Chef-Owner, Hillside Farmacy, Eden East

    When the longtime vegetarian made the decision to learn to cook meat, she looked to local chef Andrew Brooks. The two started the Spirited Foods catering kitchen, where Cote worked as a sous chef and where Dai Due eventually rented space. “I met Jesse and begged to work with him because of his commitment to local foods,” Cote told us. She sought him out to learn about sausage and charcuterie, and from there started cooking with Griffiths at his supper clubs and private events. After a few years she left for her own projects: first Cote Catering, then East Side Show Room, and finally her current places, Hillside Farmacy and Eden East, and her nonprofit, Homegrown Revival. In particular, her restaurant Eden East is strongly committed to keeping it local. It’s housed on Springdale Farm and changes its menu weekly to incorporate mainly local produce.

  • Clinton Tedin, Head Waiter, Lenoir 

    As Dai Due's first employee, Tedin started out waiting tables for the supper clubs in 2006. The group had so few plates and silverware back then that Tedin would rush to clear each course so that he could wash the dishes before the next was served, and the employees brought tables and chairs from their homes. “I used to tie a piece of kitchen twine around the leg of my chairs so we could tell them apart at the end of the night,” Tedin told us. The thoughtful, dapper waiter met the owners of Asti and Fino when they hired Dai Due to cater their Christmas party, and a month later, they hired Tedin to man up the Fino bar, “I'm sure because of my connection to Dai Due,” Tedin said. After four years, he moved to Lenoir when it opened to work with fellow Dai Due alum Jessica Maher, though he still works periodically with Dai Due, most recently catering their anniversary dinner at Springdale Farm in October.

  • Greg Baldwin, Front-of-House Manager, Arro

    The Texas native had cooked with Griffiths at Vespaio and baked bread at Enoteca, but he wanted to learn about butchery. So in 2007 he moved to Dai Due, where he managed the farmer's market stand for two and a half years and worked at the supper clubs occasionally. But the Texas Culinary School graduate wanted to open his own bistropub, and to do that, he knew he needed to learn about front of house. When the modern French-American restaurant Arro opened recently, he saw an opportunity. Baldwin now heads up the front of house while learning about wine, and he says his long-term plan is still to open his own place.

  • Deepa Shridhar, Line Cook at Lenoir 

    The young, self-taught cook started out staging at Lucia in Dallas, but she moved to Austin with the goal of working for Dai Due. In 2011 Griffiths added her to the team, where she worked in the kitchen, cooking alongside her mentor and helping develop menus for the supper clubs. Everyone had their specialty, and Indian food was hers. She also worked with yogurt and yogurt marinades. Because she’s so interested in Indian flavors, she moved to Lenoir in August 2013 to work on the line. "Todd's palate is closer to what I want to do one day, so that was an exciting opportunity to work with Indian flavors specifically every week," she says.

  • Jody Horton, Food and Lifestyle Photographer

    The famed Austin food photographer started working with Griffiths and Mayfield about three years ago, taking photos of them and their food. (He's shot for Zagat too.) Around that time, Horton also began working with Griffiths on a book about hunting and fishing, palling around Texas, cooking fish on the beach and hunting deer for days in the woods. “It’s cool when the guy taking pictures is a really good fire starter,” Griffiths told us. Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Cooking Wild Game and Fish was nominated for the James Beard Award this year. Horton plans to rework Dai Due’s photos for their upcoming brick-and-mortar restaurant.