Finding answers to challenging questions has always been a driving
force in Chef Daniel Giusti's career. When he was a young man, he tried
and failed to recreate his Aunt’s Sunday gravy. All he wanted to know
was “why!” That curiosity and drive to meet a challenge has shaped his
entire culinary life.
During his sophomore year in high school, Daniel became interested in the culinary arts and thought about attending The Culinary Institute of America. “I met with an admissions representative
who advised me to get a job in the industry,” says Daniel. It was Chef
John Guattery ’80, then the corporate chef for Clyde’s in Washington,
DC, who hired the 15-year-old and took him under his wing.
Daniel took the opportunity to attend a week-long program at the CIA’s Hyde Park campus.
“Afterwards, I was 100% convinced the CIA was the right school for me,”
he says. “The school prepares you to be a real professional and opens
up your options by exposing you to every kind of flavor profile and food
service style. It would be very difficult to find a singular restaurant
where you could learn that much during that amount of time. Plus, the CIA faculty, the facilities, and the resources available to every student are top notch.”
Daniel’s CIA externship
at Auerole had a big impact on his career and future. “It was the first
fine-dining restaurant I had ever worked in and it was very busy and
very hard,” he recalls. “I was cooking with ingredients I had never seen
before and was expected to learn how to work very fast. I genuinely got
hooked on the pace and pressure of a kitchen operating at a high level.
The challenge of keeping up is what has pushed me throughout my
After graduation, Daniel traveled to Italy to explore
regional Italian cooking. Returning to Washington, DC, Daniel helped
open Clyde’s of Gallery Place. He then worked at Guy Savoy’s two Michelin-starred
restaurant in Las Vegas, NV. Just shy of his 24th birthday, he returned
to Washington, DC as the executive chef at Restaurant 1789.
three years at the helm of 1789 and Daniel was eager for a change. “I
was ready for a new challenge and wanted to work at one of the best
restaurants in the world,” he says. So Daniel phoned a colleague he met
while on externship. Chef Matt Orlando was the chef de cuisine at Noma,
Rene Redzepi’s groundbreaking restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark that was
number one on the S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna World’s 50 Best
Restaurants list in both 2012 and 2014. “The food is unique and the way
people work there is amazing,” Daniel says. “But it was the culture that
was the true selling point. The kitchen is comprised of chefs from all
over the world so the setting is super international.” Within a year
Orlando tapped Daniel as his successor, second in command only to
Redzepi. Redzepi felt Daniel not only had the culinary chops but also
the temperament needed to manage a large kitchen staff. “He’s just a
natural leader who is not afraid of making decisions, which is one of
the biggest factors in becoming a head chef because you have to make
decisions constantly,” Redzeipi says. Daniel took over as chef de
cuisine in January 2013 and maintained the restaurant’s two Michelin-star rating.
January 2016, Daniel left Noma and moved back to Washington, DC with
plans to take on a bold new challenge—school food. “Everyone talks about
school food as this unsolvable problem,” Daniel says. “The more I
researched it, the more I locked onto the idea and it quickly became the
focus of my new company, Brigaid.”
“From a simple standpoint,
we’re talking about putting professional chefs in school kitchens.
My goal is to design a singular model, prototype kitchen that’s
cost-effective and has only the equipment you need along with a
professional chef,” says Daniel. “By having chefs present in the school
kitchens on a daily basis, I hope to introduce a model that not only
provides students with quality meals but also furthers their
understanding of what they are eating through basic food education.”
March 23, 2016, Daniel received the approval from the New London, CT
Board of Education to launch a pilot program, which will bring one chef
each to the kitchens of the six schools within the district serving
3,300 students. In the first year, they served 800,000 meals. When Daniel began the hiring process he received 275 applications. His first hire was fellow alumnae April Kindt '04. In 2018, Daniel launched a pilot program at Morris High School in the Bronx. Once established, Brigaid will roll out in five other schools in the same district.
high profile background along with his choice to concentrate on school
food rather than open a restaurant has drawn attention from interested
investors. “I want to put my skills to good use where I can make the
biggest change. It’s clear that chefs are ready to solve bigger problems than ever before, and I want to do my part,” Daniel says.