Daniel Herget: Executive Chef, Little Octopus

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Born in Gainesville, Florida, Daniel Herget developed an early interest in the culinary industry cooking by his grandmother’s side, and watching countless hours of Great Chefs Great Cities on television. The University of Florida brought a diverse food landscape to the city, and Herget was exposed to a vast array of cuisines including Southern, German, Chinese, and Arabic, Middle Eastern, and Lebanese, ultimately helping him distinguish his palate and setting him on the path to his future career.

Herget attended Johnson & Wales University in Miami and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Culinary Arts degree in 2008, and then Summa Cum Laude with a Pastry Arts degree in 2009. For the next five years, Herget cooked his way through the kitchens of some top Miami restaurants including Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, Oak Tavern, and La Goulue. While at Wynwood, he studied under Chef Miguel Aguilar and learned everything he could about global Latino flavors, which he quickly grew to love. “Latino cooking is vibrant and lends itself to exciting and interesting flavors. I try to bring this out in all my dishes,” says Herget.  

Eventually Herget was ready for a change and toyed with the idea of opening a ramen shop in Gainesville, but decided instead to learn under the best and headed to Nashville to stage under Chef Sarah Gavigan, who came highly recommended by ramen master Shige Nakamura of Sun Noodle. Like many who visit Nashville, Herget fell in love with the vibrancy of the city, and in the summer of 2014 he was hired as the executive chef of POP. In addition to serving as Gavigan’s right hand during ramen concept Otaku South’s year-long residency, Herget oversees all pop-up services, guest chef dinners, dinner parties, private events.

Now, Herget is at the helm as executive chef of Little Octopus, which opened in the POP space in June 2015. Herget describes the vegetable-driven menu as “fresh, vibrant, and clean—food you crave that you can also feel good about eating every day.”

What do you do best?

Finding balance, I believe, is the most important aspect of life. I push myself every day to achieve a working mastery of this concept and apply it to every aspect of both my personal and professional life.

What makes you the best?

Having such an eclectic upbringing has allowed me to be pliable with my cooking style and approach to both classic dishes and ingredients.

How will you stay the best?

By continuing to push myself both mentally and physically. If you aren't growing you are dying!

Biggest success?

Little Octopus has been a run-away success greater than any of us could have imagined. I feel very fortunate to have been able to present this concept to such a welcoming clientele.

What are your aspirations?

Personal: To compete in an amateur body building competition within the next two years.

Business: To continue to build the Little Octopus brand and help to educate people about healthful foods and the advantage of a balanced diet and exercise.

Most challenging moment?

A little over 5 years ago, I spent a week in a hospital bed and was diagnosed with crohn’s disease. I was told that my diet would be drastically limited and I would have to take powerful drugs to manage it. I made a conscious decision to treat it with diet and exercise and haven’t had any issues since.

Favorite Motto:

“He who makes a best of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” Also being an Eagle Scout I would be remiss if I didn't say “Be Prepared”

Favorite People:

Michele Bras for his unrelenting love of vegetables. Terry Crews, not sure why, but I think he shares my beliefs on balance.

Favorite Places:

St. John USVI, Wynwood district in Miami, St. Augustine Florida, and of course New York City.

Favorite Products:

As much as I hate to admit it, I am a recent Apple covert and now a true believer. I can’t leave home without my iPhone and Macbook pro.

Current Passions:

Weight lifting, holistic nutrition, and adventure time.