David Burke: Founder, David Burke Group

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Burke’s mastery of French culinary technique was confirmed when, at age 26, he won France’s coveted Meilleurs Ouvriers de France Diplome d’Honneur for unparalleled skill and creativity with his native cuisine. Burke has been honored with Japan’s Nippon Award of Excellence, the Robert Mondavi Award of Excellence and the CIA’s August Escoffier Award. Nation’s Restaurant News named Burke one of the 50 Top R&D Culinarians and Time Out New York honored him as the “Best Culinary Prankster” in 2003. In May 2009, Burke was inducted into the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James  Beard Foundation. In this same month, he also won the distinctive Menu Masters award from Nation’s Restaurant News naming him one of the nation’s most celebrated culinary innovators. In February 2012, Burke was honored by the culinary school at Johnson & Wales University with the Distinguished Visiting Chef Award, which is given to the world’s most influential and celebrated chefs.

1) Why and how did you get into the restaurant industry?

I was a dishwasher as a child and fell in love with the kitchen.  From then, I knew it was the industry for me.  My father could not imagine me having a culinary career for the rest of my life but I made it work – it’s my true passion.

2) Who inspires you to be the best?

The guests, my colleagues and myself.

3) What is your favorite dish at David Burke Fishtail and at home?

Pretzel crusted crabcakes, tomato orange marmalade, poppy seed honey. (below)

Salt roasted Branzino, with broccoli rabe, lemon, olive oil. At home, I like scramble eggs with toast and a cup of coffee.

4) What do you love about NYC and what is a great night out like for you?

I love Theatre District, museums, diversity, restaurants,  energy and competitiveness. Last week I went to see Kinky Voots, had dinner at Aureole restaurant and took a walk down Park Avenue. It was a great date night.

5) What's next for David Burke?

Expansion. I’m also currently working on a new cookbook and product development and more culinary TV.

David Burke trained at the Culinary Institute of America, and soon thereafter traveled to France where he completed several stages with notable chefs such as Pierre Troisgros, Georges Blanc and Gaston Lenôtre. Burke returned to the U.S. as a sous chef for Wally Malouf at La Cremaillere and then for Charlie Palmer at The River Café, where he ascended to executive chef and earned three stars from The New York Times. In 1992, Burke opened the Park Avenue Café with Smith & Wollensky CEO Alan Stillman, and then, in 1996, he became vice president of culinary development for the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group. He most recently appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters: Season 5.  In 2003, Burke teamed up with Donatella Arpaia to open davidburke & donatella (now  known as David Burke Townhouse), of which he now has sole ownership. Next came David Burke at Bloomingdale’s, a dual-concept restaurant offering both a full service “Burke  Bar Café” on one side and a “Burke in the Box” eat-in concept on the other. Burke also opened up David Burke’s Primehouse in The James Hotel Chicago. His restaurant collection continued to grow when he purchased Fromagerie, a fine dining restaurant in Rumson, New Jersey, where his culinary career began under founders Markus and Hubert Peter. His next ventures included David Burke Prime at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut and Fishtail by David Burke, which opened in December 2008 in New York. His most recent addition to the Burke Empire is David Burke Kitchen, which opened at The James New York in February 2011.