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Daniel del Prado Takes Over the Kitchen at Perspectives

Daniel de Prado demonstrates how to make pasta sauce with carrot juice, so you can skip adding sugar to the sauce.

While there’s an entire movement devoted to clean eating, Chef Daniel del Prado is hyping clean cooking. 

Which is why when he demonstrated how to make pasta from scratch for the Cooking with the Stars guests at Perspectives, he advocated kneading the dough in a mixing bowl rather than on a floured board or counter. “My mother is 100 percent Italian and she never made a nest,” he said, referring to the mound of dough that is created as a well for egg yolk additions. The finished product is the same, but the clean up is much faster. “I love cooking, but I love a clean house, a clean kitchen,” explained the chef/owner of Martina, the reservations-coveted Argentinean restaurant in Minneapolis’ Linden Hills area.

Another reason for cooking clean, he added, is because he does a lot of his menu development at home and he has a “puppy who pretty much will eat anything off the floor.”

Del Prado is the fourth chef in the six-chef series auctioned off at Perspectives’ annual fundraiser. Responsible for the great line up of celebrity chefs is Sue Zelickson, a benefactor of the Kids Café at Perspectives, a facility helping at-risk women and children in transition. With two more to go in this year’s series, Zelickson is already recruiting chefs, predominately women, for 2019.

Once the dough was made, a refrigerated version was removed for attendees to extrude and place on trays dusted with corn meal. 

“You all know cornmeal, right?” he asked, innocently. 

An appetizer crudo with pine nuts and green onions before being drizzled with burnt onion puree. “I don’t like dainty plating,” the chef said. 

While the group, mostly younger, well-heeled (it was a fashion show) women, was charmed by del Prado’s thick Argentinean accent, he occasionally struggled with finding the English word for what he was describing. On hand to help him when needed was Morgan Lent, his director of operations for Martina and Colita, his in-the-works barbecue restaurant. 

Martina almost didn’t happen, he said, because he wasn’t sure he wanted to leave Burch Steak and Isaac Becker. “He made me the chef I am,” del Prado said about Becker, who owns 112 Eatery, Burch and Bar La Grassa. The pair was featured in Foodservice News’ Top Chef issue in 2016, which highlighted mentors and their star protégés. 

At 13 del Prado left home to go on the road with a rock band. “I thought I was a rock star,” he said, grinning. He was a ski instructor in Vail, Colorado, and although he never went to culinary school, he learned to cook, because “in the summer the only thing you can do is restaurants.” He no longer picks up a guitar, but will occasionally play the drums to relax. “I put (my) creative energy from music into food,” he said, adding that on his journey, “I met so many friends, girl friends a lot.”

When he opened Martina in 2017 it was a “package deal”—a fine-dining restaurant followed a year or so later with a more casual Mexican barbecue restaurant in a remodeled gas station. 

He chose the name Martina for his first restaurant, he said, because that’s what his name would have been if he had been a girl. “Martina was the most popular name for a girl the year I was born,” he said. Colita, his name for the second restaurant, means “little tail,” and was the name of his first dog. 

Argentinean food is “a lot of beef and burning things,” he told the group. To prove his point, a puree of burnt onions was one of the appetizer’s ingredients. The pitch-black sauce, which he drizzled on crudo, was made by placing whole green onions in a 550-degree oven (with no oil) and burning them (10 to 15 minutes). The charcoal onions are then mixed with olive oil and finely chopped in a food processor. He described the end product as “molasses meets soy sauce.”

The other surprise ingredient was a reduction of carrot juice. It made up the base of the pasta sauce along with fish sauce, lime—“I use lime like other people use salt,” he explained—and generous clumps of crab meat.

Like Martina, Colita will have the bold flavors, but from the Oaxacan cuisine of Mexico. Del Prado and Lent, who will extend her role to general manager of Colita when it opens, toured Mexico buying pottery from potters in small villages and sampling the cuisine with others on the team. Other regions of Mexico may be added later. 

During the closing Q&A, del Prado revealed two unpopular stances: He loves Yelp—“It’s democracy,” he said. “Most chefs hate it, but I use it to
correct problems”—and he dislikes French food. “It’s not my thing,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. Maybe that’s the Italian side of him. Hopefully, those comments won’t burn any bridges with his fellow chefs in town. 

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