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Chef Dionna Israel

Chef at The Chopping Block since: 2012

Favorite class to teach: Any class where people get enlightened with tasty food-knowledge.

Training/education: Schoolcraft College Culinary Associates; 2005. Wayne State University B.S. Advertising; 2007.

Cooking since: 2001

Favorite childhood food experience: As a child, my mother used to make pancakes that looked so amazing, my friends would look forward to breakfast in the morning. My father made, and still makes, the world’s best curry chicken.

What made you want to become a chef? I have always loved to cook since I can remember. I used to pretend that I was doing a cooking show when I was in the kitchen by myself.

What is your signature dish? Hot entrée: Mushroom and Artichoke Risotto; Dessert: Grandma's Carrot Cake

What are the 5 ingredients you can't live without? Butter, heavy cream, white wine, black truffle salt and more butter.

What do you love about cooking? Cooking is very relaxing and rewarding. I love the idea of being able to start with nothing, and end up with a delicious masterpiece.

When you're creating a new recipe, what influences and inspires you? I am influenced by my hunger, and I’m inspired by my mood, which is usually quirky.

What advice would you give a new cook? Never be afraid to try something new! Even if it turns out to be a disaster, make sure you have fun. Learn what you like, and what you don’t like and watch your expertise bloom!

What are you doing when you're not cooking? I am either relaxing with my hubby, reading a good book, or searching for another awesome restaurant in the city.

Describe your perfect evening. I would start with going to a restaurant that I’ve never gone to before. Some place with high reviews. After dinner, my husband and I would go to Millennium Park and walk around. (Because in the perfect evening, the weather would be perfect as well.) We would end the evening with a Bananas Foster dessert that would magically appear in our hands as the sun set beautifully into the night sky.

If you had friends in from out of town, where would you take them to eat? We’d definitely go to the Doughnut Vault for morning donuts, then to Zed 451 for lunch, then we’d finish the evening at my home. I’d make Coq au Vin with horseradish mashed potatoes, and haricot verts. For dessert, I make carrot cake with a bourbon caramel sauce.

Where are you from? Detroit, Michigan

What was your favorite vacation? A cruise to the Bahamas. We had a blast!

What are your hobbies? I love singing, acting, painting and of course, cooking!

What is your favorite band? I actually don’t have one… is that weird?

What is your favorite sports team? Anything football, and I’m in!

If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be? I would love to have dinner with the co-stars of Psych. I love that show!

What are your guilty pleasures? Chocolate, chocolate, and more warm melted chocolate.

Who is your favorite celebrity chef? I like Chef Gordon Ramsey.

What 5 tools should every new cook have in the kitchen?

  • A great knife chosen with love
  • Large cutting board
  • Excellent sauté pan
  • Great sauce pan
  • Tongs

What resources would you suggest for Chopping Block clients? The book Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

List three of your favorite tips or techniques you use in the kitchen.

  • Never use a fork to stick and flip your food when you’re sautéing; use tongs.
  • Always get your pan good and hot when searing.
  • When you’re whisking to emulsify a sauce or dressing and your arm gets tired, try using your wrist a little more to take the stress off of your arm.
Dionna's Favorite Products

I have been a chef for over 13 years, and I have learned that the most important ingredient in the kitchen is your seasoning. Thoroughly seasoning with a great salt or seasoning blend makes the difference between a bland dish and an amazing finish!

I frequently find that people are either afraid to use salt, and/or they are not seasoning properly. With simple techniques and a little confidence, seasoning will not only be conquered, but also become second nature.

AllCladSkilletNow, one of the most important tools in the kitchen compliments that perfectly seasoned item very well; that tool is a good pan. Yes, it actually does matter what we cook with. Look for a heavy bottom pan or pot because with it, you get a great sear to lock in the flavor of those perfectly seasoned meats!

With delicious seasoning, and great pans anyone can make a restaurant quality meal.