Pizzacraft Executive Chef Danny Hernandez Once Cooked for Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay

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Mexican-born Danny Hernandez didn't grow up dreaming of being a chef. Instead, he stumbled into the career by accident. Now, with nearly two decades of experience behind him, the former New Yorker can say he's cooked a five-course tasting menu for celebrity chef Bobby Flay — no easy task.

Born in Puebla, Mexico, and raised between California and New York, Hernandez has a diverse culinary background and experience working in some of the country’s most recognized restaurants. His portfolio includes assisting Michelin star chef Salvatore Calisi at Odeum in California and serving as sous chef for celebrity chef Bobby Flay at his flagship restaurant Mesa Grill in New York City.

Today, the chef is living the South Florida life. As executive chef for Pizzacraft Artisan Pizzeria, he's the one responsible for overseeing the execution of all those wood-fired pies and handmade pastas at the 7-month-old Fort Lauderdale establishment.

Name: Danny Hernandez, chef at Pizzacraft Artisan Pizzeria
Hometown: Puebla, Mexico

New Times: What inspired you to begin cooking professionally?
Hernandez: I first got into the restaurant business because I needed a job. I met a chef from the Harley Davidson Café in New York who happened to be hiring, and the more time I spent working in the restaurant industry, I began to realize that cooking was my passion.

What’s the first important meal or dish you remember making?
The most important meal of my career would have to be the one I cooked for Bobby Flay. I prepared a five-course tasting meal for him in order to earn a sous chef position at Mesa Grill in New York. That was an incredible — and stressful — experience. I also love cooking breakfast for my two little girls. It’s a great opportunity for me to spend time with them.

What’s your favorite restaurant in South Florida (besides yours, of course)?
I really enjoy hanging out at JB’s on the Beach. It's the perfect Florida vibe. And I always have a great time at Oceans 234. They’re both great places to unwind after work.

What’s your favorite dish on your menu right now?
I love all of the pasta dishes. We make all our pastas from scratch and it’s a process I especially enjoy. We spend time daily researching what the best ingredients are at the moment and what’s currently in season. We try to incorporate those ingredients into our menu accordingly to keep things flavorful and fresh.

What’s the weirdest request you’ve ever gotten from a customer?
One time, when I was working in New York, a customer brought her own pan from home for us to prepare her meal in. And yes, we used it.

What do you feel is lacking from the South Florida food scene?
I would really like to see more collaboration between chefs. I think it would be really exciting to have chefs be a guest at a restaurant and create dishes that are really different and fun for people. We recently had an event at Himmarshee Public House where the chefs from the different JEY Group restaurants came together to prepare a six-course meal. It was a very cool experience that I would love to see more of.

If you could open your own establishment what would you name it and what would the concept be?
I would call it Brooklyn’s as an homage to where I was raised. I love really good barbecue, so it would be an authentic barbecue spot. I used to drive from New York to North Carolina any chance I could just to have some authentic barbecue, so it would be really neat to re-create that experience in South Florida.

Do you have any advice for up and coming chefs trying to break into the biz?
You truly have to have a passion for cooking and want it for more than just the money because it is a very tough industry to be successful in. It’s also important to make smart decisions about career moves, especially early on.

Pizzacraft is located at 330 Himmarshee St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-616-8028, or visit pizzacraftpizzeria.com.

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