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4 Culinary & Beverage Artists to Know in Columbus, Ohio in 2024: Daniel Kamel - Veritas

My husband and I have been to Veritas multiple times already, it has become one of these places that are now familiar to us where we want to just hang out with friends while having an extraordinary meal. During one of our visits to the restaurant, Daniel graciously came to say hi to our table where we immediately proceeded to praise his Mexican cake and Chamomile ice cream, a dessert that I will have forever in my head…I’m telling you, forever in my head.

Today, we found a comfortable couch at The Citizens Trust, Veritas sister bar just upstairs to have this conversation.

Daniel, thank you for your time. First off, where are you from and when did you start doing what you do?  


My name is Daniel Kamel, I am 34 years old. I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Originally, I moved around a lot in that area of Philly, and south Jersey. And then eventually moved to Ohio in I think, 2005. I was still in high school in the Youngstown area. And then once I graduated, I moved down to Columbus in 2008. I remember I took the summer off and then finally moved at down here. 


My first job ever was at a Quiznos Subs in Jersey, I was probably 15 years old, I remember I wasn’t allowed to use any of the anything electronic appliances, like the blender, the slicers, etc., because of my age.   And I moved down here for culinary school. I went to the Bradford, or the Columbus Culinary Institute, and then here I am. 


After moving to Columbus, I got a job at McCormick and Schmitz in Easton, and then I quickly moved to Elena's, which is now closed. Right after that I kind of went to a bunch of different local restaurants here in town, until eventually I ended up at M from Cameron Mitchell. Honestly, this last one was very good education for me as the organization was very structured and corporate in a way. After about two years at ‘M’ I left and went to open the Downtown Hilton and then moved to Standard Hall. After all that I made gained my first pastry experience at Wolfs Ridge, which was cool as I got to create my own things pastry-wise, luckily, I'm versatile because I've been on both sides, savory and sweet. A few months later I ended up moving to a pretty great place, Rooh; and I was there briefly because it was right before COVID, they wanted me because they needed a pastry chef which is what I was doing at the time.


And then, finally <laughs> Josh called me, in the beginning of COVID and said: “Hey, so you have a job. I just don't know when you start anymore”.


And so, after the pandemic and everything we’ve been through, this August will be there fourth year of my Executive Chef position at Veritas.


Was there a specific time or fact that made you want to become a Chef?


I don't know if there's a specific moment, at least I don't remember it. But food has always been an important thing in my family growing up. You know, it's communal for everyone.I have immigrant parents form Romania, so it's even more so.


When it comes to cooking, I was and am very organized, as a kid I was always trying to figure our good Lego challenges for example, and that’s how I see food, I was always fascinated by all the processes that take place in the kitchen.


You guys have a structured team and kitchen here at Veritas. How do you come up with every menu? You and your team excel in creativity, and it shows in every dish, how to do you plan for that, how to you get inspired?


I get inspired by the most random things, anything really. But one thing I can tell you is that I am a very visual person, if a see a piece of art that catches my eye, I can stay there and come up with a number of things to put on a dish. For example, ‘Spring’ was our past menu in the restaurant and the inspiration behind it was the awful winters we get here in Ohio so what we did is try and to inverse that sentiment by adding as much color to the plate as possible, we wanted everything to be vegetable forward and bright, just to represent happiness and… spring.


Ho do you adjust to local palates? Is that something you consider when designing a menu?


Josh and I, we both kind of look at it as, there's two avenues to go. You either cook the food you want to eat, and you hope that people like it enough that they, you know, support your business or you cater to what people want. And there's nothing wrong with either end of it.  


I try to do both. I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what people like to eat, and I use that to kind of drive the menus direction. The menu we have coming up is Thai, and we know there's not a lot of Thai restaurants in Columbus  and so, we kind of know this will be challenging for us but all we know is the flavors we put together are representative of the region and are delicious.


Is there an ingredient that you see yourself always putting on the menu?


You know, there's two things that I like to have on a menu. I almost always want to have some form of shellfish.  Shellfish is one of my favorite things. Specifically, crab. I love crab. Like all different types. I think it's delicious. I'm not a huge fan of lobster, but, you know, it's still great. But yeah, so I think crab is something that it's a nice treat.  


Maybe my second option would be eggs, eggs are very versatile. Did you know they say that each pleat in a tall French chef’s hat supposedly represents the many ways they know how to cook an egg? It’s a fun wives’ tale, isn’t it?


On the other hand, is there anything you don’t like to cook or taste?


So, I'll say this, and I don't hate them because they are just delicious, and I will see them every spring season. English peas, fava beans, fresh garbanzo beans, and all those things are extremely tedious work. You need to be committed, just sit there and shuck all the peas.


Daniel, I am a home cook, you know I love to cook. What is one piece of advice that you would give to us, home cooks?


This is simple, just get a sharp knife. You will work better, faster and you will avoid accidents if you take care of your knife regularly. I can't tell you how many homes I've been to where they just hand me a dull knife and I’m like: ‘what the …” <laughs>.


I'm not saying you need a thousand dollar knife, just keep'em sharp. Yeah. That and seasoning. Just make sure you season your food. I feel like that's one of the biggest things at home. Use you salt!


Okay, so… do you think salt and pepper as basic seasoning?


I do not, well it depends, but I don't think you should season with pepper because it's a spice. Salt will make your taste buds open to whatever flavor you want to enhance. At the end of the day, seasoning is about balance and learning who you are cooking for, either yourself, your family or friends.


Daniel, was there any time where you needed to put together a dish on the spot? Something that was not planned or on the menu.


Many, many times. I kind of look at it as, you know, do what people want. Make them what they want. It's not a big deal, and you will make them happy. I once had a guest come to ‘M’, he was regular and he really liked the warm sourdough bread and butter that, you know, came to every table, but this guest wanted to ha have a warm honey and peanut butter with it. And so, I thought, we have all those things, why not make him happy? That is how I like to build relationships with the guests, a connection. I really like to meet guests that are genuine, sincere.  


Is there any memorable dish you’ve had in your life that you just can’t forget?


We recently went to LA to check out a bunch of cool spots and so we went to this restaurant, Kato. It is a Taiwanese Michelin star restaurant. And they had this one dish that was like a savory yeasted donut, and it was filled with Uni, and then on top there was a ham, a brown butter sauce and caviar. It was incredible, decadent, amazing.


What is the biggest change you have seen in the restaurant industry in the past years?


Across the board, literally every facet of the industry has changed. In terms of the economic aspect, most ingredients went up a lot. A good example is the price of limes, I'm sure you've heard that even in Mexico the prices are only going up.

Another change I have seen is that after COVID, it has become hard to staff restaurants, a lot of people don’t want to come back to the industry, either because of resentment with it, or they found a new professional interest and want a new chapter in their lives.


Daniel and I went into a long conversation about how wages and expectations in the restaurant industry have changed after the pandemic, and so have the costs of goods. This represents an everyday challenge for the industry, which everyone is trying to address as best as possible.

If you could eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?


The first thing that came to my mind was peanut butter and jelly. But I know that that is not a substantial thing to have for the rest of my life. Also, probably soup, I would say some kind of soup. Really good chicken noodle soup or French onion soup I could eat every day. I think those two I could handle whether it's 80 degrees or 50 degrees outside. Yeah. So, I think those two would be the things.  


How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Do you toast the bread?


 Oh, it depends. It depends on the mood. I think the classic for me is just white bread or wheat bread. You don't want to get one of the fancy wheat breads with all the extra seeds. And then I'm a grape person. I got nothing against strawberry or the other flavors, but you know… grape jelly. Grape jelly is the best. And then, yeah, smooth peanut butter.  


If you could make a plate of food for anyone dead or alive, who would it be?  


I would say I would want to be able to cook for my grandparents again now that I am in a professional environment. That's who I'd pick.


Last question. What are you most excited about in 2024?


Well, super excited about the Thai menu. Like I said, it starts next week. I'm just excited cause it's Thai food. I think it's delicious. There's been some challenges with the menu just because we want to be extra mindful of every component of all dishes but me and the team can’t wait for everyone to taste it. Get ready!


I want to thank Daniel for his time and thank you for reading this article, I will now go get us some reservations for that Thai menu he’s so excited about.


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