CLEVELAND — Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week kicks off with a special launch Thursday night and the full food showcase beginning Friday. The goal is to allow Northeast Ohioans to experience the many great tastes of the city while also providing a boost to local restaurants with a push of traffic expected their way. But in addition to fresh bites, those dining out downtown may also get to experience some of the fresh new faces in the food industry.
One of the restaurants participating in Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week is House of Creole, which just opened on Euclid Avenue this year. Serving up southern staples, the restaurant is putting a Cleveland flare on the tastes of New Orleans—courtesy of 19-year-old Duane Hamilton—better known as Chef Deuce.
”First I started off as sous chef when I first got here," Hamilton said. “And now we’re running."
Hamilton practically grew up in the kitchen, working in family restaurants and entering the culinary world in elementary school.
“I’ve been cooking since I was seven," Hamilton said. “A lot of the guys in the kitchen are older than me but they definitely have that respect and understanding that we’re here, we’re running."
The young chef has been impressing those around him and earning the respect of his peers from the food he serves up with ease.
“He makes all the dishes, given us a lot of ideas, giving us that Cleveland flavor,” said Dontrell Smith, Chief of Staff at House of Creole.
Smith tasted Hamilton's cooking at Grille 55 and knew he needed him on his staff. After some very convincing offers, Hamilton accepted a new role, quickly working his way to executive chef at House of Creole. His age may make others question his skill, but every opportunity Hamilton has gotten has been earned.
“We definitely gave our young chef a good opportunity. He’s growing the kitchen and expanding," Smith said. “So we really want to bring that to the Cleveland market.”
Now at House of Creole, Hamilton is continuing to grow and has been offered a new opportunity to cook for the restaurant's location in Washington D.C.
"I'm actually going to school in D.C. in August so I'll be working, running my own store there and going to school at the same time," Hamilton said.
Before he leaves, however, Hamilton will be delivering his dishes to hungry guests during Downtown Cleveland Restuarant Week—an event he's excited to participate in, ready to prepare everything from mac and cheese to jambalaya to fried green tomatoes.
The flavors Hamilton brings have a unique touch, inspired by his experiences cooking with family and fueled by his passion to let the world know what Cleveland is all about.
“It’s definitely a soul food city so I just want to take that everywhere I go and spread that part of Cleveland around the world,” Hamilton said.
So while Hamilton may be leaving the area in a few months, in the meantime he'll be treating diners at House of Creole to his dishes and gaining the experience he needs to reach his goals once he's back in The Land.
“I want them to know that Cleveland has good food, if we don’t have anything we definitely have new food," Hamilton said. “In the future, I definitely look forward to opening my own restaurant in Cleveland.”
For those looking to check out the budding young chef, House of Creole is offering a $50 per-person three-course menu with a specialty cocktail drink special during Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week May 13-22.
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