GPYC chef pleasing hometown palates after wowing world culinary community

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 17, 2015

 Grosse Pointe Yacht Club Executive Chef David L. Daniot — who celebrates his second anniversary at the GPYC this month — took home a silver medal last year in one of the most prestigious culinary competitions in the world.

Grosse Pointe Yacht Club Executive Chef David L. Daniot — who celebrates his second anniversary at the GPYC this month — took home a silver medal last year in one of the most prestigious culinary competitions in the world.

Photo courtesy of the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club

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GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Some people apply for Grosse Pointe Yacht Club membership because they’re avid boaters, while others hold memberships for the club’s social offerings. But there may be a new group of prospective members to add to the list: foodies.

GPYC Executive Chef David L. Daniot received a silver medal in Culinary Art and placed 25th out of 154 international competitors last November for the Villeroy & Boch Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg, a challenging event held every four years. An international jury of 55 master chefs rated the competitors, and Daniot scored an impressive 86.6 out of 100.

Daniot, who has been the GPYC’s executive chef since February 2013, admitted that the contest was a daunting proposition.

Until January 2014, “I had not competed in a cold food competition at any level,” Daniot said in an email interview. “I have won over 18 culinary competition medals, including five gold, but all in hot food, so making the second-largest international culinary competition in the world my first cold competition was rather daunting. With the support of my wife and GPYC, I decided to try out for the team in January. A chef needed to score a bronze medal or higher in the Dorsey Schools Culinary Salon, and I was awarded a silver to earn my place on the team.”

He said that the competition “was huge.”

“Imagine 1,000 of the finest chefs in the world, all trying to accomplish the same goals as yourself,” Daniot continued. “Each competitor was required to make four finger foods, each between 10 and 20 grams, two to be served hot and two to be served cold, but all displayed cold. That’s the tricky part. You have to make the food look hot, but it’s actually cold. Then we had to prepare a festive dinner of four courses: fish appetizer, salad, main plate and dessert.”

Daniot’s varied menu included stuffed braised quail leg, cured venison loin in vegetable crust, plum-encased Humboldt Fog goat’s milk cheese, and halibut terrine with spinach mousse, nori and leek.

GPYC Commodore Kevin Granger, of Grosse Pointe Woods, said they were thrilled when they got the news about their top chef.

“It truly is a prestigious honor, and I couldn’t be happier for him,” Granger said in an email interview. “He has put an incredible amount of time into his culinary skills, and it’s great to see him getting the recognition he has worked so hard for.”

In his relatively brief tenure at the GPYC, Daniot has brought a lot of new items to the table — literally and figuratively.

“He has brought a greater variety of dishes than we have had previously, and I think at times that has been a little overwhelming for our members,” Granger said. “Our last chef, Chef Carney, was extremely popular, and unfortunately he passed away while still working for us. It is never easy to take over under those circumstances, but I think (Daniot) has done an admirable job.”

Daniot said the GPYC’s crab cakes — a long-standing recipe that predates him — is still the most popular and requested item on the menu.

But Granger himself said he’s especially fond of Daniot’s steak au poivre, accompanied by a double order of asparagus.

“The (GPYC) Board always kids me that they should rename (this dish) the Granger because I order it all the time,” he said.

As a chef, Daniot said his focus is on making dishes that are “creative, seasonal and well-prepared.” Competitions and continued training help him continue to improve his skill set.

Cooking is in Daniot’s blood.

“My father, Larry, was a lifelong private club chef, working for 26 years at the Detroit Boat Club on Belle Isle, then for 22 years at the Western Golf & Country Club in Redford,” he said. “I began my career as a prep cook at 13 and never looked back. I was his executive sous chef at 19 and was offered my first executive chef position at the Grosse Pointe Hunt Club at the age of 26.”

Food at home was relatively straightforward, albeit delectable, fare.

“My mother was a simple cook — basics like pot roast, liver and onions, and a variety of one-pot dishes,” Daniot recalled. “With German grandparents, I do remember fantastic continental meals as a child, as well as a great rotisserie chicken on my grandfather’s coal grill.”

Daniot, 48, studied culinary arts at Macomb Community College and has a bachelor’s degree in business management from Eastern Michigan University and a bachelor’s degree in culinary management from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, as well as a master’s degree in business administration from South University. He has earned more than 15 American Culinary Federation medals and was honored as the ACF Central Region’s 2008 Chef of the Year. Past positions include executive chef for the Van Dyke Park Suite Hotel in Warren and Edgewood Country Club in Commerce Township.

Daniot met his wife, Danielle, when she was a server at the Hunt Club. They have two children: Bobby, 21, and Courtney, 19. The professional chef is usually able to hang up his apron at his home in Harrison Township.

“My wife does most of the cooking at home and is rather good at it, as well,” he said. “Typically, I only cook when we entertain, and given my choice, I would prefer to go to Boat Works for their nachos and a tall beer.”

Daniot said he’s grateful for the support of his family and the GPYC membership, who have helped him accomplish his culinary goals so far. But he still has more he’d like to achieve. Daniot hopes to earn the extremely difficult title of Certified Master Chef. Awarded by the ACF, there are only 67 CMCs in the country, and these exams — for which chefs must first qualify — are only offered every two years. Daniot came close to earning this designation in 2014, when he took part in the testing period, which was held less than a month before he headed to the Culinary World Cup.

“The exam is eight consecutive days and 130 hours long, encompassing nutritional cookery, garde-manger, classical cuisine, freestyle, global, baking and pastry, continental cuisine, and, finally, market basket,” he explained. “Unfortunately, I only made it six days. It was by far the hardest test I have ever taken physically, intellectually and emotionally.”

Daniot said he’d like to take the CMC exam again in 2016, which is also the year he hopes to take part in the Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung International Culinary Exhibition in Erfurt, Germany — better known as the “culinary Olympics.” Another local chef, CMC Brian Beland — the executive chef and director of food and beverage for the Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Farms — received a Category A gold medal in the most recent IKA competition in October 2014.

Until then, Daniot will be serving up fine, fresh food for GPYC members and their guests.

“The dining experience is always one of the highest priorities with current members and prospective members,” Granger said. “Chef Daniot has provided us with the opportunity to continue to deliver on that terrific experience and enhance our membership value.”

As for his silver medal, Daniot said he plans to have it framed with his team chef coat. And he’ll try to keep surprising diners with pleasantly surprising flavor pairings.

“I cook from the heart with the best possible ingredients,” Daniot said. “Working at GPYC allows me the very unique freedom to source the best ingredients globally for the menus at the club. My team and I then take these ingredients and develop menus that make sense in terms of seasonality, flavor profile and presentation. One thing I preach to my staff is correct fundamentals. Like a foundation to a building, you cannot build on it without a strong foundation. The GPYC culinary team is proud to say that no shortcuts are ever taken, and food is prepared correctly. Our members have very discerning palates and expect nothing less.”

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