Dada in Delray Beach: Q&A with Executive Chef Bruce Feingold Who Shares Ghost Stories and Cooking Tips
Bruce Feingold's first job was in a bakery, washing dishes and decorating cookies with sprinkles and frosting. Little did he know it would lead to a future career in one of South Florida's most beloved restaurants situated in a historic home on the outskirts of downtown Delray Beach.
Dada Chef Bruce Feingold.
A New Jersey native, Feingold began cooking at an early age -- just 17 -- a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Fate brought him to Florida, when -- just three weeks before he graduated -- a friend called from Palm Beach. A month later he was working at The Colony Hotel on Palm Beach Island, where he cut his teeth at the resort's high-end steak house.
Today, Feingold is best known as the executive chef and part owner of Dada, the popular Delray Beach restaurant with an anti-establishment flare and cult-like following. Here waiters serve up some of the best food in town, while the bar whips up the area's finest mojitos.
Clean Plate Charlie had a chance to speak with Feingold about how he and his team built one of South Florida's most iconic restaurants.
Clean Plate Charlie: You've accomplished quite a lot in your career. How has it been these past 12 years?
Bruce Feingold: I always had high aspirations for myself. I told myself by 30, I wanted to own my own business, and I did. At 26 I opened Truce Bakery in West Palm Beach.
A bakery? Really?
Yes, my friend Todd [Jent] and I opened the bakery. He's the one who called me all those years ago and got me to move down here. I have him to thank for bringing me here. For the bakery, though, it was a small passion project. We did a lot of specialty cakes for area restaurants. Stuff like that. It was never open to the public. But it was ours.
You started out on the Island at The Colony. Where else did you work?
I did the usual jumping around, like most chefs. The last restaurant I worked before Dada was Sforza, which was on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach.
How did you get hooked up with [South Florida restaurateurs and Dada co-owners] Rodney Mayo and Scott Frielich?
I knew Rodney and Scott from being [in the business]. I met Rodney one night at his other spot in West Palm, Respectables. Over the years we got to know each other better, and when he heard I was looking he came to me and asked me if I wanted to open a new place in Delray Beach.
And that was Dada?
Yes. Originally, we wanted it to be something else entirely -- and even had another location picked out. The idea was to open another Lost Weekends type of place where the Brew's Room in Delray Beach -- over near the train tracks -- currently is. Scott and I were walking to Doc's to get a shake, and we happened to pass this house [Dada is a historical landmark built in 1923]. It was meant to be.
So how did the Dada concept come about?
The idea behind the name Dada is based on -- as the name suggests -- Dadaism, an art movement that celebrated everything anti-war and anti-establishment, that whole radical left. So you'll see a lot of the decor inside has a very anti-art theme, and each room has a different ambiance. We took a lot of time to come up with a unique concept that fit this building.
This is a historical home. Were you here for the renovations?
Through all of it. We were here day and night knocking down walls and sanding down the floors. We built this entire place from front to back. But I'll tell you a secret: this place is haunted.