Some people like to brag about their culinary training, be it at Paris’ Cordon Bleu, The Culinary Institute of America or the Cucina con Vista Cooking School in Florence. Not so David Daniels, executive chef at The Wauwinet on Nantucket since 2006, who makes no bones about having soared to the top of his profession without any formal training at all. While some of his colleagues were busy learning the ropes from the masters and racking up high-powered contacts, Daniels was taking a different road.
Raised in Boston in a large Italian family, Daniels began his career in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher in a Jewish deli. He was 13 at the time, and jobs as a busboy in neighborhood restaurants soon followed. Rather than be discouraged by these unglamorous experiences, Daniels was instead inspired, and along with the support of his step-grandmother, he set out on an unorthodox path to become a chef. Instead of enrolling in cooking school, he sold all his worldly goods and embarked on a road trip — in a 1986 metallic green Honda Accord, no less — with his wife and young child in tow, traveling across the United States in search of cooking experience.
Along the way he racked up jobs working as sous chef at San Francisco’s Acqua and executive chef at Ventana Country Inn in Big Sur, Calif.; Pinot Blanc in St. Helena, Calif.; and XV Beacon in his hometown of Boston before taking over the reins at TOPPER’S at The Wauwinet on Nantucket two-plus years ago.
It is easy to see what drew Daniels to this spot. For one thing, TOPPER’S received Zagat’s top rating for a hotel restaurant in Massachusetts, and was awarded the Grand Award from Wine Spectator. The property is owned and operated by Nantucket Island Resorts, which also owns the White Elephant, Jared Coffin House, The Cottages at the Boat Basin, White Elephant Hotel Residences and Nantucket Boat Basin.
Inspired by the trend toward small-plate dining, Daniels created a Deck menu that offers such unusual fare as Hudson Valley foie gras served with Peruvian fava beans and coconut lychee glaze. Other creations have included pan-roasted meuniere-basted shad roe with crispy rock shrimp and spicy mayo, as well as the crisp veal sweetbreads with garlic pain perdu and butter-basted crayfish tails. With a nod to the unusual pairing of ingredients, Daniels put these dishes under the menu heading “Odd Things.”
Under “Indulgences” you might find Tasting of American Caviar with Yukon Potato Pancakes and a Vodka Shooter, as well as butter-basted Alaskan king crab with truffled hollandaise and salad of micro basil.
Taking full advantage of his location on Nantucket, Daniels uses fresh ingredients in season, often shopping from local suppliers, with special attention paid to seafood. How fresh? In September, guests can catch their own lobsters from The Wauwinet Lady, a 26-foot open-deck boat that plies Nantucket Bay under the supervision of Capt. Rob McMullen. On arrival back at the hotel, Daniels will prepare the day’s catch either at TOPPER’S or by candlelight near the bay.
This year Daniels was named host chef for the 2008 Nantucket Wine Festival, and has also been the featured chef at The Sundance Film Festival in Utah and the Festival de L’uminaire in Montréal.
Bartlett Farm heirloom tomato salad Serves 4
For the tomatoes:
4 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 tablespoon Banyuls vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Núñez extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the tomatoes. Mix the honey, mustard and vinegar together, then slowly whisk in the olive oil until it forms an emulsified vinaigrette. Season the tomato slices with salt, pepper and Núñez olive oil.
For the cheese:
6 ounces Spanish feta cheese, cut into 4 pieces
1 teaspoon chives, sliced
¼ teaspoon dried lemon zest
¼ teaspoon pink peppercorns, crushed
Season the feta cheese with the dried lemon zest, pink peppercorn and chives. Bake the cheese for two minutes.
For the garnish:
4 leaves per serving baby red oak lettuce
4 leaves per serving baby red leaf lettuce
Fried shallot rings Basil oil, to taste
Dress the lettuces with the vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Add fried shallots and basil oil.
PRESENTATION: Place the tomatoes on the plate. Top with the feta cheese, followed by the baby lettuces and shallots.
Wauwinet lobster roll Serves 4
For the sandwich:
1 ½ pounds lobster meat, cooked and diced
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup celery, finely diced
3 tablespoons shallots, finely diced
3 tablespoons chives, chopped
2 teaspoons yuzu juice
2 teaspoons white truffle oil Salt and pepper, to taste
4 lobster rolls
16 romaine lettuce leaves
Finely dice the shallots and celery and chop the chives. Mix the lobster, mayonnaise, celery, shallots, chives, yuzu juice and truffle oil. Season with salt and white pepper.
PRESENTATION: Split the lobster rolls and line with romaine leaves. Fill the rolls with the lobster salad.
Located in the South Pacific, The Islands of Tahiti are just eight hours by air from California. Surrounded by pristine, crystal-clear blue waters, the 118 islands and atolls offer natural beauty, authentic island culture and unique French Polynesian style. The Islands of Tahiti are world-renowned for white-sand beaches, stunning turquoise lagoons and varied landscapes ranging from coral atolls to volcanic mountain peaks. Privacy comes naturally in The Islands of Tahiti and offers visitors the space to relax and reconnect and to be Embraced By Mana. Mana is the life force and spirit that connects all things in The Islands of Tahiti.
With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, Plant Riverside District, also known as Savannah’s Entertainment District, is officially dedicating a park to Martin Luther King, Jr. Located on the Savannah riverfront, Plant Riverside District will hold a ceremony to unveil a commissioned bronze monument dedicated to the late Civil Rights leader.
Nayara Alto Atacama, in Chile’s Atacama Desert, recently launched private plane transfer service for guests, allowing up to eight people to depart Santiago and fly directly to San Pedro de Atacama aerodrome in one hour and 50 minutes. Previously, guests would have to fly two hours to Calama, followed by a one-hour, 20-minute drive to Nayara Alto Atacama. The new private jet option saves guests 90 minutes of transfer time each way.
IHG® Business Edge: Working Together with SMEs for a smarter way to manage travel
For guests wanting the ultimate VIP experience at this year’s Super Bowl, QuintEvents offers an exclusive opportunity. Guests can choose from a variety of QuintEvents’ offers to not only have a seat at the game but also to enjoy cocktails, chef-prepared dishes with legendary football hall of famers like Dan Marino, and a stay at a luxury premium hotel with a beachside option.
Introduced and managed by Sonesta International Hotels Corporation, Sonesta Select and Sonesta Simply Suites celebrated their first anniversary since launching in December 2020. Responsible for almost 2,500 new hires in the last year, Sonesta Simply Suites and Sonesta Select allowed Sonesta as a whole to become one of the fastest-growing hotel companies in the United States.
It’s time to start dreaming of your next trip. Here’s some destination inspiration for you. Take a visual journey through Cologne, Germany, with us.