We first got to know Chef Dana Downs when she was running the Black Rooster Pasta Bar at the Second Street Market. Getting to know her better we found out that she started her culinary career as a dishwasher at Franco’s Ristorante Italiano. She realized that while she was sweating back in the dish room, Franco was out visiting with all of his customers and drinking wine and that’s what she wanted to do.
So she headed to Sinclair Community College’s to begin her training as a chef. Over the years she worked at Zola’s and then was recruited by Country Club of the North, where she worked as the Assistant General Manager and Marketing Director. But she missed the kitchen and began a catering company and opened that shop at the market, where we met her.
In 2011 she took a big leap and opened ROOST modern italian on Fifth Street in the Oregon District. Read our story on their grand opening here. In 2014 Dana guided the restaurant through a major renovation, enclosing the patio, adding a beautiful bar and a private dining room, nicknamed the Dough Room.
Today that eatery has shortened it’s name to just ROOST italian and celebrates it’s 6th anniversary and Chef Dana took time out of her day to do our Chef 10 ? interview:
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
Vinegar, mostly different sherry vinegars. Incorporating acid in almost every dish will excite your customers palate, even in the smallest way! I crave it!
What ingredient do you dread?
Green Peppers. I can’t even stand the smell of them. They are too overpowering. There has never been a green pepper in one of my kitchens, ever.
What’s your favorite dish to make?
I love cooking for my staff, they are like my kids. So, like a good mom, I love cooking them my Chicken Pastina soup. Learned from Franco’s mamma, Adolarata, its the best comfort food you could ever eat!
What’s your favorite pig out food?
Tacos. Tacos. Tacos.
What restaurant, other than your own do you like to dine at in the Miami Valley?
I am fortunate to be a part of a great group of women chefs here. So you will see me at Meadowlark, Wheatpenny, Watermark and the Winds. And I’ll probably thank you for coming in, just because that what we chef’s do.
What’s your best advice for home chefs?
Be adventurous! If you think you screwed it up, pull up your boot straps and fix it. There is no perfect science to casual cooking, so have fun with it!
If you could invite any 4 guests to a dinner party who would they be and why?
Ralph Lauren- the genius of branding
David Beckham- I love soccer and great style!
Ina Garten- I love her and I’m sure she has some great stories
Tom Downs- my father. We love spending time together, and we can relive the dinner thru stories forever!
Who do you look up to in the industry and why?
Scott Conant. Not only is he a great chef, I applaud his entrepreneurial spirit and his professionalism.
What do you do in the Miami Valley on a day off?
I would love to say golf, but I’m probably too busy building something for a project I have created.
Share a kitchen disaster, lucky break or other interesting story:
It was a random Summer Sunday morning, I was out running errands in my flip flops and soccer shorts and I get a phone call from a catering client. She called to ask what time she should come by the restaurant to pick up the food for her get together. I immediately told her I would call her back. I looked up her email and she had mistakenly emailed me that the event was the next Sunday. I called her back and told her I would bring the food, “no worries”. I ran to DLM, bought everything that I though I might have needed and ran down to Roost. The place look like a tornado hit it! Dishes and stuff everywhere. I had the food ready in 3 hours, 9 different items for 55 people
I threw the food in the car and headed out. I was 12 minutes early and I looked like a train wreck. Everything was on point, and she was very pleased. I never told her this story, because the get together was in honor of the recent passing of her mother. Sometimes people are more important than proving a point. Cheers!
Visit Roost at 524 E 5th St in the Oregon District, open Tuesday – Sunday nights. You can also experience the Roost cuisine in their special events venue, Roost Events, at 580 Lincoln Park Boulevard, by the Fraze in Kettering. They’ll be serving up a Thanksgiving Buffet from 11am -3pm (reservations suggested- either online or by calling 937-222-3100) as well as opening on Christmas Eve, Mother’s Day, Easter, and Fraze season events as well as Pop Up Dinners.