After devoting nearly six years of his life to his Trinity Groves restaurant, chef Daniel Pittman is taking a step back. As of Thursday, Aug. 1, he was no longer the executive chef and co-owner of LUCK (Local Urban Craft Kitchen).
“I called (Thursday) my last day. Instead of being too upset about it, I called it my graduation day,” Pittman, 41, says. “I felt like I had learned so much in the last five years, it’s time to graduate and move to the next chapter of my life.”
LUCK was one of the first restaurants in Trinity Groves when the development opened in 2013.
After culinary school at El Centro College, Pittman was working as a line cook at the Four Seasons when he got a call from his cousin Jeff Dietzman and friend Ned Steel. The two had seen an open call for chefs and restaurateurs for the West Dallas incubator concept, applied and got in.
“Next thing you know, they’re calling me. They’re like, ‘We need help, we don’t know what we’re doing, we need a partner,’” Pittman says. “And it sounded great ... it seemed like a great opportunity.”
So Pittman went from a line cook in the hotel world to executive chef, where he was co-owning and operating.
“I had to learn how to teach myself how to be an executive chef, but I did have some counseling and some direction from my chef friends, primarily Jay Valley and Sharon Van Meter, they were great,” he says. “In the beginning it was so much fun. Even though it was hard and frustrating, it was exciting. We were busy all the time, we were getting some recognition.”
Fast forward five years and Pittman was still cooking at LUCK and scrubbing its floors most days.
“I got less and less involved with the creative aspect, which I loved. And then things between that and catering and everything, it just kind of started to pile up,” he says. “Learning how to deal with that kind of stress and everything is just part of it.
“It really kicked in when I got married in November, and I realized I want to be able to provide for my new wife and my two little girls. Stuff like 401(k) benefits, a chance for a raise, a chance for upward mobility.”
Pittman’s wife is chef Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman of Jose on West Lovers Lane. At events where one or both are set to cook, you can frequently find the family cooking together.
And now, he’s more available for that family time. He has received offers for different kitchens, but he’s taking about two months off to take a step back.
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“I’m going to be ‘funemployed’ and hang out with my wife and two daughters,” he says.
Dietzman and Steel will continue to own and run LUCK alongside more recent partner Lance Bodwell.
While the opening was rough, discovering in the moment how to be an executive chef, Pittman says it gave him the chance to be where he is now, and wherever he goes next.
“I’m still learning ways to do things better, and I think back on how frustrated I was back then, and I feel like a different person now,” he says. “Now it’s like moving forward, I know what to expect, I know the right way to do something ... The experience was essential. It was perfect.”