Food News

Skyline Grad and Uchi Sous Chef Trades Hoops for Culinary Life

Baby bok choy at Uchiko
Baby bok choy at Uchiko Taylor Adams
Hai Hospitality has a new executive sous chef whose work will show up in Uchi Dallas.

Rhonda McCullar will be based in Dallas, and she comes from North Texas, having moved from Ennis to Dallas when she was in eighth grade.

“I was an athlete and thought I was going to play basketball the rest of my life,” the 38-year-old McCullar says.

But then she started at Skyline High School, where she pursued the culinary arts program. She became a teacher but supplemented the income with a long-term plan in the restaurant industry. She attended Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Dallas, then worked for Marriott.

McCullar then had the opportunity to stage at Uchi in Houston, where she worked well enough to be on staff to open Uchi Dallas in 2015.

Since then, she’s been with the restaurant group.

click to enlarge Chef Rhonda McCullar - COURTESY OF UCHI
Chef Rhonda McCullar
courtesy of Uchi
“I like the ability of being able to create dishes [at Hai]. As a line cook, I was creating dishes and able to put items on the menu,” she says of her earlier days working at Uchi Dallas. “The collaboration and that availability is just what stands out.”

That creation continues, though McCullar accomplishes it with the perspective of someone with a vegetarian diet.

“I’ve been on-and-off vegetarian probably since high school. The last part of my life, three years, I was just going to totally go full-on vegetarian,” she says.

She still presents meat- and fish-forward specials on the menu while relying on her understanding of flavor profiles. She also pushes to incorporate unused ingredients for new dishes in an effort to minimize food waste.

So far, McCullar says the new position is going smoothly.

“I’m excited … I’m seeing a lot of traction, a lot of people coming in,” she says. “I really love the style of cool Uchiba within the Uchi touch, so I think with the background being at Uchi and being able to work along with the servers at Uchi … [we can] sort of elevate the offerings in addition to add some vegetarian items.”
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Taylor Adams has written about the restaurant industry for the Dallas Observer since 2016. Now the Observer's food editor, she attended Southern Methodist University before covering local news at The Dallas Morning News.