Name: Daniel Gursha
Title: Executive Chef at Ledger Restaurant & Bar – Salem, MA
Many people use many different paths to get into this industry. Tell us about how you arrived at this point in your career?
I started cooking out of necessity. I needed a job and walked into a restaurant at 16 and asked to be a waiter. They asked if I had any experience and I said no. They told me that was not going to work. So I asked if they had any busser positions open (those were the only two jobs I really knew existed in the restaurant business). They didn’t have anything open but asked me to leave my number. A week later I got a call from the chef. Later, I sat down with him in a booth and he laid down some serious guidelines for me which I still live and work by today.
What trends have you noticed over the past 18 months? What’s getting hotter and what’s declining? How do you think this profession will change over the next 5 years?
I don’t really watch restaurant trends. I try to stay true to the values I believe in and cook what I love.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about your job?
You can never stop learning. Taste everything. Ask questions. Push limits. Never think that you have it figured out. Strive to be better every day.
“Show up 15 minutes before your shift ready to go. Work hard. Ask questions. Read books. Don’t just go for the money. Education first.”
What are the top two things people should know about you?
1. I started working in a mechanic shop when I was 11. Cars are my second passion and I have 1981 Firebird that was being built in the shop when I first started there. It’s never been a street car; it was bought new from the factory and made into a drag car. I kept it all these years through my travels.
2. I did not graduate high school. It was mostly because I was never really interested in learning about what was being taught. I became educated in cooking by reading and learning through hard work. I worked for free over many hours just to cook and learn. I also staged in restaurants internationally and in NYC. Cooking is not just a passion for me, it is life.
Last time you dined out, what was your favorite dish? OR…Last time you dined out, what did you drink?
I haven’t really dined out recently but we did a staff trip to Plan Bee Brewery in NY recently. The beer there is amazing and everything comes from within 30 miles of the farm. They do open fermentation and cultivate their own yeast from the beehives they have. It was ramp season and we were able to forage some while we were there along with a variety of other wild herbs and plants that we used to make salads. We also built and cooked on an open fire. Some of my favorite dishes are created in the moment, amongst friends with a true connection to the food. It’s about the whole experience.
Tell me about your proudest professional moment. Feel free to talk about a challenge you overcame.
I got a stage at Senderens in Paris. It was not easy as I had to go back there almost every day for a week straight until they took me. I was the only American working in the kitchen and I really did not speak very much French. It was a challenge to work in a place where I didn’t speak the language but I caught on quickly. Soon, I was the only stage that was allowed to work service. All the other stages went upstairs during service and continued to prep. Senderens took a great liking to me and invited me after my last day to come in to eat the food I had been cooking. I will never forget that experience, sitting on the other side to see all the hard work, each intricate detail of each dish. It was mind blowing and emotional.
Long Island smoked duck breast, foie gras stuffed cherries, parsnip purée, sautéed Maitland Mountain Farm kale, lemon, marcona almonds. Photo – Ledger Facebook
Heirloom melon, Wolf Meadow Farm mozzarella, speck, pistachio, meyer lemon, basil, mint, Korean chili. Photo – Ledger Facebook
The Ménage à Foie. Herb roasted prime rib, kaltbach cheese, foie gras, sweet baby Gursha’s bbq sauce, aioli, brioche bun. Photo – Ledger Facebook
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