Jessie Steele is the new face behind one of Delray Beach’s most beloved restaurants, Dada, but there’s more to the inked-up chef than meets the eye.
Steele, 39, is laid-back cool with tattooed arms and a calm, stoic gaze. Over the years, he’s worn many hats in addition to chef: a bass player for several bands, building swimming pools for his father’s company, poker dealer, bus boy, bartender — even potato peeler.
While most 13-year-old’s spent summer vacation finding their way in and out of trouble, Steele was working at his neighbor’s restaurant, content with one of the kitchen’s most tedious tasks. “My first job was peeling potatoes and making French fries at Doc’s All American,” said Steele. “And I loved it.”
Before that, his earliest memories in the kitchen were cooking with his two grandmothers – rolling out cookie dough with the Italian one, or making pasteles with his Brazilian one. As he got older, a natural talent with a knife meant helping his mother in the kitchen on holidays, or manning the grill beside his father.
Steele won’t hesitate to tell you he also spent a good amount of free time watching the Cooking Channel as a teenager. “Other kids would be outside,” Steele said. “I was home watching Emeril. My friends and I would chug beers and watch him cook. Then I’d write down the recipes and try to recreate them. But I never thought I’d be a chef.” Delray Beach born and raised, Steele recalls his hometown before restaurants like 32 East and Dada brought fine and innovative dining to the seaside village.