Fired Up: Teen Chef Holden Dahlerbruch is Young, Talented and Hungry

Meet the young, talented and hungry.

INTERVIEWED BY DARREN ELMS PHOTOGRAPHED BY MONICA OROZCO


Holden Dahlerbruch is one busy guy. The chef prodigy recently appeared on two seasons of Man vs. Child: Chef Showdown, stages pop-up restaurants around town, frequently hops on food trucks to learn cooking technique and serves as the president of the Spontaneous Pancake Club. Oh, and there’s also getting through high school. We caught up with the 16-year-old Rancho Palos Verdes resident just as he was wrapping up another of his temporary culinary experiences.

What sparked your passion for cooking?

My dad used to work a lot. Whenever he was home, he was cooking with the family. It started as our bonding time and then turned into a passion from there.

So tell me about the food truck adventures. Do you literally hop on and learn technique?

I always like to say that food trucks are like Aladdin’s magic carpet in real life. One can travel around the world—tasting, experiencing and learning different cuisines—without leaving Los Angeles food trucks. So far I have staged, which means taken a culinary apprenticeship, on Rice Balls of Fire, Chinese Laundry, The Culinerdy Cruzer, The CODfather and the Pho King Awesome truck.

I also cook at home as much as possible to improve my technique. While I have spent a few years working on my skills, there is always room for improvement.

I have had the opportunity to stage at numerous South Bay restaurants such as J. Trani’s, Bollywood Zaika, Manhattan Pizzeria and Manhattan House. I also work at The Wallace in Culver City, and since the menu changes every week or so there, it is always a whole new world of things to learn.

How did the Man vs. Child TV opportunity come about, and what was the experience like?

A few years ago I was acting and going on auditions. During that time I created a boys cooking club with friends at my house. My parents and brother taught us techniques and food history. I auditioned for a kids cooking show but had to pull out at the last moment from taking the opportunity.

About a year later, remembering my club, the same casting director called me to audition for the pilot of Man vs. Child: Chef Showdown. The experience was once-in-a-lifetime. I met so many people who are now my close friends and really solidified my culinary passion.

Tell me more about the “pop-up” restaurants.

So far I have had three pop-up restaurants. A pop-up restaurant is a temporary culinary experience. Chefs work months to create a menu and develop flavors to only be enjoyed for usually one night. The first two were at Stage + Table in Santa Monica. One was a five-course sampler, and the other was a late-night breakfast taco buffet.

My most recent one was in Palos Verdes on June 17 at The Crepery Cafe. It was the first under my new company’s name: Culinary Playgrounds. I served 50 people with recipes I had worked on for over two months. It went extremely well with everyone leaving happy and full. People are still talking about my Romano Risotto, Bourguignon Short Rib and S’mores Inspired Ravioli.

I understand you’re very philanthropic as well.

Helping my community and the world has always been very important to me. I have taken numerous leadership classes at Peninsula, but I have also created my own projects to support causes I feel close to.

For the past two years I have donated a New York-style pizza-making party to raise funds for the Peninsula Education Foundation auction. I have volunteered for many years for the Skechers Pier to Pier Walk, and I support Smile Train and No Kid Hungry. I am currently working closely with the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District to revitalize the school lunch program.

I also started the Spontaneous Pancake Club last year at school to make and give away free pancakes to students to reduce the stress school naturally brings. It is amazing how food can make the world so much better.

What do you like to do when you are NOT in the kitchen?

When I am not in the kitchen, I stay busy. Not only do I go to school most of the year and study, but also I serve on my school’s Principal Advisory Board, am an active member of my school’s ComedySportz team, volunteer at my temple, race for my school’s sailing team, spend time with friends and family, and plan my future events. I am always going out to restaurants to try new flavors. Other than all that, I try to get a few hours of sleep each night.

I hear you plan to go to college after high school … that cooking is important but it’s also about running a business. How did you come to that decision?

I am planning to go to college for business or entrepreneurship. I feel I have a large amount of culinary knowledge, and I can learn more by working in kitchens, experimenting and using the world’s largest cookbook—aka the internet—rather than culinary school. I have staged so much, and a business or entrepreneurship degree will complement my learned skills.

People have always told me to follow my passion, and then money and happiness will follow. That’s my plan.

 

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