The Hospitality Gala 2018 Chef DREW BELLINE


Damon Wise

Vice President, Ford Fry Restaurants

Damon Wise, a Baltimore native, traces his earliest culinary influences to childhood summers spent on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. He learned to fish with his grandfather, a lifelong waterman, and looked on as his grandmother prepared home-cooked meals with their catch-of-the-day and fresh garden produce. It was a ritual that began Wise’s passion for good food and was his first exposure to the idea of cooking with seasonal ingredients.

In the early years of his career, Wise honed his culinary skills working at some of the nation’s top restaurants, including five-star luxury resort The Greenbrier in West Virginia, and Georges Perrier’s Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia. Afterwards, Wise landed in New York for a position at Tom Colicchio's Gramercy Tavern before moving on to cook under Laurent Tourondel at Cello and Christian Delouvier at Lespinasse. To build on his solid foundation of French cooking technique, Wise then traveled to France to refine his skills as a stagiaire at celebrated Paris restaurants Taillevent and Apicius.

Upon returning to New York, he accepted the position of chef de cuisine at Colicchio's newly opened Craft. Wise worked alongside Colicchio to capture the flavors of the seasons with locally sourced ingredients as the basis for the bold, clean dishes that characterized the cooking at Craft. After three years as chef de cuisine, Wise was promoted to executive chef of Craft Restaurants in 2007, a position he held for nearly five years. During that time, Wise was at the forefront of an emerging scene of pop-up restaurants with Damon: Frugal Friday, a temporary restaurant in the private dining room adjacent to Craft serving small plates, snacks and beverages at recession-friendly prices. The project earned three stars from New York Magazine in 2009.

During his tenure at Craft, Wise oversaw the openings of Craftbar in New York and Craft restaurants in Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta. In 2010, Wise oversaw the transition of Craftsteak in New York to Colicchio & Sons, helping to earn the restaurant three stars in The New York Times.

In September 2011, legendary editor Graydon Carter recruited Wise to reimagine the menu at the storied Monkey Bar. As executive chef, Wise’s focus on fresh, seasonal cooking paired with classic technique and distinctly American style lent well to his updated version of the menu at the historic New York City restaurant. The New York Times awarded Monkey Bar two stars in 2011.

In 2012, chef Andrew Carmellini enlisted Wise as chef de cuisine of his large-scale French brasserie, Lafayette. The hotly anticipated grand café opened to acclaim in April 2013. During his time at the 200 seat all-day eatery, Wise has been deemed a detail-oriented “ace technician” by The New York Times for his thoughtful, precise execution of pan-regional French fare.

When the opportunity arose in 2014 to become a partner in a multi-restaurant project in Charleston, SC, Wise made the move down south to develop Scarecrow and Co. Housed in a historic building in downtown Charleston, Wise-Buck Smoked Meats opened in spring 2016, offering the burgeoning restaurant town a creative look at traditional barbecue. Soon to follow, Feathertop opened in early summer 2016 offering elegant, yet simple and inexpensive vegetable-focused fare. Both the Post & Courier and Charleston City Paper praised Wise’s impressively accomplished cooking.

Returning to New York in late 2016, Wise has took over the kitchens at acclaimed establishments Sauvage and Maison Premiere in Brooklyn, showcasing his continued commitment to honoring ingredients with simple but elegant dishes.

In 2017, Wise joined acclaimed chef Linton Hopkins as the culinary director of Resurgens Hospitality in Atlanta, overseeing a large operation that includes Restaurant Eugene, Holeman and Finch Public House, C. Ellet's, H&F Burger, Hops Chicken and Eugene Kitchen, a commissary producing more than 700 meals a day for Delta Airlines.

Wise is currently a Vice President at Ford Fry Restaurants, overseeing a collection of popular restaurants for the prolific group in Atlanta, Nashville and Houston, including Atlanta favorites St. Cecilia and King + Duke. A graduate of both West Virginia University and Baltimore International Culinary College, in his spare time, he enjoys cycling, live music, and cooking barbecue with the Ribdiculous Bar-B-Krewe, a competitive barbecue team he formed in 2008 with chef Shane McBride and a team of professional chefs.