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A Conversation with Chef Dani Cleland

Updated: Mar 6

"I love being impacted and influenced by local farms. Cooking with seasons and availability can be a challenge and works against convenience, but I've always found connects us to what happens around us. And we, in turn, can impact our community." 

Q: It’s incredible to have a chef with your background, talents, & experience bringing farm-to-table brunch to the Sisters community.  What has inspired your brunch menu? What drew you to wanting to focus on a brunch service for The Barn Kitchen?

A: When I first started cooking over 10 years ago, it was at a brunch place.  Since then, brunch has come in and out of my career over the years. So when the owner Danny was thinking about running brunch again this winter, I was excited about the chance to go at it again. We source from awesome farms, and I was excited to be intentional about the menu creation and serve some stellar food. 

Shakshuka - a warming bowl of stewed tomatoes, polenta, two Home Farm Foods eggs, braised greens, & feta with house made organic toast.

Q: Here at The Barn, sourcing is an important piece to what we do.  What does sourcing mean to you? How have seasonal local ingredients played a role in your recipes?

A: I love being impacted and influenced by local farms. Cooking with seasons and availability can be a challenge and works against convenience, but I've always found connects us to what happens around us.  And we, in turn, can impact our community. Our farmers have a herd of elk eat their chicories? Well, we discontinue chicories and sub whatever else they got. Covid hits and another farm has a surplus of potatoes because of restaurant closures, well we’re going to run more potatoes. When a lot feels out of control and hard to make change in our world, it is an awesome feeling to have a little impact. I find curveballs fun too. And seasonal local food just tastes better. Thems the facts. 

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.  Your path to becoming a chef? Where are you from and what brought you to Central Oregon? What’s been some of your greatest influences as a chef?

A: I started cooking post college in California where I bopped around to a few places in Central California and the Bay Area.  But my real "boot camp" influential point in my carrier was cooking at The Grey in Savannah, Georgia for Mashama Bailey.  You can probably get some southern vibes from some of the menu which are a nod to my time there. 

Q: What are your favorite foods and what ingredients best express who you are?

A: I can never come up with favorites.  I end up just listing everything.  Is it a cop out to say good food?  I love when you can just tell care and intention goes into the process, food that is simple and intentional. That being said, I'll eat pho, sushi and soup dumplings everyday.

Jack's Breakfast - two fried Home Farm Foods eggs, fingerling potatoes, Olympia Provisions sweetheart ham, breakfast salad, & house made organic toast.

Q: When’s the last time you had an uncontrollable belly laugh?  

A: I just got to go to Tulum with some of my besties. Late night in a hammock listening to Fergie offered many a laugh.

Q: Name three places in the world you’d like to have dinner? 

A: Amalfi coast, Japan, and more specifically, Noma

Q: Music plays a huge role in creating a vibe in the kitchen.  What does your playlist look like?

A: All over the place. Lately... Charley Crockett, Jungle, Nancy Sinatra, Lauryn Hill. Something to vibe with.

Pork Pastrami Hash with kale, horseradish cream sauce, & a perfectly sunny Home Farm Foods egg. Plus a couple sides of beignets.

Q: How do you spend your time outside of work?

A: I’ve got some good friends here. Grabbing food or drinks with them is one of my favorite things. I love going to concerts when I can. If there’s a queer dance party, I’m going to try and be there.  And brunch feels really early the next morning, but it’s worth it.

Biscuits & Gravy - two house made organic biscuits covered in classic sausage gravy & topped with a sunny Home Farm Foods egg.

Q: For me, brunch has always held a special place in my life as either a way to wind down and relax on my days off or a way to fuel up with friends before hitting the trails and getting outside. What is brunch for you?  How do you want people to feel after experiencing your brunch service?

A: Brunch can be a get up and go.  Or it’s the have some drinks, hang and slowly try and recover. I like to try and make food that fuels and warms. Sometimes you want to take a nap after brunch, other times you’re ready to go hit the mountain.

Although brunch service has come to a close, Dani's influence and creativity can be found at Boone Dog Pizza. You can find Boone Dog's menu here.

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