It's a new dawn

Acclaimed Houston chef pivots from downtown restaurant

Acclaimed Houston chef pivots from downtown restaurant

Dawn Burrell shrimp dish
Dawn Burrell holds a dish she sells via the Pivot meal delivery service. Photo by Amy Scott Photography
Dawn Burrell
Chef Dawn Burrell. Photo by Amy Scott Photography
Dawn Burrell pivot meals
Pivot provides customers with restaurant-quality dishes to eat at home. Photo by Amy Scott Photography
Dawn Burrell shrimp dish
Dawn Burrell
Dawn Burrell pivot meals

Dawn Burrell is moving on. The chef, who earned a James Beard semifinalist nomination in the Best Chef: Texas category, has parted ways with Kulture, the downtown restaurant where she’s worked as the executive chef for the past two-and-a-half years.

Burrell tells CultureMap that a number of factors contributed to her decision, primarily her need to help her mother recover from a stroke she suffered in February. For the chef, working in close proximity to a large group of people — especially people who make not be taking the same precautions she is to prevent contracting COVID-19 — presents too much of a risk to both her health and her mother’s.

“My focus right now is my mother,” Burrell says. “While the world is sorting itself out, this is an opportunity to make sure she’s okay.”

Like many downtown restaurants, Kulture is currently closed. Burrell says she told Kulture owner Marcus Davis that she would be interested in helping the restaurant transition to operating without her, but that’s still up in the air.

Instead of working at a restaurant, Burrell is expanding Pivot, the meal delivery service she started in conjunction with local non-profit I’ll Have What She’s Having. Pivot provides meals for two, four, or six people along with personal anecdotes from Burrell. They're available from her website, chefdawnburrell.com.

The menus draw from a variety of experiences and globally-inspired flavors. Beyond Kulture’s focus on Southern and Caribbean-inspired dishes, Burrell also worked as a sous chef at Uchi and Uchiko. Dishes include salmon croquettes with smoked crème fraiche, warm pea and potato salad, lentil hummus, and fonio "tabbouleh."

“During these trying times, Pivot also strives to meet the current need of working families,” Burrell said in a release. ‘It is designed in order to alleviate some of the pressures and day-to-day responsibilities that come with maintaining a household and feeding a family wholesome meals.”

Burrell also acknowledges that she’s working on another restaurant project but isn’t ready to divulge the details yet beyond that she’s considering a cloud kitchen-type operation that would allow her to work with a relatively small team and limit her potential for exposure.

“I don’t want to have to be around a lot of people in order to do my job,” Burrell says. “That’s what the restaurant industry requires. That’s why i decided to chef the way I’m working currently until we can find a way to be around each other.”