Couples In The Kitchen: North Carolina Chefs Dan And Kim Are ONE

Daniel Ryan and Kim Floresca are co-executive chefs at [ONE] restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC. intro. Here's the great part: they're actually co-everything and launched [ONE], their first solo project this past August. A couple of a decade, Dan and Kim have trained and worked together at some of the biggest names in the restaurant game — Per Se, Alinea, The French Laundry and El Bulli. Two highly focused people with the same goal who also happen to be super-into each other are a force to be reckoned with. And if not, well, there's always cooling off in the walk-in fridge.

I spoke with the pair to make sure I had my facts straight here. They've been together for 10 years, have traveled and worked in some of the most stressful and precision-oriented kitchens in the world and still wanted to open a restaurant together in a brand-new city. It looks like food really does taste better prepared with love.

What was the first non-professional meal you cooked together?

Dan: About 7 years ago before Kim and I went overseas, we stopped at my parents' house to get our bearings. It was the first time we did a large effort thing. It was around Christmas, so we offered to make dinner for everyone but I come from an Italian family, the gathering is like 15 people and everyone's trying to yell over everyone else. We made a turkey, a ham, a baked pasta, Brussels sprouts, we made our own bread, banana pudding, sweet potato pie, apple crisp in this tiny home kitchen filled with loud screaming Italians. Everyone was really happy, and it was the first time we cooked together but also had the family involved.

What about the first professional meal?

Kim: This was professional to a certain extent. We were doing a travel-live-work program in Spain (ICEX). At the end you do a competition, kind of an Iron Chef thing. They give you a basket with Spanish ingredients: sherry, tomatoes, really good anchovies, chocolate, a whole bunch of showcase items. We actually went up against each other, but we went at such different times that we could actually help each other out with our dishes.

Dan: One of my ingredients was tomatoes, so I did a white chocolate, tomato and passionfruit dessert.

Kim: I made a cod stock with this little gelatinous piece of cod tongue — kokotxa — it's a very common thing in Spain. I also used the cod tripe or bladder which I'd never seen before. Everything we always do is together, but those really stood out. More than working together, the environment and surroundings made it really memorable.

What's your go-to meal at home

Dan: We do tons of pasta at home because it's quick and easy, we come home late and leave early. Sometimes I'll look for an artisanal shape to hold the sauce better.

Your last professional venture was at the 3-Michelin-starred "Restaurant At Meadowood." How did being executive sous-chef (Kim) and sous-chef (Dan) affect your personal/professional dynamic?

Kim: Taxing and trying, but good. We understood each other's role and in support, and yes there were a couple of times when one was angry at the other, but we never let it harm our professional life. We learned a lot about each others' strengths and weaknesses — a lot of his weaknesses are my strengths. That's why we're happy to have roles as equals now.

What keeps you going during a fight?

Kim: Spend some time in the freezer! Kidding, it's about growing with people. Remember to take that deep breath to keep yourself from saying something you'll probably regret. It's important to be surrounded by people you're comfortable with and can speak your mind with but you have to learn how to give information that's helpful instead of hurtful.

How did you decide to pick up and move to North Carolina?

Dan: We were both interested in venturing out on our own. We never really considered North Carolina, it kind of fell into our laps. I came out here, took at look at it, explored the opportunities and moved out here first (since Kim was the executive sous-chef and she was a little more important). Then after a month, she moved out here too.

Kim: For me it's a little different because I grew up in a military family, staying in one place makes me antsy. Daniel and I have been traveling around for 10 years moving to different places. I really like being in North Carolina, the people here are very welcoming, especially the chefs and the farmers — they're incredible. It's surprising NC isn't as much on the culinary map as you would think, but it's definitely on the rise. There are so many great restaurants I didn't know about until I got here. It's so hospitable, everyone helps each other out.

Kim, what's something you make better than Dan?

Kim: There's no competition between us, we're a team and it's more or less that we feed off of each other. Early on, we figured out what I make better than he does, but when I crave banana pudding, he makes it. But there's really no one thing he makes it better or I make it better. I want to learn as much as he does, and it only builds a stronger foundation in that sense. He may say his cheesy potatoes at home are the best know. It's not what can you do better or vice-versa, it's about a huge collaborative effort, and it's what we've built our whole relationship on.

Will your eventual cookbook be called "The Most Sane Relationship Ever Cookbook?"

Dan: Maybe. That might be a good idea.

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