David Danielson Draws on High-End Restaurant Experience for New Catering Firm

David Danielson draws from his experience cooking at high-end restaurants to prepare menus for events ranging from the Olympics to business dinners.

By Jenny Berg September 10, 2009, 10:00 AM EDT

Chef David Danielson

Photo: Rick Aguilar Studios

Before launching catering firm Behind the Scenes in Chicago, executive chef David Danielson worked in the kitchens of upscale restaurants across the globe. Fresh out of culinary school, Danielson interned at the Ritz-Carlton in Paris; subsequent jobs took him to Charlie Trotter's in Chicago and Bouley in New York. In 2002, Danielson took on the role of executive chef at Chicago's Calihan Catering; three years later, he received a call from John Crisafulli.

As president of the original Behind the Scenes in San Diego, Crisafulli has worked on everything from rock concerts to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. When he initially contacted Danielson, he was seeking a new executive chef, and though Danielson wasn't able to move to San Diego at the time, he agreed to work as a freelance consultant. “David is a perfect fit for Behind the Scenes,“ says Crisafulli. “He's passionate about his menus, dedicated to his clients, and focused on bringing creative culinary experiences to his guests." 

Last summer, while still at Calihan, Danielson joined Crisafulli in Beijing to assist at the 2008 Olympics, where the company handled catering tasks ranging from athletes' meals to spreads for hospitality suites. “I was at a point where I wanted to start my own company,“ Danielson says. “I saw a void in the Chicago marketplace. There were a lot of good caterers who had been there for a long time, but there was nothing really new and exciting on the forefront. And looking at the high-end restaurant scene, there really wasn't anyone who had the capability of doing large-scale events and galas." While in Beijing, Danielson pitched Crisafulli with a plan to fill the gap he saw, and in March the duo partnered to open a Chicago branch of Behind the Scenes.

Unlike most of the other catering companies in the city, we're chef-owned, and a lot of people who work with us come from five-star backgrounds,“ Danielson says. “We use fine-dining techniques and adapt them to a production model." Danielson adds that his menus often incorporate high-end, international ingredients not readily available in the local market. For a recent dinner for 20 Russian business owners, Behind the Scenes prepared lobster carpaccio with green peppercorns and yuzu. The menu for an upcoming 600-guest dinner for a trading firm includes smoked quail B.L.T.s and guava-tequila snow cones.

Peggy Mikros, hospitality services manager at legal services company DLA Piper, has worked with Behind the Scenes on events and attorney breakfasts and lunches. “[Their] food quality and presentation are by far the best of all the caterers I’ve worked with for more than 15 years,” she says. “Furthermore, their deliveries are consistently on time.”

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