After serving as a hospital corpsman in the Navy, chef John O’Neil returned to his first love, which is the culinary arts.
After working in various restaurants for many years, chef John graduated from Scottsdale Culinary Institute Le Cordon Bleu program with a degree in Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management. Chef John is currently focusing on Live Fire cooking and is the owner of Dude Food Fire custom spice blends.
We had the chance to interview Chef John and asked some very exciting questions about his journey and the struggles he went through.
Hello, chef could you tell us a little about yourself?
I have been in the food and beverage industry for over 30 years. I have always had a love for cooking. I literally almost burned down my house when I was three years old because I was up before everyone else and wanted to make breakfast.
I discovered at a young age that “toasting” marshmallows with my mom’s lighter and a can of Aqua Net hairspray not only resulted in near disaster but tasted horrible. I graduated from culinary school over 20 years ago.
Since then (as well as before) I have worked in almost every capacity in the food service industry. I was the Head Culinary Instructor for a local college’s AAS culinary program.
That position was easily the most rewarding job I have ever held. I have cooked from Zanzibar to Tanzania to Cuba, and even owned a coffee house in Boulder, Co. Currently, I own an online spice company called “Dude Food Fire” that brings my history of cooking and flavors of the world to your door.
What do you love best when you BBQ or cook Live Fire?
That is a loaded question since live fire and BBQ cooking have so many facets. First is the set up or mise en place (everything in its place-not just as it pertains to food), this must be done so that there are no surprises. To me, half of cooking with fire is this timeline that everything is planned out in my head. The thrill of starting the fire – there is an amazing component of adrenaline yet this calm serenity and respect of the fire. You must respect it and never believe that you alone can control it. Since no two briskets or bone-in rib loins are the same they will never cook the exact same, so your tempo and timing is imperative.
Like the Tango, for example, the tempo and timing of every single component of the dance must be precise not only in forward motion but in opposition. In that premise, it also applies to live fire and BBQ. You have to match the tempo and timing of every component of the cook.
Tell us about your books.
I have one book in publication and that is, “Cooking with Essential Oils”. As a chef, I have always used herbs and spices in cooking. But the first time I used a drop of lemon essential oil in a salad dressing, I became a believer in the power of oils. With essential oils, I was able to bring new flavor to old recipes. This book contains all my best recipes using essential oils.
What techniques do you incorporate when you cook or grill?
The techniques I use…all of them! Live Fire & BBQ requires you to use all your senses and live fire (which I love the most) forces you to dig deep down into your skill level. Everything you have ever learned about tempo, timing and patience is tested every single minute. What do you suggest to clients when they ask about the right cut of meat for grilling? First question is what are you cooking? Second, what is your budget? Once I have those answers, then I can suggest the proper cut of meat for what they are wanting to do.
Was your passion always cooking?
My passion for cooking has been an innate gift since I was very little. To a point of almost setting the house on fire because everyone was asleep, and I wanted breakfast at that moment. I have always been inspired by aromas and flavors and the art form that cooking truly is. Cooking can be rigorous and precise, but it can also be abstract and just a blend of what you love.
What is the ultimate goal for 2023?
The goal for 2023 is to continue to grow and expand. I will be focused not only on growing Dude Food Fire and getting my spice blends into more homes and kitchens, but also on continuing to grow as a chef and influencer. I would love to see my social media following continue to grow and break 100,000 by 2023. The initial goal for 2023 would be getting my Live Fire Restaurant up and running. But I am always open and looking for new and fresh opportunities!
Would you ever franchise Dude Food Fire?
That is an interesting question and one I have honestly not ever considered. Creating the spice company, and curating the blends over so many years, has always been something personal. Even though I love sharing my food and passion with the world, I have never thought about sharing it in that fashion. However, as my brand continues to grow and my Live Fire Restaurant is up and running, opportunities may present themselves that would be worth exploring.
Would you ever participate in a cooking competition on TV? If so, which one?
I would most definitely participate in a food competition. Why? Because there are very few out there with my skills and knowledge. I also love a good audience. Chopped & BBQ Brawl would be my #1 and #2 respectively if I were to decide right out the gate. My 3rd choice would be Tailgate Battle. Pretty much anything that is the ultimate test of grit.
Do you mentor any young culinary students or do private workshops?
I host private workshops frequently teaching everything from “wood fire pizza oven 101,” to pellet cookers, to full live fire for the more advanced.
What makes your spices so unique compared to your competitors?
We believed in the motto “reduce and reuse”. My blends are Real Spices, Real Flavor, with absolutely No Fillers. When you purchase a Dude Food Fire Spice Blend, you are getting real spices, and not just paying for a bunch of salt and fillers. They’re perfect for taking along on outdoor adventures without all the wasted space of bulky bottles. Our spice packaging is washable, resealable, and reusable. I promise less is more so please “Season Responsibly”.
What advice would you give anyone when it comes to catering to private parties?
Plan for every scenario you would hate to encounter. Then plan some more. Then get Everything in writing- leaving nothing to chance and guessing expectations.
All that planning will make you look like a million dollars in front of those guests. To them and their perceptions (their perceptions and opinions are the only ones that will matter at the end of the event), you will not look like a stressed-out lunatic that has lost complete control.
To know more about Chef John O’Neil head to his following accounts,
- Instagram: @Dudefoodfire
- Email: [email protected]
- Website: www.dudefoodfire.com
- For Any PR/Media inquiries, please contact: Antoinette Love Ransom [email protected]
- Instagram: @Antoinette_Love_Ransom