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Daisley Gordon

Owner/Chef Café Campagne

Born in Jamaica, Daisley's parents left him and his three siblings with their grandparents while they got established in Louisville, Kentucky, where his mother had a friend. The kids moved to Kentucky when Daisley was seven.

He attended Western Kentucky University but was unsure what he wanted to do, so he began selling yellow page ads. "It was a disaster. My boss told me how poorly I was performing and that I needed to find a "Daisley" job. She moved on and the new boss fired me." One of his colleagues had been married to a chef who went to the Culinary Institute of America. "I got a job at his restaurant, Masterson's Food & Drink, owned by a Greek family for three generations (now one of the largest catering firms in Kentucky)." He worked in the banquet salad department where he might make BLTs for 20 or cheese and fruit platters for 200. Once they did a party for the Harley Owners Group; he prepped onions and tomatoes for 6,500 people. "It gave me a good sense of everything that goes into a restaurant and banquet and how to be resourceful. I was there three years."

He decided to go to the CIA Hyde Park; part of the curriculum is an externship. "You were supposed to look around and decide where you wanted to go, but I wanted to work with the Certified Master Chef at Actuelle Cuisine of the Day, a Dutch guy in Dallas doing European food using Southwest ingredients. I had no back-up plan. Fortunately, I was accepted. It was very disciplined and clean and focused. I was there in the '90s and he was a very high-profile chef who had won a lot of awards."

Culinary school was very expensive. Because of that, he had a real appreciation for the education he received. After his externship, he returned to Kentucky and worked in a few restaurants. But he had met a girl in school, and she lived in Seattle. His first job here was with Tom Douglas at Etta's. "I liked working with Tom. He had the old Dahlia and Etta's at the time. As he's grown, people have stayed with him. That says something." Daisley stayed just one month because there was a lead cook opening in March 1995 at Campagne, a restaurant that people wanted to work at. "I knew that if I worked at the best places, I would meet people. I wanted to work with Tamara Murphy who was the Executive Chef. Her Sous was Jim Drohman. Within two years I was the Sous when Tamara left to open Brasa and Jim became the Executive Chef. I had been planning to get a pastry degree at culinary school, but that didn't happen. Then Jim left to open Le Pichet and I couldn't pass up this opportunity to be Executive Chef. I never thought I'd be in one place so long, but the industry is dynamic and new things pull me along. I'm probably the last of the generation of people who stay in one place."

In August of 1994, Café Campagne was added as a one-room sibling downstairs with a more casual atmosphere and menu. Campagne closed in 2011 and reopened the same year as Marché, a casual bistro and wine bar. Daisley became part-owner of the business in 2011. Marché closed in 2014. Daisley became sole owner in 2016.

Changes in the economy, staffing, new buildings offering more restaurant space creating more competition all offer challenges. "People can work in a Google kitchen from 9-5 instead of having me tell them they're not rolling an omelet correctly. It's a tough business. I have a good handle on it because I was older when I got into it; I was more patient with myself as I moved along. People deal with different things now. Back then it didn't seem like a luxury to leave work and spend the evening with a cookbook. But now people may have a second job or a long commute. It's easy to blame others for staffing problems, but I learned from my parents that you don't give up. I see it more as an opportunity to improve my managerial skills. People give a lot to the Café when they're here; I hope when they leave, they take something they learned with them."

May 2019


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