SEE WHAT'S ON THE MENU w/ Chef Billy Cotter of Dashi
Season 1 - Episode VII
Chef Billy Cotter first entered the Durham food scene during its infancy. Billy started out as a dishwasher in his stepmom’s Durham restaurant in the 80’s. Billy moved from dishwashing to the Garde-manger station where he crafted salads and dessert. Billy worked his way through various stations until his appointment to sous-chef at an old Durham favorite, Pops. While working at Pops, Billy met his soon-to-be wife and business partner, Kelly Cotter. Together, they relocated to Vermont to pursue greater potential.
Billy enrolled at the New England Culinary School. There, he and Kelly hustled hard working multiple jobs while Billy attended culinary school. The culinary school set a new foundation and cultivated his skills. Upon graduation from his program, Billy worked under other chefs for years, learning, developing new ideas, and collecting his recipes along the way. Following years of hustling in Vermont and Atlanta, Billy and Kelly Cotter returned to the Durham restaurant scene. Together, they continued their growth through new experiences at local restaurants until the timing was right to start their first business venture. Billy and Kelly opened Toast, a traditional Italian sandwich shop. Rarely seen without a line out the door, Toast was their first taste of success. Through networking and fostering relationships with local entrepreneurs, Billy and Kelly connected with Nick and Rochelle, owners of the commercial kitchen and event space The Cookery.
One evening, over jokes and drinks with friends, the idea of opening a Japanese pop-up restaurant was first conceived. Investing in his vision, he and Kelly partnered with Nick and Rochelle to plan their low-risk three-day pop-up restaurant. When their website crashed as all three nights of tickets sold out within 15 minutes, they knew they had the interest and support of the Durham community. Their Omakase style pop-up, a set multi-course meal, was a triumphant success. Billy, Nick, and Rochelle took a trip to Tokyo and fully immersed themselves in the Japanese culture. They ate ramen for seven consecutive days and returned from Japan with their complete vision. Together, they bought an old office building that would soon become one of the most desired and unique dining experiences in the Triangle — Dashi.
The atmosphere of Dashi is brought to life by their team who exudes their hospitable spirit from beginning to end of the Dashi dining experience. Downstairs, restaurant-goers enjoy a steaming bowl of authentic ramen filled with fragrant broth and local, fresh ingredients. Upstairs hosts The Izakaya, Dashi's full-service bar, complete with small plate courses and a wide selection of sake, beer, and drink options in abundance. Wait, there's more. Dashi presents the Omakase dining experience where Chef Cotter prepares rich multi-coursed dinners comprised of seasonal dishes made from the freshest local ingredients, complemented with sake pairings. Schedule your reservations and experience where the hustle can lead!
IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO START. - For years, Chef Cotter wrote down his ideas and collected his recipes. When he and his team found a moment of opportunity through a highly regarded pop-up restaurant, they went for it. From a pop-up restaurant to renovating an entire building to create Dashi — it's NEVER too late to start.
CREATE A QUALITY TEAM CULTURE. - Treat your team like family and value them. For Chef Cotter, this meant taking members of the Dashi team on a trip to Tokyo to immerse them in the Japanese culture. Dashi continues to put their team first, keeping them engaged, happy, and excited about the future.
MAINTAIN YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE. - Finding balance is essential to preventing the burnout. Step back when necessary, and let your team and network take the reigns.
PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO DETAIL. - Dashi prides its success on the quality of their ingredients and offerings. Two details they prioritize are sourcing local ingredients that are ALWAYS fresh and making their food taste the same for every customer, every new experience at Dashi.
Written and Edited by: Sammi Meksvanh - Digital Content Specialist