Born above his mother’s restaurant, Phoebe’s Fish and Chips, Eli Dunn grew up eating fresh, local ingredients in the restaurant and around the kitchen table. Now he is passing on his love of fresh food and home cooked meals at Eli’s Kitchen in Warren.
How has your mother inspired you and your love of food?
She had an organic garden in the back of the restaurant. She did that before it was a movement. We always ate together as a family around the table. I absorbed her love of food and gardening.
What was your path to opening Eli’s Kitchen?
I traveled around the country a lot when I was younger. I lived in Oregon and Arizona and eventually came back to Rhode Island. I was a chef at Three Rivers in Warren. That was the first time I was the chef in charge of running a kitchen. When it closed, a lot of people said to open my own place. It was the first time I thought I could open my own restaurant, but I hadn’t learned enough about the business thing. I then worked at The Beehive for almost five years. I wanted to wait until I was debt free and the right location came. Last fall this location came up, I looked at it and it was magical. I live right around the corner, so the stars seemed to align and it seemed like the right time. Also, my fiancée Pamela Girard came along and her advice was always “you can do it.” So I took a leap of faith and every decision since then has been easy.
What are some dishes we can look forward to on the summer menu?
A lot of my menu is a mishmash of culinary influences. I include Cajun Creole and ethnic influences like Thai and Indian. A popular dish is our carnitas tacos. We smoke our own pork and our version has mashed avocado, homemade tortillas from Sanchez Tortilliaria, sweet onion, pickles, red onions, tomatillo and cilantro with a side of new Orleans style beans. Our falafel is another favorite recipe along with our grass fed meatloaf.
Describe your cooking style.
Honestly, I think that my style is constantly changing. When you think you know everything, that’s when you realize you know nothing. It’s the same with cooking, “I love to go out to eat, take a dish and think what could I do with this?”
What’s your favorite dessert to make?
Key lime pie is the first desert I made in my moms restaurant and it is still my favorite to make. I love anything with citrus. It’s the perfect combi- nation of sour, savory and aromatic. My mom taught me how to make an amazing piecrust and I have taken that with me through the years.
Eli’s Kitchen. 40 Market Street, Warren. 401-245-1809.