They’ve already got some yummy projects cookin’ up, from various confidential branded F&B concepts in the Florida Keys to a 13,000-sq.-ft. café for a global tech company in New York City, not to mention two recently completed projects for the Garces Group (Amada in Radnor, Penn. and Garces Eats at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly.) So, we sat down with Cullen, the newly appointed design director of dash dine, to hear more about the firm’s ethos, how it will translate to this branch and where her personal passions and history lie within it all.
i+s: Why did the firm decide to launch this division exclusive to restaurant design?
KC: We saw an opportunity to shout a bit louder about dash design’s experience in F&B, and not just allow it to be perceived as an add on to our hospitality business. David started his career in hospitality working on nightclubs in the early 2000’s. About a decade later, he was engaged to work with Sage Restaurant Group (a division of Sage Hospitality) to take that experience and apply it to his first restaurant project. At the time restaurants were really shifting and becoming more experiential; they quickly went from being a stop for dinner on the way to someplace out to being “a night out”. dash has become known for creating meaningful experiences that don’t match any “house” style, but are always inline with the strategic positioning of the brands we work with.
Upon realizing our experience was rather rich and that we could offer our expertise in a more focused way to our current clients and attract new, we moved forward with the expansion of dash dine.
i+s: Tell us about yourself.
KC: I was 15 years old when I got my first taste of the operations side of restaurants, working as a host in Princeton, NJ. In my college years when I was going to school for interior design, I was a server and a bartender at a couple restaurants in Manhattan. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was getting invaluable firsthand exposure to the dual aspects of my future career and helping to shape my unique understanding of the industry.
At home, my personal design aesthetic is transitional and timeless. I like to mix furniture styles from different periods, but typically gravitate towards pieces with clean lines and a neutral, yet often high contrast palette, cozy textures and funky, sculptural light fixtures. At dash dine, as is also the case with dash design, we don’t have a specific “aesthetic.” We pride ourselves on being able to craft a unique experience and style that is most appropriate for the specific brand and locale.
i+s: Describe the perfect dining experience.KC
: For me, I love seeing “how the sausage is made,” so if there’s an open kitchen I’m typically inclined to sit at the dining counter where I can get a front row seat to all the action. For a restaurant and chef to open their kitchen up to you is such a personal thing, that even as the popularity of the open kitchen trend has grown over the past decade, I’m not sure all customers fully appreciate it. It’s so intimate to be able to watch your meal being meticulously prepared by the chef and at the same time sharing a dialogue with them. My husband and I live outside of Philly, and one of our favorite spots there is Fiorella Pasta from Chef Marc Vetri: a small counter‐only pasta bar housed in an iconic sausage shop from the 1800’s, outfitted with a stunning Venetian chandelier in the center. They took tremendous care restoring the interior and exterior, and you can feel the history because it is essentially one long counter in front of the cook line. It almost feels like you’re sitting at your friend’s kitchen counter (if your friend was an amazing Italian chef that is.)