Author: Charlotte Evans
The dining operations at DragonRidge Country Club have more than doubled in volume in recent years. The club’s new Executive Chef, Duane Jose, has brought increased excitement to the overall operation, along with key staffers who are delivering both culinary artistry and home cooked goodness. It’s well known among the staff at the club that the dining operation has a deep bench of talented cooks and chefs, each of whom has unique, globally inspired talents. Two of the staffers who recently have been elevated to key positions are helping to further raise the bar at the club. Christian Hipkiss, the new Chef De Cuisine, is in charge of the new Asian inspired dishes and Sushi rolls that are quickly becoming staples of the club’s most savvy diners. Dany Moran, now the Junior Sous Chef in charge of daily operations at the Dragon Grille, oversees a bustling restaurant which now features everything from nightly Ribeye Steak to hearty house made soup specials. Christian and Dany spoke with Communications Director Charlotte Evans about their epicurean goals for the new year.
Dany Moran, Junior Sous Chef
Where are you from?
I came to the United States from El Salvador about 15 years ago. I learned English from watching tv with subtitles. Sometimes I miss El Salvador, but truly I’m happy to be here because there is a lot of danger and insecurity there. You can’t take your phone out in public or it will be stolen. I love it here because I can be myself and not worry about anybody judging me.
Do you have a family?
I have a husband who is an American, I have a roommate and a dog. Most of my relatives live in Virginia. I haven’t seen them for a while because of Covid19.
When you came to the United States, did you start your career in hospitality?
I started as a busser at TGI Fridays in Virginia and worked my way up to line cook. Being friendly and working hard goes a long way. After TGI Fridays I worked in a family owned restaurant where I became kitchen manager. When we came to Las Vegas I was hired at Boulder Creek Golf Course. They saw how hard I worked and gave me good raises. I’ve worked many places including Anthem Country Club and Blondies in Planet Hollywood. I was very happy to come to DragonRidge because it’s a nice place with nice people.
You were recently promoted to Junior Sous Chef in charge of the Dragon Grille. Was that a big step?
Yes. There is extra stress because the Grille has become so popular. When I started here a few years ago it was busy on the weekends, but now every day is incredibly busy. Mostly it’s fun, and the day goes by quickly. I love the Grille.
What changes are being implemented in the Grille?
The new menu is very popular. People love it. A member pulled me aside recently and said, “For the past two months we’ve been coming here and the Grille has been the best it has ever been! We had a burger last night and it was the best burger we’ve ever had!” That made me feel good.
When you’re not at work, what are your hobbies?
I love amusement parks! I love going to Disneyland and Six Flags. I also love taking my dog to the park. It keeps me young at heart.
What do you envision for the Grille in the New Year?
The Grille is getting busier and busier, and I want to keep developing it. We are thinking about expanding the Dinner Menu even more. We have a Breakfast Menu, a Lunch Menu and a Dinner Menu. We’re so busy that space in the kitchen can be a challenge.
What do you recommend off the Dinner Menu?
Everything! Especially the Smoked Chicken. It’s juicy and people love the flavor. The barbeque sauce that comes with it is house made. Every person who tries the Smoked Chicken raves about it. I see the plates going back to the dishwasher and there’s nothing left but bones. Everybody eats the whole thing.
Do you have any secret weapons in the Dragon Grille kitchen?
Yes. Our cook, Rigo [Lopez], is terrific! He’s helping us make all the great soups we now have. People love them! There is always a new house made soup, and the chili is served every day. It is very popular too.
Any message to the members for the New Year?
Come to the grille and enjoy your food. We will love to serve you! Any feedback that the members can give us is always welcome. Please pull us aside and let us know anything we can do to improve your experience.
Christian Hipkiss, Chef De Cuisine
Where are you from?
I grew up in New Orleans. My father is from Pennsylvania and my mother is Honduran. Her family immigrated from Honduras years ago. Because of them, I speak Spanish and I know a lot of Latin cuisines. I’m especially grateful for my grandmother.
Did she inspire your cooking?
I got most of my inspiration from her. While she babysat us in her apartment, she was making meals for people and delivering food. I would watch her and see how much fun she had in the kitchen. The tasting and playing around with different flavors and seeing how much people loved her food… it really inspired me.
Are there certain cuisines you gravitate toward?
I like everything under the sun, and I will give anything a try before I say it’s not for me. My forte is Asian cuisine and my specialty is Japanese food. There is such a wide spectrum in Asian cuisine. You can go so many ways, and that’s what I love about it.
Did you receive formal training?
Yes. At the Art Institute of Houston, I learned a variety of cuisines. On the job, I learned from a Japanese chef who taught me extensively about producing the Japanese style. I still use it today. I’ve gained a range of experience working in Texas, Washington, California, Michigan, and now Nevada. Working at a PF Changs helped me develop management skills.
What can we expect from DragonRidge kitchens in the new year?
We want to give members a premium experience as far as food quality, what’s in season and what’s evolving. We are looking at food for the fitness center and have great ideas, including offering Sushi. We’re excited to make really good food.
Of the Sushi rolls you make, is there one on the menu you really like?
The Cucumber Krab Roll is one of my favorites. It’s the perfect balance between sweet and savory, and it’s the ideal light dish.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I’ve been moving too much to settle down, so I’m single with no kids. I go to the gym every day and I love hiking. My dog Trixie is a Basset Hound/Lab mix. She’s not a great hiker, but sometimes I take her in my backpack and carry her with me.
You seem mellow, but kitchens can be high stress. How do you cope?
I focus on making it a positive experience and having fun with it. When it gets stressful in the kitchen, you take a step back and come at it from a different angle. Staying calm and confronting the challenge methodically helps.
Do you like to coach others on the job?
Definitely. It’s rewarding to set the standards and show someone how to do something the right way and help them develop confidence.
Are you still developing?
Every day! I love to cook, no matter who it’s for and what it is. When I cook for myself at home, I can make more mistakes and be experimental. If it’s a mistake, then the dog is really happy.