Damon Wise, a Baltimore native, traces his earliest culinary influences to childhood summers spent on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. He learned to fish with his grandfather, a lifelong waterman, and looked on as his grandmother prepared home-cooked meals with their catch-of-the-day and fresh garden produce. It was a ritual that began Wise’s passion for good food and was his first exposure to the idea of cooking with seasonal ingredients.
In the early years of his career, Wise honed his culinary skills working at some of the nation’s top restaurants, including five-star luxury resort The Greenbrier in West Virginia, and Georges Perrier’s Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia. Wise arrived in New York City for a position at Gramercy Tavern, before moving on to cook under Laurent Tourondel at Cello and Christian Delouvier at Lespinasse.
To build on his solid foundation of French cooking technique, Wise then traveled to France to refine his skills further as a stagiaire at celebrated Paris restaurants Taillevent and Apicius. Upon his return to New York, he accepted the position of chef de cuisine at Craft. Wise worked alongside Chef Tom Colicchio to capture the flavors of the seasons with locally sourced ingredients as the basis for the bold, clean dishes that characterized the cooking at Craft. After three years as chef de cuisine, Wise was promoted to executive chef of Craft Restaurants in 2007, a position he held for more than four years. In 2008, Wise was at the forefront of an emerging scene of pop-up restaurants with Damon: Frugal Friday, a temporary restaurant in the private dining room adjacent to Craft serving small plates, snacks and beverages at recession-friendly prices. The project earned three stars from New York Magazine in 2009.
During his tenure at Craft, Wise oversaw the openings of Craftbar in New York and Craft restaurants in Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta. In 2010, Wise oversaw the transition of Craftsteak in New York to Colicchio & Sons, helping to earn the restaurant three stars in The New York Times.
In September 2011, restaurateur Ken Friedman recruited Wise to reimagine the menu at Graydon Carter’s storied The Monkey Bar. As executive chef, Wise’s focus on fresh, seasonal cooking paired with classic technique and distinctly American style lent well to his updated version of the menu at the historic New York City restaurant. The New York Times awarded The Monkey Bar two stars in 2011.
In 2012, Chef Andrew Carmellini enlisted Wise as chef de cuisine of his large-scale French brasserie, Lafayette. The hotly anticipated grand café opened to much acclaim in April 2013 and has been bustling ever since. During his time at the 200 seat all-day eatery, Wise has been deemed a detail-oriented “ace technician” by The New York Times for his thoughtful, precise execution of pan-regional French fare.
Wise is a graduate of both West Virginia University (B.A.S. psychology and liberal arts) and Baltimore International Culinary College and resides in Brooklyn, NY.