7 Questions with NIC3’s Mary Dumont
7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.
This October, The Next Iron Chef returns with its fieriest season-to-date. Ten of the country’s most accomplished chefs bet on their skills and put their reputations on the line for the chance to join the industry’s most elite culinary society: the Iron Chefs. Hosted by Alton Brown and filmed in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City, season three premieres Sunday, October 3rd at 9pm ET/PT on Food Network and challenges the chefs’ culinary skills and mental toughness as they enter a clash of culinary titans.
For all the info on the new season of The Next Iron Chef, check out this link (has press release, episode descriptions, bios, video, etc).
The great thing about NIC is that all of the combatants are serious, award winning chefs. Mary Dumont (Executive Chef at Harvest in Cambridge, Mass.) stuck to her New Hampshire family’s restaurateur roots and, after attending Simmons College, got her start in the business working under such culinary talents as San Francisco’s Jardiniere, Campton Place and Elizabeth Daniel. Upon returning to New Hampshire after stints in Chicago and California, she established her signature contemporary New England cuisine with classic French inspiration which she showcases as executive chef of Harvest. Dumont is the first-ever New Hampshire chef to earn the Food & Wine “Best New Chef” accolade.
With the premiere of Next Iron Chef 3 on the horizon Chef Mary Dumont answers 7 Questions.
1. How old were you when you first started to cook?
I grew up in New Hampshire and was raised in a family of restaurateurs, but being a chef is not what I originally thought I would do. After attending Simmons College in Boston for Literature, I followed a whim and moved to San Francisco at the age of 21. There, I immersed myself in the culture of food and dining and knew it was my calling. Then, I started cooking professionally at age 23.
2. When did you decide that you could make food your career?
After the sudden death of my mother, I knew that the only way to succeed was to plan a serious course. I started working at San Francisco’s Jardiniere with Traci Des Jardins, and I saw what an amazing job Tracy did and what an incredible life she had; I was truly inspired. I felt deeply that this was what I was meant to do. It aligned with how I was raised and what I thought was important, it made a lot of sense for me.
3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?
Chef Laurent Manrique of Campton Place in San Francisco taught me so much. He really looked at how I was cooking and taught me the whys of it all – why things are supposed to be certain ways and not others, why it’s important to be a problem solver and how to fix things, why things go together in the kitchen. This greater understanding of food and how everything works helped me see the bigger picture and is now something I try to teach to all my cooks.
Traci Des Jardins of San Francisco’s Jardiniere built a really great empire of restaurants in San Francisco. She is really into flavors and using a lot of local farms, aspects I incorporate into my cooking today. When I was working with her and so young, I was like a sponge and I was psyched just to be there with her, learning from her and even getting yelled at sometimes (she knew I existed!). I just wanted to learn and be better.
I have always respected what Barbara Lynch does. She has an amazing palate and business acumen. Nobody in this area has what she has; nobody can touch it.
4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?
Before I chose literature, I was really starting on the course to be a doctor. Then I realized I just wanted to cook! But, I am still providing a great service and helping people.
5. How would you describe your cooking style?
Contemporary New England with French influences and farm-to-table focus.
6. What motivated you to enter the Next Iron Chef competition?
I was excited by the idea of becoming an Iron Chef to share my passions with a larger audience – from my food and cooking style to my passion for sustainable agriculture and farm-to-table food. This is a unique aspect and outlook I would bring to the group.
7. What’s next for Chef Mary Dumont?
No matter what happens in the competition, I am excited to bring all my experience back to Harvest and someday even have my own restaurant. As far as Harvest, we have our monthly farm dinners and we have many exciting things going on including a great staff and series of special events.
Be sure you check back each Sunday for the NIC Recap.