There’s a new cook in the kitchen at Jay Dee Café. Executive chef James Dunn, who ran a kitchen alongside restaurateur and TV chef Gordon Ramsay, took over for cook Jose Jorge and kitchen manager Stephanie Wilkins when they moved out of state in May.
Dunn says he was at first reluctant to accept the job at Jay Dee’s. Aside from the hour-and-a-half train ride from his home in Manhattan Beach to Alhambra, the job seemed like a step down from Dunn’s culinary experience as sous chef at Pietro's in New York and executive chef at The Capri Italian Restaurant in Eagle Rock. It was at Capri where he appeared on Fox's "Kitchen Nighmares" with Ramsay.
"Being an executive chef, I took myself out of your basic restaurant-style setting and put myself into this one,” Dunn said. “It was totally different.”
After talking with culinary friends, Dunn decided he could not turn down the opportunity to run his own kitchen. But Jay Dee’s needed some work.
"When I first got here, the health department rating was a 'B' for 20 years and they told me that they would never get an ‘A,’” Dunn said. “I came on the 31st, reopened the following Friday, and the Health Department came in. They inspected my kitchen and they gave me an 'A.' I have an 'A' now and I've had an 'A' in every kitchen I've worked in.”
Dunn redesigned the menu and created his own burgers, like the Peanut Butter Burger and The Works Burger. He also added items like rib-eye steak and clam chowder. The chef is looking forward to introducing these new food items to Jay Dee's customers, both new and regular.
“Not that I'm a Food Network chef or anything, but everywhere I go I get complimented on my food. So it gave me an opportunity to bring my food to Alhambra," Dunn said. "It was a step in a direction of something I'm doing for myself."
Jay Dee Café has been in Alhambra for nearly 70 years and remains family owned. Jorge and Wilkins worked at the restaurant for six years.