Chef Rhonda McCullar is rising through the ranks in the Dallas restaurant community with her recent appointment to Chef de Cuisine at Uchi Dallas and its upstairs concept restaurant Uchiba. McCullar, a stand-out known for her sustainable approach in the kitchen, is a vegetarian with an uncanny ability to create protein-based dishes on her skillset alone, leaving the final taste test to her fellow chefs. She is the first woman of color to hold the title.
“Rhonda…has surpassed expectations in every new role,” said Tyson Cole, Founding Chef of both Uchi and Uchiba. “Her compassion and leadership skills are matched only by her talent. I’m looking forward to seeing great things from her.”
Part of McCullar’s mission is to run both kitchens in the most sustainable way possible. That mission is rooted in her childhood in South Dallas and Ennis, Texas, where cooking with her mother for family get-togethers sparked her love of culinary arts. Her mother taught her to use all parts of the food, as many around them were facing food insecurity. McCullar is inspired by reusing kitchen waste, and often incorporates what others would consider waste into her dishes. Her menu uses as much of the ingredients as possible: bones are turned into stock, and vegetables and other waste are used for staff meals.
“I just cannot get down with waste,” she said. “When you waste like that, you’re essentially saying that people who are in need don’t matter. It says to me you have no regard for anyone else. It’s just so near and dear to me because I feel like there’s always somebody that really needs it.”
She credits Uchi and Uchiba as a place where this mentality can thrive. The company’s strong culture and core values allowed McCullar to flourish.
She’s been able to create elevated meals in a unique way – a way that helps the environment and the community and makes diners eager to come back for more.
She also hopes to expand the reach of her menu by creating pop-ups across the city, giving her the flexibility to change menus according to what’s in season and what’s available in local markets. McCullar gives leftovers to members of the community who need food, and volunteers to feed the homeless.
Her unique background is a part of why her food is so inspiring. Though she grew up cooking, she first focused on a career playing basketball. When her family needed more financial support, McCullar started teaching sixth-grade science. Her love of food never faltered though, and she came up with a plan to teach and attend culinary school on the side. She enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Dallas, where her science background made her an immediate standout. It’s that academic understanding of flavor profiles on a molecular level and cooking science that has allowed her to tweak recipes even without eating meat or fish.
With her waste-nothing, sustainable approach and her unique, highly-praised dishes, McCullar is clearly a rising star in Texas, and the national culinary scene. There’s no doubt her work style comes from the heart.
“I’m not doing it to be seen; I’m doing it because I truly have a passion for serving people, and I just want to give back as much as I possibly can,” she said.