You'll find this article in the March 2017 Issue of the Arizona Foodie Magazine. Want a subscription, so that you'll be the first to get the next issue? Go here: Arizona Foodie Magazine Subscription
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Written by Diana Brandt
Photography by Constance Higley
I walk into Pure Sushi Colony, one of the newer restaurants to hit the 7th street food scene in Central Phoenix. It’s got that brand new feel, super clean, sharp lines and decked out in ocean blue. It’s lunch time, and there are plenty of booths and tables available, but I head over to the large open bar by the cozy patio and take a seat at one of the high-tops. Chef Donald Hawk walks in with a cheerful grin, and I greet him with a hug. We sit down to eat lunch, and Pure Sushi’s Chef Clinton comes over to introduce himself. We chat for a few minutes about the restaurant and the food, and he asks us to order. Donald looks over the menu, but I suggest that Chef Clinton sends over sushi rolls he wants to feature. I’m curious to find out how Chef Donald got to his current position at the Gladly’s new raw bar and what inspired him throughout his career. He shares his humble beginnings with me, all the Chefs he’s had the pleasure to work under and a recent breaking point that took him out of the industry for a few months.
Starting in the food profession at a young age, Donald knew without a doubt how much he loved working in the restaurant industry. “I got started a little over ten years ago at 16. I worked at Barro’s pizza, and I liked it so much that it got to the point where I was skipping school to go make pizzas.” One of the biggest things I gather from Donald is how important it is to work under different Chefs, to learn from them and to work hard to better yourself. Donald has had the opportunity to work with plenty of amazing local talent from Montelucia, to Bianco’s, Citizen Public, Welcome Chicken & Donuts and Crepe Bar. Donald’s mood changes. I see hesitation in his eyes, and he looks away. I probe, and he tells me, “After leaving one of my jobs, there was a big sense of defeat.” We talk a little more about the situation and how working in this industry can sometimes bring you to your knees. “It was such an amazing learning experience. I was there for about a year and four months, and by the end, it was time to part ways. After that, I left the industry for three months. I was so burnt out that I needed to mentally take a break, but during that break, I was like - what am I doing?” He didn’t have a complete hiatus from the restaurant industry but helped at various food festivals around town, and it was at one of these that his friends and some of the Chefs asked him what he was planning to do in the future. “They said that I needed to come back because I was missed and if I wasn’t in this industry - what the hell was I doing? This is where you belong. They were right.” That was the push he needed, and in May of last year, he went to work for Welcome Chicken and Donuts. “It took a moment for me to get back to a good place in my mind. Welcome Chicken and Donuts was a big eye opener and recharged me. They like to have fun and be in great spirits. It was a good stepping stone to get back up on my feet.”
His passion burned with the intensity of a brick oven. He knew what he had to do. Four months later he decided to return to work for Chef Bernie Kantak at The Gladly. “I’ve really wanted to learn the business side of the restaurant industry and how to open one. Bernie said he could do that for me if I came back and worked with him. I jumped at the opportunity because I realize time is valuable.” Donald’s love for food doesn’t just confine him to a restaurant. He also cooks in his spare time doing popup dinners that he hosts with his friend and fellow sous chef, Brent Kilne. The food is wonderful, and the atmosphere fun. For more information or to attend one of these dinners, follow them on Instagram at @kosophx. We finish our Fire Dragon Roll, and he reclines in his chair. His contentment is contagious, and I relate to his words. “Right now; this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my career. I feel like everyone has been inspirational. There is so much talent in this town, and they are so willing to give. They just want me to succeed, and I think that helps everyone succeed.”
The Gladly 2201 E Camelback Rd Phoenix 85016