Executive Chef Daniel Leal
Chef Daniel Leal’s career has literally taken him across the country. As a former “Chef to the Stars,” he has planned and prepared menus for a long list of some of America’s most popular entertainers-- Justin Bieber, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Brantley Gilbert, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Weezer, Dolly Parton, SlipKnot, Lamb of God, Shinedown, Breaking Benjamin, Flight of the Conchords, Marilyn Manson, Garrison Keillor and the cast of “A Prairie Home Companion.” He has also been “Festival Chef” for such acclaimed music festivals as Gentleman of the Road and Carolina Rebellion.
When asked about the reasons he enjoyed traveling with and cooking for musicians, he explained, “I loved being able to use fresh, local ingredients from so many different areas of the country. I also enjoyed and grew from the challenges of having to adapt to the surroundings you find yourself in and on-the-fly menu planning.” And, he explained that, since the stars and road crew were constantly changing, so were the food needs and tastes that he had to respond to. “Their diets and food standards were always changing. On my last tour, I really enjoyed the challenge of preparing creative meals for a healthier, vegan and vegetarian crew.”
Those who work with Chef Daniel describe him as one of the hardest-working men they’ve ever been around. But, across the board, the favorite qualities cited by colleagues are his ability to stay calm even on the busiest (often most stressful of days), his off-the-cuff sense of humor and, of course, the delightful culinary creations that come out of that creative “foodie” head of his.
Leal has honed his skills across numerous cuisines—Latin, French, Italian, Thai/Asian, Indian and American. Recently, at the country club where he previously worked, he created the Cuban menu for their very first “Sunset Havana Nights.” At that event, he told Members his grandparents came here from Cuba, and that “they were the ones who taught me to love and cook Cuban food.” He said the dishes he served that evening were ones he had cooked with them.
So, you may be wondering what brought Chef Daniel to Virginia? It’s a one-word answer—Lucian… a kind, funny, smart, almost-six-year old little boy who brings a smile to everyone he meets.
When asked what he enjoys most about being the Executive Chef at River Creek, Daniel doesn’t hesitate—“I really enjoy the personal, direct engagement with our Members who, by the way, are very supportive of our very talented staff.” He also enjoys the challenge of “creating new and different types of dishes, taking average food and bringing it to an elevated level.” And, he says he “gets a kick out of working with and coaching our kitchen team.” Chef Daniel is looking forward to creating even more themed dinners, wine pairings and special events at River Creek.