September 30, 2022

Community Spotlight: Meet Executive Chef Reggie Dotson of Ash'Kara and Featured Chef of MCA Denver's Dinner Society

Tai Bickham


On Friday, October 7, 2022, MCA Denver’s Dinner Society is excited to welcome Executive Chef Reggie Dotson from Ash’Kara, for an evening of culinary delights inspired by MCA Denver’s current exhibition, The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse.  Infused with the flavors of Chef Reggie’s South Carolinian ancestral roots and his home of Denver, CO, the evening will truly be a unique and celebratory experience.  

Dinner Society is MCA Denver’s pop-up rooftop dinner program that combines culinary artistry with visual arts creating a truly intimate and special night at the museum. For ticket information, click here.

I had the pleasure of emailing with Reggie to learn more about his process and the creative expression and influence that is evident in the cuisine he creates. 

Executive Chef Reggie Dotson

Hi Reggie! How are you doing? 

I’m doing very well. It’s great to speak with you.

It’s great to see homegrown talent excelling in their creativity and sharing it, locally. What sparked your curiosity about cooking? 

My grandfather was a professional cook and my grandmother was a home cook, both in South Carolina. So I have to believe it’s in my blood!  My curiosity about cooking began when I was a young kid playing with the Fisher-Price stove set. My mother worked two jobs, so out of necessity, I started playing in the kitchen as a way to make dinner for my little brother.  I’d start with small, simple dishes like toast with sugar or oatmeal (I was quite young!). 

I’d slowly add other ingredients and that led to a curiosity about recipes and cookbooks, both for ingredients and technique. My brother was quite picky, so if I could turn him into a fan, I knew I was doing something right. This led me to become more curious about my abilities and the boundaries I could push. 

Your experience in the kitchen has taken you from Southern cooking at The Kiawah Island  Club in South Carolina to Italian cuisine at Bar Dough. How did understanding the components of these cultural styles of cooking help in creating a menu of contemporary Israeli cuisine at Ash’Kara? 

I think understanding the base roots of all three cuisines has given me the best understanding of cultural cooking in general. Starting with humble ingredients and transforming them into something comforting, exciting and nostalgic is something that my culinary journey has really focused on so when creating menus at Ash’Kara I think about that first before anything else. 

Za'atar Spiced Half Chicken from Chef Reggie's Spring Menu. 🌱 It's served with Smashed English Peas, Crispy Fingerling Potatoes and Tzatziki.
image: Za'atar Spiced Half Chicken served with Smashed English Peas, Crispy Fingerling Potatoes and Tzatziki at Ash'Kara. Spring 2022. Instagram

What are you inspired by? How is this reflected in the dishes that you create?

I honestly think I'm inspired most by a combination of things: seasonal ingredients, architecture, weather, and music. I follow a lot of chefs I admire on Instagram so we have a lot of conversations in the Ash’Kara kitchen about techniques or cool things that other chefs are working on, which is a great way to stretch and challenge myself. 

I’m also a little old school when it’s really time for me to find culinary inspiration. I dig into cookbooks. Most times, I can’t just look at one, so I’ll have a bunch open and spread out on my coffee table and I'll end up putting pieces of things together that I really like. I’ll take notes on methods or techniques to combine my ideas. I think you can see it most in the dishes that I create that come from old-world classics.

I’m inspired by the work ethic of my mentors and friends, which reminds me of growing up and seeing my mom work two jobs, always with a positive attitude. I’ve always had a competitive drive, over the years it's turned into how I can compete with myself and what I do to help others become the best version of themselves as well.

How does art influence your culinary practice?  

Art influences my culinary practice in so many ways. When I see a work of art that I am drawn to, I start to visualize shapes, sizes, textures, and perspectives. I think a lot about the person who created it, where they are from, what has influenced them and what they are trying to express through their art. I love channeling that energy and expression onto a plate. It’s a really cool way of expressing myself creatively. 

Chef Reggie has brought the 🔥 🔥 🔥 with Ash'Kara's Spring Menu! This is the Pan Seared Halibut, served with Bulgar wheat & quinoa tabbouleh salad, asparagus, snap peas and cucumber.
image: Pan Seared Halibut, served with Bulgar wheat & quinoa tabbouleh salad, asparagus, snap peas and cucumber a Ash'Kara. Spring 2022. Instagram. 

We’re excited to have you as our featured chef for Dinner Society on October 7! What can guests look forward to for the evening? 

I’m incredibly excited about this opportunity!  The exhibition, The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse, just flooded me with creativity. Though I want the dishes to be a surprise, I can say my food at Dinner Society will be heavily influenced by the exhibition. I’m excited for guests to taste the memories, flavors, and nuances that helped me build my career path. 

What are you looking forward to for the rest of 2022? 

I am looking forward to pushing the last  2022 to the boundaries. Ash’Kara had a great spring and summer and I’d really like to top it off by challenging myself to become even more expressive and really create food and atmosphere that’s to be desired for years to come. 

Executive Chef Reggie Dotson. Headshot

Anything missed? Please share! 

I just can’t thank MCA enough for choosing me.  For guests unable to attend, we hope you’ll come to see us at Ash’Kara in LoHi. We have happy hour every day from 3:00-5:30pm, brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, and dinner at 5pm every day.