Chef Dan of Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern

View from inside the restaurant

Long before “locally grown” and “sustainable” became everyday buzz words for environmentally conscious foodies, Daniel Schurr cut his culinary teeth on farm fresh meals grown and served at his grandparents’ family farm in Liberty, NC.  According to Chef Schurr “The farm is where I started my life-long love of nature, learned the meaning of a hard day’s work, and began to value meals made from good fresh food.”  In the summer Daniel looked forward to fresh okra, tomato pie and homemade ice cream churned under the shade tree.  In the fall Daniel’s grandfather made sausage and head cheese from the livestock raised on the farm.

In high school, a handsome 6’3” athletic male, Daniel sustained his work ethic by excelling in basketball and baseball. While attending college at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he tended bar at a nearby tavern.  Once introduced to the restaurant scene, Daniel found himself most satisfied when he was at the side of an expert chef.  After working with several southern executive chefs in restaurants ranging from North Carolina’s steak and seafood establishments to Alabama’s bourbon and horse race track -inspired eateries, Daniel Schurr enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in NYC. To say he mastered the techniques of the school is an understatement.  In 1990 he graduated number one in his class and was recruited by the French Master Executive Chef Jean Marie Lacroix to work with him at The Fountain, the restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel in distinguished Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Schurr studied under this award-winning chef (2001 James Beard Award for Best Mid-Atlantic Chef) for seven years.

The experience of working at The Fountain taught Schurr many things about running a successful restaurant; that discipline, quality and consistency are all crucial when serving the customer.  “My customers experience the layers of flavors of the very best hand-selected ingredients. It is how the food feels on the palate.  One must use their god-given talents to recognize taste, aroma and visual appeal to produce outstanding food. This is accomplished through ratios, not recipes.  All of my experience goes into consistently producing an exuberant cuisine that appeals to the simplest and most sophisticated gustatory sensibilities.”

Schurr’s talent and the ambience of Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern is the perfect marriage.  Owners Kim Reynolds and husband David have created a wonderful dining environment in the restored Hindsdale-Dobbs house.  According to Chef Schurr, “Just look around this place [Second Empire] – everything here is perfect.  That is the Reynolds’ philosophy.  Together we have created a team that believes in being the best at what we do, and every day we strive to raise the bar even higher; after all, we are doing what we love.  We have had more than 13 great years together, with no divorce in sight”.

Daniel Schurr is on the Chef’s Advisory Board for the NC Sweet Potato Commission.  He is a member of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.  In his time off he can be seen around town, riding his bike, hiking, spending time outdoors with his family, and of course, checking out the local produce.  He may physically leave work, but he is always thinking and dreaming about his next creation at Second Empire.

  • Mark Woinoski

    I remember Dan as a young, up and coming chef. I hope that life is good for him and he gets all that he deserves.

    Mark J. Woinoski
    Executive Chef
    Bethel Woods Center for the Arts