“The Signature Sizzle” – Meet Ruth’s Chris Steak House Head Chef, Dennis Denk
DJ Zelczak, Editor
Elias Hanna, Publisher
Ruth’s Chris Steak House is among the most respected upscale restaurant brands the world over. From Las Vegas to Hong Kong and from Shanghai to Pittsburgh, The Ruth’s Chris delivers a high standard of consistent quality from presentation to an after dinner drink selection that will suit even the most discernable palate. But a restaurant, even one with as accomplished a reputation as Ruth’s Chris, would be nothing without the people who drive the brand’s internal drive for excellence.
To that end, we recently interviewed Pittsburgh Executive Chef Dennis Denk and asked him about his personal culinary journey and his insights into what makes the Ruth’s Chris experience so special.
Dennis began by cooking in high school. His motivation was not based in a love of food, but by the need for a job and luckily, the restaurant industry had plenty to spare. Before he knew it, Dennis had transformed his “job” into a passion that launched him into a career that has been thrilling the taste buds of Ruth’s Chris patrons for more than 31 years.
If you ask Dennis, he would tell you that he hasn’t achieved success by his masterful skills alone. Instead he would probably speak to the fact thatRuth’s Chris sources only the best grade of cattle for its custom-aged curing process. He would also speak of the excellence in execution of his line staff.
Chef Denk reflected that in the end, “It’s just meat and potatoes”. To a humble man like Dennis Denk, it may seem to be that simple, but to the steak connoisseur, Chef Denk is the man behind the scenes in an environment that has been transforming the basic into the unforgettable for more than three decades.
Now that we have established that Dennis Denk is a maestro in the kitchen, it is time address the Ruth’s Chris dining experience in all of its multi-sensory glory. The restaurant’s newly renovated design and inviting décor, accented by the soft illumination of chandeliers, goes far in satisfying the eyes, the signature sizzle of the steak presented on a plate heated to 500 degrees satisfies the ears, the tactile experience of the ambient heat emanating from the plate quenches any desire to test touch (although there are the hearty few who ignore the warning and touch the plate anyway), the texture of the steak, bursting with subtle levels of flavor intoxicate the palate, and the ensuing aroma holds captive the sense of smell. The entire experience is designed for the guest to sit back and enjoy the culinary ride of a lifetime.
The only thing that forced these two intrepid reporters to ponder in any regard was in meal choice. Should I go for the 16 oz. ribeye or the 11 oz. filet so that I might save room to enjoy a selection from the tantalizing desert menu. Should I choose a steak at all? Typically, I would perish the thought, but the variety of seafood, chicken and lamb chop offerings are hard to resist. I imagine that eventually it would only take the sound of a sizzling steak to make the decision for me.
In fact, neither of the writers at work on this article could think of a better way to pass the hours of a cold February evening than to enjoy a steak crafted by the expert hands of Chef Denk, complemented by a fine wine from the Ruth’s Chris cellar, and good conversation with great friends.