Meet Daniel Herget, Executive Chef at Little Octopus. This restaurant is built to accommodate many types of dietary restrictions, offering an extensive selection of gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, and even pescetarian options, all with a Caribbean twist.
We’d like for you to get to know Daniel. Even better, we’d love for you to try cooking some of the wonderful recipes he’s provided, like this gluten-free grilled beets dish or this Mofongo recipe with plantains, egg, and pork. And if you’re fortunate enough, pay a visit to Little Octopus in Nashville!
Tell us a little about yourself and where you grew up…
I was born and raised in Gainesville, Florida. The food industry has always been in my blood. Growing up, my best friend’s family owned a restaurant in town, which my friend and I practically lived in. Shortly after high school, I moved to Miami to study at Johnson and Wales University where I earned a culinary and pastry degree. More importantly, Miami is where I fell in love with Latin American and Caribbean flavors.
I understand you have Crohn’s disease. When were you first diagnosed? What has it been like dealing with that from a food perspective?
In 2009 I was hospitalized for a week. In the end, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. A lot changed for me in that moment. For the first time, I became more focused on my personal diet in order to stay away from taking steroids and anti-inflammatory medication. I was so impressed with my results (I’ve been medication-free for 7 years) that I wanted to incorporate my dietary restrictions into a menu. At Little Octopus—the restaurant I work at—we try to accommodate guests with a range of dietary restrictions.
Where have you worked on your culinary journey? How did you end up at Little Octopus?
I worked at several upscale establishments in Miami, including La Goulue (a classic french brasserie), Wish (new American fine dining), Wynwood Kitchen and Bar (Latin American tapas), and Oak Tavern (Mediterranean small plates). I left Miami in 2015 focused on opening a ramen shop in Gainesville, my hometown. While I was getting that project started I was introduced to a woman named Sarah Gavigan through a brand called Sun Noodle. We immediately hit it off and she offered me a job at her new restaurant in Nashville, Little Octopus. I instantly fell in love with the city.
As a chef, there are so many cuisine directions you can go with at restaurants. Why the emphasis on Caribbean cuisine?
Growing up in Florida I had the opportunity to travel all over the Caribbean. I have always loved its fresh, vibrant foods. As my knowledge of food has grown, so has my understanding of Caribbean cuisine’s depth. It is a diverse culinary melting pot, which makes it incredibly fun to research, cook, and eat, of course!
We love the recipes you’ve designed for the Culinary Library. What’s unique about them? What benefits do they offer to guests at LO, along with anyone who wants to cook them from home?
For a number of reasons, more and more people are choosing to remove gluten from their diets. We have an extensive selection of gluten-free menu items at Little Octopus. Beyond that, we also offer vegan, vegetarian, and pescetarian options.