Chef Dequane Stobbs, affectionately known as “Chef DQ” to his friends and co-workers, is the “Chef de Cuisine” at “Dragonfly Robata,” and is not only the heart of the kitchen, but the “flavor genius” who combines so many aspects of his life and culinary experience to make the new, fresh, and contemporary dishes that guests of “Dragonfly Robata” often rave about.
In Japanese cuisine, “Robatayaki” is often shortened to “Robata” and it is similar to barbecue, where food items are cooked over hot coals using a wide, open fireplace referred to as an “Irori,” or a square pit fire, similar to an open hearth. For centuries, Irori have been used by Japanese fishermen to cook their fish and to provide warmth as they returned from the morning catch. This same warm, fresh, and friendly tradition can be re-discovered every day at “Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi,” located just off of Interstate Four and Sand Lake Road in Orlando Florida.
Chef DQ moved with his family from Jamaica to Connecticut when he was still young. Then, in 2005, they all moved to Florida with him, and he began his cooking career as a “Sandwich Artist” at popular sandwich shop. “My family was always very big on cooking, but I was never in the kitchen that much. As a kid, I was interested, always observing what was going on, but my parents took care of all the cooking, so I didn’t develop a deep knowledge of cooking when I was young.”
Chef DQ points out that enjoying cooking is not enough to make someone a successful Chef, “A lot of people follow their dreams, or at least they think they are… they can go to culinary school or be mentored, but when they begin to work in the industry, it isn’t what they thought, it’s a lot of work! When I started, the very first year, I was just learning about the industry, and I often had my doubts about this career, but I decided I just needed to learn as much as I could to see if it was really for me. I have never been afraid of hard work, I believe in being on time, always doing my best, because that is how you learn work ethics and gain the trust of your managers and co-workers. Sometime during year two, I decided I was going to be a chef, and so that is what I put all my effort and attention to. All the work required to succeed leads to a love of cooking, one that you never realized you had before… but you have to put in the work, it’s the most important thing. You don’t just get better, you have to want to get better, every day, that is where it starts… it starts with you!”
Chef DQ points out that, since Jamaica is surrounded by water, so much of its cuisine revolves around seafood. “I have a lot of childhood memories of food and the beach. You see, fishermen get up really early, go out to catch fish, and then head back to the island around 7 am, and that is when the vendors come out. Now, if the fishermen make a big catch, then they need help, so the community will come out and help them offload their catch, and then, to thank them, the fishermen will give them one or two fish. Well, the people will build fires on the beach and cook those fish on the fire and everyone will share with everyone else… and those fish taste so good!”
He insists that the Japanese Robata grill is very similar to Jamaican cuisine. “Japan is an island surrounded by water, like Jamaica, and even though preparations are done differently, the main flavors are the same. A lot of Japanese cuisine revolves around Sushi, but in Jamaica we do not eat raw fish, so that is probably the main culinary difference. However, cooking on the Robata grill is very similar to the way food is prepared in Jamaica, especially the fish.
“For example, one of my favorite items on our menu is the “Hamachi Kama” which is the Yellowtail Collar… it is grilled and served with lemon, salt and pepper, and a little ponzu sauce, so it is a very simple dish to prepare, but the way it smells… that aroma reminds me of home, cooking on the Jamaican beach! All those flavors are familiar to me.”
“Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi,” located at 7972 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando, FL 32819, is a Japanese tradition made new. With fish flown in from Japan and produce fresh from the farm to your table, combined with creative twists on traditional tastes, you will definitely find a unique and delicious way to spend an evening with that one special person or the entire family. Just remember to come in hungry, as Chef DQ reminds us, “When the food is good, the appetite grows!” Enjoy!
Produced by: Irina Pabis
Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: David Morizot