Dago Cruz, Line Cook and Sous Chef

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A Year in the Life

Dago Cruz, Line Cook and Sous Chef

Like many cooks, Dago Cruz found himself without work when dining rooms closed last March and finding work, no matter how far away it was, took its toll once restaurants slowly started to reopen.

“I was without work for three months, then a friend in Long Island called me to work with him, but I was traveling two hours there and two hours back every day, just to find any work I could. I was getting back home in Bushwick, Brooklyn, after 1 a.m. and then leaving at 9 a.m., because there was no work in the city.”

Then, in June, an old connection called him up. It was Ed Szymanski, the former chef of Greenpoint’s Cherry Point restaurant (now permanently closed), who was now working on a new project, Dame, with his partner, Patricia Howard. Cruz first met Szymanski at a Thanksgiving dinner in 2016 at Cherry Point. Years later, they actually worked on the line together at Cherry Point, and now, Szymanski hoped Cruz would join him in opening a pop-up version of his new seafood-focused restaurant in the West Village. Since June, Cruz has been working with Szymanski and Howard at Dame.

If there’s anything he wants to tell diners, it’s that he hopes diners at Dame know how much love goes into the food. His story over the last 12 months follows.

Start Gallery

March 2020: Pre-pandemic family meal at Bernie's in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where I worked at before coming to Dame, right before the lockdown. —D.C.

Photo Courtesy Dago Cruz

April 2020: A FaceTime call with my girlfriend, who was quarantining with her family in New Jersey. This was when we all had to stay home and no one could leave the house.

Photo Courtesy Dago Cruz

May 2020: There was no work for anyone in May, so this was me and my family waiting in line for food that people were giving out in Bushwick, my neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Photo Courtesy Dago Cruz

June 2020: The opening night of Dame, serving customers in the West Village.

Photo Courtesy Dago Cruz

July 2020: I did a pop-up at Dame with my uncle, Rey, and we served the traditional Oaxacan cuisine that I grew up eating in Mexico.

Photo Courtesy Dago Cruz

August 2020: My nephew's birthday celebration, with my aunt and uncle, and the rest of my family. That summer we had a couple of outdoor gatherings that were really nice after being in quarantine for so long.

Photo Courtesy Dago Cruz

September 2020: We did a fish taco pop-up at Dame. It was a collaboration between me and Ed.

Photo Courtesy Dago Cruz

October 2020: This photo is from the last day of Dame Summer Club, before we got ready to turn the space into a grocery store for the winter. Ed's on the left.

Photo Courtesy Dago Cruz

November 2020: In November, we took a couple of weeks off to recharge, and I spent the last of the warmer-weather days playing soccer in the park with my friends.

Photo Courtesy Dago Cruz

December 2020: Celebrating New Year's Eve with my cousins!

Photo Courtesy Dago Cruz

January 2021: After the New Yorker review of Dame, we were really busy. This is me making a lot of french fries!

Photo Courtesy Dago Cruz

February 2021: A vaccine selfie with Ed and Patricia [Howard, Dame co-owner]! Getting vaccinated feels great and is a step on the path to end the pandemic. Hopefully, this pandemic ends soon, so we can go back to normal, back to regular work, to cooking a bigger menu, and having guests in the restaurant and outside. I can't wait until we don't have to wear masks while cooking.

Photo Courtesy Dago Cruz

March 2021, One Year Later: A photo of our new kitchen for Dame. Exciting things are coming in 2021!

Photo Courtesy Dago Cruz

Read More Stories From Resy's Special Project: A Year in the Life of Restaurant Workers

A Year in the Life

Dago Cruz, Line Cook and Sous Chef

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