Busy chef working hard to stay in kitchen as much as possible

Josh Dalton's best dish might just be the store-bought frozen burrito he heats up when he gets home from work after a long day of making — and supervising the making — of food that's not frozen burritos for guests at Veritas.

What do we learn from this? That a journalist asking a chef what is his best dish probably isn't a good question.

Although it is instructive as an indicator of the passion, determination and dedication Dalton applies to running Veritas, the challenges of operating the restaurant at least temporarily compounded by the fact that the new Downtown location is in what Dalton called the “crawling” phase of learning how to walk after having operated the previous several years in Delaware, where Veritas made its name as a top dining destination. (After all, what says “I've exhausted all of my energy” more than reverting to punching a couple buttons on the microwave to prepare one's dinner?)

Our best chef runs not only one of the top restaurants in Columbus but still oversees 1808 American Bistro in Delaware, where he's in the process of adding an event space. He's also working to open a new concept in the former Veritas space, also in Delaware. Being his own boss has always been the goal.

“I never worked well with or for others. I got fired a lot. I always felt like I had a different way,” Dalton said in an interview at Veritas. “A lot of that was being a dumb, young, ignorant, asshole punk. But I have different thoughts and philosophies on how things should run. I don't buy into a lot of what people say you have to do, or the way things should be done. We've always done things a lot differently.”

The self-taught chef wed his outside-the-box thinking with traditions and passions he learned as a kid growing up outside of New Orleans.

“I was always the kid in the kitchen whenever there was a big meal,” Dalton said. “I remember food always being an integral part of our lives. Down there, they think differently about food. They always say that [up North] people eat to work, but in the South people work to eat. You'd base your whole day around what was for dinner or the next meal. Food's always been important to me. … Maybe too important.”

His frustration at calling the shots comes from the work that needs done outside the kitchen, Dalton said.

“I wanted to own a restaurant simply so I wouldn't have to listen to anybody, but as you start doing it you realize, ‘I have more bosses than anybody,'” Dalton said, referring to everyone from staff, creditors and others he does business with to guests.

“If it were me, it'd all be about the food and that's it, but you have to take care of people, to give an experience,” he said.

In the end, though, it's all in the service of food.

“You can call yourself a chef or whatever you want,” Dalton said. “I cook food for a living.”