Chefs who don't keep their secrets

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The members of the Arrowhead Professional Chefs Association gathered in the future site of Tom Hanson's OMC Smokehouse in Lincoln Park to plan their next event.

"But first we eat," said chef Paul Madsen.

Each month the association meets in a different locale to explore new restaurant ventures, sample new recipes and attend to club business.

The 50-member club's main goal is to promote professionalism among chefs within the region through education. The club is one of 230 chapters of the American Culinary Association. It also provides local chefs with the opportunity to network.

"You get to meet with different chefs from different restaurants. It creates this network and if you need some advice, it's easy to call on them because you know them," said Kevin Ilenda, executive chef at Bluefin Grille.

This network is exactly what Al Dumancas intended when he formed the club back in 1976. Dumancas died a few years after forming the club, but members haven't forgotten him.

"Anybody could ask him a question and he didn't have any secrets. Whatever he did, he shared it with everybody. He was definitely the best around," Madsen said.

Dumancas served as a mentor. He was the head chef at the Kitchi Gammi Club in the '60s and '70s. Chef Gary Baregi remembers calling him for advice.

"I had moved up from cook to chef at Grandma's and I was trying to do gourmet dinners for the owner, Mick Paulucci, and so I'd call up Al and say, 'Al, I need to do something really gourmet,' and he'd say, 'All right, try this, try that,'" Baregi said.

Every year the chefs honor Dumancas' memory in the spring with a brunch at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. The chefs work together to create several special dishes for the event. They get the chance to learn from each other.

"Somebody is always bringing up something different that maybe one of the other chefs hasn't seen. We always learn that way," Baregi said.

"Yeah, that's what we mostly do, steal ideas from each other," joked John Martin, chef at the Kitchi Gammi Club, evoking laughter from the others.

"But you know if someone hadn't messed up a recipe or played around with it, we wouldn't have another dish,'" added chef Peter Dingman.

The brunch is one of several events the chefs work together to create. They also donate their time to the prepare the Veterans' Remembrance Dinner every year. This year's dinner is Dec. 4 at the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center.