HEAD CHEF DANNY BALOGH
Over 10 years of experience serving private clients on Kaua‘i.
Chef Danny’s story is an interesting one. Raised along the coastal waters of northern Florida, he began working in the restaurant industry at the age of 14. His strong work ethic earned him many advances throughout his early years. At the end of the summer of 1999 he embarked on a backpacking trip to Costa Rica, Peru and Europe, which would change the course of his life forever. Before he returned home to Florida he had made up his mind to move to Costa Rica. Something about the good natured people and high quality of life there beckoned him… And so, with his dog and a small bag of belongings he moved to the small beach town of Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula.
Life was simple and he felt more at home there in the first few months than he had in Florida his whole upbringing. He opened a small eatery in a space he rented from a local surf shop. With a hand-painted sign he began selling healthy food to local expats and travelers. What started out as something to do between surf sessions, quickly grew into a full-blown restaurant he called Jungle Juice. Using organic and wholesome ingredients, he served hungry travelers who were amazed that they could be sitting in a dusty road town in the middle of the jungle eating Thai Curry and sipping a cold fresh organic carrot juice.
During those first three years, tourism in the area boomed. Forbes Magazine listed Santa Teresa as one of the top 10 beach destinations in the world. Real Estate took off. Frommer’s Travel Guide visited his restaurant and published it in their 2004 edition. He didn’t know it at the time, but this whole experience would set the course of his career for the next 20 years and counting.
“At first I was a one man restaurant. I’d take your order, cook the food, clear the plates, wash up, all the while serving other customers. I guess I had a lot of energy and I liked feeding people, it was rewarding to see people so stoked on the food," Danny recounts.
The restaurant grew and then outgrew him. He eventually sold it as he felt the burnout and fatigue from 15 hour days, year after year, despite having a full staff around him.
“I had to take a break, and it would be five years before I would cook for people as a profession again.”
Danny returned to the US and began to travel around exploring different career options. After a hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the thought of Kaua‘i came to him. He had heard about the island from a fellow traveler in Costa Rica, years ago and he was suddenly hit with the desire to move there and learn to farm. Thoughts of year-round warm weather, crystal clear waves, beaches and the slow pace of island life flooded his brain and within a few weeks he had a one-way ticket to paradise.
Danny got an apprenticeship on an organic farm learning all he could. The deep connection with nature had him feeling inspired to cook again with all the amazing ingredients at his fingertips. After about a year of farming he was invited to cook for a family three times a week, which eventually turned into a full time position. Over the years Danny has branched out considerably into the private catering sector preparing food for intimate events and large weddings. He continues to be passionate about organic farming and cooking healthy meals that help bring people together and nurture them. He lives with his wife and two sons on his small organic farm in the mountains of Kaua’i.