Quinn Carroll’s success as a chef might have as much to do with his character as his skills in the kitchen.
“I treat everyone with kindness,” says Carroll, executive chef at Frida Southwest in Oklahoma City. “There’s a misconception that chefs need to be these angry, cocky people.”
Carroll, 33, taught himself Spanish so as to better communicate with his employees.
“Our entire kitchen is Honduran, Guatemalan and Mexican,” he says. “We only speak Spanish in the kitchen. We’re a very close crew.”
Frida Southwest is one of several Oklahoma City restaurants owned by Humankind Hospitality. It opened in July 2019 in a new, architect-designed building in the Paseo District, named for Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter and political activist.
Carroll describes his cuisine as a “tapestry” of Southern comfort and Mexican-inspired dishes.
“Southwest borrows from many other regions,” he says.
The OKC native was very young when he discerned his calling, he says.
“I came from a family where food was very important. Both my father and mother were very good cooks; my mom made everything from scratch, including condiments. She would do a lot of Southern and Mexican-inspired dishes.”
At age 15, he was hired by the iconic Coit’s drive-in and restaurant, and by 16, he was a line cook at Deep Fork Grill. Within a week there, he says, “I knew that professional kitchens were what I wanted to do all my life.”
He continued his upward trajectory at restaurants such as Café Nova, Red Prime Steakhouse and Cheever – jobs which he describes as “building blocks for who I am today.”ug
He was on vacation when he received a call inviting him to be part of opening Frida. He started work in May in advance of the July opening, creating every dish on the menu. Opening day was “thrilling,” he says, but also stressful “because you are trying to perform at your absolute best level.
“The food that we serve at Frida, if I were going out and wanted to eat, our cuisine is what I want,” he says.
Appetizers include burnt end flautas, seafood tamales and Southwest spring rolls. Dinner menu items are ample, including stacked enchiladas, vegan flautas, Chilean sea bass, seared duck breast and shrimp and grits. Every month, he creates five new chef’s specials.
After weathering the early days of COVID-19, Frida reopened to serve dinner only, with brunch on weekends.
With the new format, “we’ve doubled and probably tripled our sales as far as occupancy; we are so busy,” he says. “I’m grateful to Oklahoma City for that.
“We’ve had the same crew since we opened,” he says. “Being together for the past three and a half years, going through COVID, we are very close.”
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