Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself, as a person and professional.
A: I’m from Alliance, Ohio, and I went to culinary school in Pittsburgh for restaurant management. My grades were not good enough to finish in restaurant management, so I had to finish in culinary. I was invited to come back and finish in restaurant management, but it was too late; I loved cooking. In 2000, I moved to the Virgin Islands. I lived there three years year-round, working at various restaurants. I decided to come home for about a year and do the part-time thing, spending half the year in Canton working at a country club and half the year back in the Virgin Islands working. I did that for probably 10 years. I got to the point that I decided nobody knew who I was, so I wanted something more permanent, and I moved to Cleveland. I made the decision to move here almost five years ago.
Q: Why Cleveland (for you)? What made you come back?
A: Being from Stark County, I grew up watching Cleveland news and cheering for Cleveland sports teams. When my dad would take me for a weekend to do something fun, it’d be to Cleveland. I’m a huge Indians fan; that was a big deciding factor. I wanted to be close, for my days off, or even a day, to go to an Indians game. That’s my number one source of entertainment. That’s why I moved here. I live within walking distance of the ballpark. Baseball and cooking are both my passions. And, it’s kind of like being home, since this is where my dad would bring me for a treat.
Q: What advice would you give to someone considering moving here?
A: Do it now. I promised to move here 10 years before I did, and once I did, I thought, ‘What took me so long?” Of everywhere I’ve lived, this is definitely my favorite. When I get off of work and walk into any of the bars I frequent, people are generally happy to see my, and my beer and barstool are waiting for me. The nicest people in the world are in Cleveland, and that makes the transition so easy.
Q: What’s unique about this city/area?
A: I feel like we have it all here. Ohio is more of a rural state at times. In the summer, you get the best sweet corn and tomatoes, and the golf courses are the greenest anywhere. We have every major sport here, and the lake is almost as fun as the ocean. It’s great for boating. Sometimes I just rent a boat for the day and go out and just sit a mile or two off shore, listening to music and just looking at the city, relaxing.
Ohio has everything you could ever need in general. No matter when you like—the music, the people, the sports. Whatever your thing is, they’re going to have something for you here. (For example) years ago, when I would visit, (Northeast Ohio) wasn’t known for food. We’re all of a sudden a food destination.
Q: What false impressions do you think people have about Cleveland?
A: Mistake on the lake. People sit and watch something like Believeland, where we’re portrayed as fools watching these sports teams and having false hope, like we’re a bunch of losers, and we’re not. Loyalty is what it is, and that’s what makes people here so great. I think the Republican National Convention and Lebron coming back opened people’s eyes and brought us into the national spotlight. Everyone I (encountered) the week of the RNC was amazed at how nice and cool the city was. They thought it was a boring city where people lose everyday.
Q: How do you become a “local” in Cleveland (according to you)?
A: Just be yourself. Get out there and get to know people. Grab a beer, dive into one of the grimy regular spots like The Flat Iron, talk sports, tell your story, and listen to other people’s stories. Just be one of them.
Q: Must-dos when in Cleveland for longer than a short trip?
A: West Side Market, for sure, is something everybody has to experience. I’ve never had a pierogi prepared the way it’s done (in Cleveland). The Schvitz in Cleveland is a cool thing, too. I think people just don’t expect those (types) of things here. If you go somewhere like the West Side Market, you’ll see this is a major city. It shows off our city.
Go to any of our sports games or major music outlets. We have every major concert that tours in or around this city every year.
Q: What are your favorite things to do in Northeast Ohio?
A: I golf and I fish. I like to just be in the woods, to chill and to walk.
Q: What are your favorite restaurants?
A: I have three favorite lunch spots: La Plaza Grocery Store—the tacos at the taco stand are amazing, Superior Pho and Rincon Criollo, a Puerto Rican place on Detroit Avenue.
Q: What makes Cleveland a hidden gem from the rest of the country?
A: It’s back to having everything anyone could ever want—that’s number one. It’s cheaper here than any other major city . . . Many of our different attractions are around $20. Fine dining can be done for $70 a person, or you can get lunch for less than ten dollars a person. It’s good stuff on a budget.
Dennis Devies, executive chef of the Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland, hails from Alliance, Ohio in Stark County. He draws inspiration from his time spent cooking in the Virgin Islands, and now, living full-time in Cleveland, he enjoys rooting for the Indians and spending time on the lake.