Tony Duman grew up in the latchkey kid era. “I came home and fixed whatever food was in the fridge for my brother and me,” he recalls. “Until my senior year of high school, I wanted to become a marine biologist or an oceanographer. I took a catering class for an easy A. But my teacher saw how much I enjoyed cooking, and she urged me to enter an upcoming competition. I wound up winning a scholarship to the Art Institute of Atlanta culinary program.”
He is from Portsmouth, Virginia. In 2002, his mother talked with the chef from the Currituck Club in Corolla. She told the chef that her son was about to graduate from culinary school. “He told me to come down and apply,” Tony says. “I got the job in March 2003. I love the outdoor life and the fun, relaxed mindset of the Outer Banks. I love to just sit by the sound or ocean and feel the air, listen to the sounds, and zone out.
“Culinary school instilled the basics, but you really learn in the field. My style is a combination of my personal tastes, my maternal Boston Jewish palate, my paternal black Southern palate, and the ever-changing food culture that influences us all.”
Tony worked at several places on the Outer Banks and in Atlanta. “I’ve taken something away from everywhere I’ve worked. You have to have your eyes and ears open at all times, then figure out what works best for you. I’ve seen things I didn’t like, so I try not to fall into those patterns, and I’ve seen things I’ve put in my pocket for later use.” He considers his strongest influences to be Asian or Latin, “but I don’t want to get stuck in ruts.”
On his own, Tony eats everything. “I was raised to try any food at least once. So there’s not much I don’t like. Pork belly tacos from Bad Bean (see pages ), good fried chicken, home-smoked ribs or pulled pork North Carolina–style, pho, tamales, Indian food, Thai curry pork, green papaya salad—it really just depends on my mood. If I have time to put a butt on for a few hours for some barbecue, I will, or I’ll grill a couple of steaks, make pasta, bacon and eggs for dinner, make a nice salad with grilled chicken, or maybe chicken saltimbocca.”