“I do everything by hand,” says Brynn Gibson on the eve of the Dumpling Den’s monthly appearance at Fortnight Wine Bar on Mathewson Street. “For this upcoming pop-up tomorrow, I have folded 1,200 on my own,” a number she offers matter-of-factly. When Gibson talks about the dumplings she makes, at first her tone is casual. A childhood spent prizing bulk bags of the store-bought variety from Costco with her dad led to eventually making them for friends. “Food for me, as a kid, I just saw how it brought people together,” she says. Now, a culinary degree, years of kitchen experience, and a stint on TV later, Gibson’s hot take on dumplings is the product of long hours of development to perfect the recipe.
“They’re almost self-saucing, so the filling itself has the dumpling sauce that people would normally dunk it into,” Gibson says, a formula she came up with to overcome the frustrations of filling falling out mid-dunk. “I have two main flavors right now: OG pork and OG vegetarian, but will hopefully soon be coming out with another vegetarian recipe that doesn’t have tofu,” to accommodate soy allergies, plus plans for Korean BBQ chicken, shrimp, and curry flavors.
If you haven’t yet caught the Dumpling Den popping up, chef Gordon Ramsay fans keeping up with the latest season of Hell’s Kitchen on FOX are likely familiar with this budding chef. Only 21 at the time of filming, Gibson fit right into the bracket of fresh talent under the age of 24 that season 20 (AKA “Young Guns”) spotlights. “For how young we were, we were very, very cutthroat with each other, which is why I almost loved it even more because we didn’t go easy on each other,” says Gibson.
Tracing back an origin story of cooking entranced by Grill it! with Bobby Flay on Food Network, Gibson’s national debut as a contestant on a TV show feels serendipitous. A Johnson & Wales student at the time (who has since graduated with a degree in Culinary Dietetics & Food Product Development), the fast-paced and demanding nature of the show was a natural, if not daunting, next step in her career.
“Sometimes it was like a war going on in my head of ‘Am I good enough? Am I gonna make it?’ It was crazy and it was fun and I would do it all over again if I could,” Gibson reflects now. Having watched every season of Hell’s Kitchen that came before, working under Gordon Ramsay – the renowned chef known for his fiery temper – was surreal. “He exudes passion – he picks up a spoon and it’s full of passion,” Gibson says, laughing and recounting a time or two when she caught herself missing instruction because she was enthralled simply watching him cook.
But along with sharpening her kitchen skills, Gibson explains the show was a test of grit: “It’s more about being mentally tough and understanding that we all have our bad days but not letting those bad days win – and it’s also just doing everything with passion.”
Gibson took all of this back with her to Providence, which she now calls home, surrounded by a community of equally enthusiastic foodies. Dumplings have served as a blank canvas for her to experiment with all different fillings and also the vehicle for her to transition from the back waitressing grind at a steakhouse to breaking out on her own.
While you’ll have to tune in to see the results of Hell’s Kitchen, Gibson shares some advice for other aspiring young chefs trying to make it in the industry: “You have to take things with a grain of salt, you have to keep your head high, but you also have to remain humble… But it’s definitely worth it when you finally find your niche.”
Popping up at Fortnight , 187 Mathewson Street • @the.dumpling.den