07 Oct Somoza Brothers Bring Culinary Know-How & Positivity | Delaware Dining
Growing up near San Salvador, El Salvador, William and Danio Somoza never imagined that as adults they would both become Executive Chefs, but that is precisely where their paths have led. Theirs is a story of brotherhood, diligence, and ultimately, becoming chefs who took the formative food experiences of their childhoods and translated them into the scenery of their respective kitchens at The Starboard Restaurant, where William is now stationed, and 99 Sea Level, where Danio mans the ship.
Sitting with the two brothers in the lobby of the newly opened Ocean Suites Hotel in Bethany Beach, where 99 Sea Level is located, they could not seem more different. Danio, 30, sits in his pressed, white chef’s jacket, practically on the edge of his seat; he’s full of energy and eager. William, 36, in a black chef’s coat piped in lime green, is leaned back. It’s obvious William is the quieter of the two, but it’s no indication of his passion for food—he’s fierce in the kitchen and driven to excellence.
William came from El Salvador, following his parents to the sandy shores of Delaware approximately 15 years ago, where he began his restaurant career humbly at Big Fish Grill as a dishwasher. He was only a dishwasher for a short time, as he quickly ascended to line cook, where he stayed for about five years.
Ever deliberate and career-focused, he would also work part-time at other restaurants, including The Starboard, and Arena’s. This led to him taking a part-time position at the Bethany Beach Bethany Blues location, where he was eventually asked if he wanted to run the kitchen. He jumped at the opportunity and was there for six years as the Executive Chef.
Meanwhile, his little brother, Danio, was back in El Salvador, exploring a long-held passion for race cars. His background was in mechanics, but it wasn’t long until he wanted to join the majority of his family here in the United States. Upon arrival, he too had to work his way up the restaurant ladder, but it wasn’t long until the two brothers found themselves working together at Bethany Blues at the Bethany location. Danio worked dayshift and William did the evenings, but they basically shared a kitchen.
“At first,” says Danio, looking to his brother, “we had opposite ideas of how to do things.” They smile at the memory of it. They sifted through the social challenges of working with family in their younger years, and came to really enjoy working together. That is, until their paths split with the opening of the new Bethany Blues in Lewes. When William went to help open the new location, he left Danio at the Bethany location where Danio continued to pick up tricks, even learning from Steve “Monty” Montgomery, co-owner of both restaurants, who taught him to make the signature crab cakes.
This divergence allowed each to carve out their own culinary paths. Now, William is at the Starboard Restaurant where he wants to help bring their cuisine front and center. Danio, now at 99 Sea Level, is bringing a more classical, seasonal menu with his own signature style.
Both brothers agree that their cultural upbringing plays a huge part in their successes as chefs. Danio explains, “Nothing in El Salvador comes in a can; we are used to home cooked meals since were children.” William nods in agreement. In addition to the fresh food philosophy that has stuck with them, there is also the emphasis on enjoyment of life. William likes to start each day in the kitchen with a positive outlook. “I say, ‘let’s make today fun,’ every day.” He says.
While the two brothers may be different, their positive attitudes and love of cooking shine through in the dishes they make—from comfort food to fine dining and everything in between, the Somoza brothers are helping The Starboard Restaurant and 99 Sea Level shine.