Meet the Chef
CHEF STEPHEN DURLEY
Co-owner and chef at Beer Barrio, Stephen Durley, discovered his passion for cooking when his mother fell ill and left school to take care of her. He later enrolled in culinary school, earning degrees in baking & pastry and culinary arts. Once he discovered his purpose, his whole life changed. He moved from St. Louis to New York City and worked at two 3-star Michelin restaurants with Chefs Daniel Boulud and Jean Georges Vongerichten.
He honed his craft, and in 2011, became Executive Chef for the first time at Taproom No. 307, where he worked alongside his now-wife, Hayley Jensen. They moved to Wilmington in 2015 to open their own Mexican-inspired with a Southern spin restaurant.
What makes Beer Barrio unique?
We are a craft beer-infused modern Mexican restaurant, which is quite unique. My wife, Hayley Jensen, is a Beer Sommelier, and we work together to showcase our skills. Our menu has non-traditional items like our Cheeseburger taco or our beer-infused Chili Cheese dip, which you really can't get anywhere else.
How would you describe the type of food you like to cook?
I love to make food that is "eyes roll back in your head" good! Over the years, I have done basically everything in the culinary field- baking & pastry, Italian cuisine, French cuisine, American taverns, craft beer bars, and gastropubs. I have carried my experience with me, and my food is an amalgamation of all of my experience.
What motivates and inspires you as a chef?
Food is my love language, and I love to show people that I care by making something delicious- nothing brings me more joy. Now that I am a father, I am more motivated than ever to be my best for my wife and children.
What might diners NOT know about you?
I am an avid runner, and qualified for the Boston Marathon this year.
Current favorite dish the Beer Barrio menu.
Believe it or not, I LOVE our Buffalo wings. I worked for years to get the recipe just right from the breading to the buffalo sauce, to the house made ranch. They're super delicious, and another unique menu item for us.
Favorite local produce and how do you use it?
We use local catfish for our Po Boy taco, which pairs really well with our homemade garlic aioli. But the real superstar in our kitchen is all the local craft beer, which makes its way into every dish.
Best foodie city?
As a former New Yorker, I will always miss the fine dining scene and wide variety of cuisine. However, I feel lucky to be part of the growing scene in Wilmington.
What’s your all-time best comfort food?
Nothing beats biscuits & gravy.
Describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten.
When my wife and I were still working for Daniel Boulud, I asked her to marry me in Central Park. After the proposal, and a quick celebration with her family, we went to Restaurant Daniel for dinner. At the time, it had 3 Michelin Stars, and the meal was fabulous! They also paired each course with world class beer for us, since my wife was his Beer Sommelier. The icing on the cake was when Chef Daniel comped the whole meal in congratulations. It was so special..
Three songs on your current playlist?
I used to hate pop/dance music, but when I run, I have started to really love it. It doesn't hurt my manhood to say that I listen to Sia, Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga while I run. I have eclectic taste, but love indie music and even kids songs with my two boys. We have a lot of dance parties.
If there’s one important piece of advice you might have for cooks, what might that be?
The one thing you have in your control, from day one, is responsibility. Be on time, don't call out, and be a part of the team. Culinary skills develop with time, but you can be reliable from day one.
Beer Barrio is a craft beer-infused Mexican restaurant. Beer Sommelier Hayley Jensen and her husband Chef Stephen Durley have worked together in some of the finest restaurants in New York City. They have each taken the years of working in someone else’s kitchen or taproom to hone their own unique skills. Hayley is a beer expert – she knows parings and prides herself in keeping new, fresh beers on tap and chilled to the perfect 30°.
Sunday – Thursday: 11am-10pm
Friday and Saturday: 11am-12am
34 N Front St, Wilmington, NC