Duane Loftus’ culinary career began early at 15 years old, when he began making pizza and sandwiches at Schroder’s Deli in Rome, Georgia. His talents have since developed, placing him in unique kitchens across the country. Loftus now serves as Executive Chef of the 2nd floor dining room at historic Merchants Restaurant in downtown Nashville, allowing him to plant his roots and grow his talents.
In 1993, Loftus took a summer job at Yellowstone National Park, where he was the senior cook of the employee’s dining room at Lake Lodge. Loftus was in charge of cooking for 150 employees twice a day for both lunch and dinner, increasing his knowledge of organization and strict dining times.
On five separate occasions, from 1993-1998, Loftus spent summers in Alaska, where he was a commercial fisherman. Always the on-board chef, Loftus acquired a new knowledge of seafood – specifically fresh halibut and salmon.
After a brief stint as a grill cook in Georgia, Loftus moved back to Yellowstone in the summer of 2000. He gained front of house experience waiting tables at Steamboat Springs and also at Old Faithful Inn where he was additionally tasked with front of house staff training and shift lead responsibilities.
In 2002, Loftus became the dining room manager at Crater Lake National Park. In 2003 he enrolled at Western Culinary Institute and graduated in 2005.
After working as a grill cook at Blinn’s Boathouse while in school, Loftus travelled to Nashville in 2005 to work an externship at F. Scott’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar. After six weeks, Loftus was offered a job and he remained there for six months. Loftus then spent another six months as a grill cook at Tayst before accepting a sous chef position at Radius 10 in 2005 under Chef Jason Brumm.
In January 2007, Loftus went to Parryville, Pennsylvania to serve as opening chef of Riverwalck Saloon to drive the quality and production of the newly opened restaurant. After three years, Loftus reunited with Chef Brumm at P.J. Clark’s in Washington D.C., where he served as his sous chef until 2011.
2011 brought Loftus to Merchants Restaurant, where his careful and considerate cooking skills are reflected in the playful, yet refined take on Southern food.