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Meet Chef Dan Stokes '93, Owner of Boston's Red Bird

Dan Stokes and Fr. Paul

Red Bird 1

Advice for current students

“Pursue things that align with your interests and what you do well. You don’t have to have an answer to what your life plan is at 17 or 18 years old. Keep your options open, find your skills — they’ll present themselves not just in your grades, but in your social interactions and inspirations."

A Priory education

“Students receive a wonderful education at Priory, with a broad base to build on before you concentrate in a certain field. With Priory being a small setting, you’re exposed to things in academics, sports and the arts that you might miss or avoid elsewhere. The core that’s instilled in the young men who attend Priory — both the values and the curriculum — is so valuable.”

When our New England alumni convened in Boston for our event with Father Paul in June, the venue was Red Bird, an acclaimed neighborhood bistro owned by chef Dan Stokes ’93.  Now a seasoned veteran of Boston’s restaurant scene, the seeds for Dan’s creative career were planted during childhood and nurtured during his years at Priory.

Dan grew up in Des Peres, and attended Barrett's Elementary School before entering Priory as a 7th grader. His brother David ’87 had graduated the spring before, but his time in the school did overlap with that of his brother Michael ’90. While at Priory, he played soccer, baseball, tennis, and ran cross country, and even joined the varsity soccer team his senior year.

Dan is proud to be one of the founding members of the Guild of St. Columkille, serving as the organization’s president for its first three years.

“Studying calligraphy with Brother Symeon was a big part of my Priory experience, and something that I really enjoyed,” he says. As a result, Dan’s senior thesis was a series of replications of the calligraphy in a medieval Book of Hours. “I came back to campus to visit a few years ago, and I was very impressed with how the quality of the work (in medieval arts) had improved as time went on,” he adds.

Following in the footsteps of his dad and both brothers, Dan attended Boston College after graduating from Priory, majoring in English. “Being in the restaurant business was always something I was interested in, though, and with my dad working at Anheuser-Busch and my brother at Grey Eagle Distributors, the service industry kind of runs in the family,” he says. He went on to attend culinary school at the French Culinary Institute in New York in the early 2000s, and also spent a year studying in Italy.

Dan cut his culinary teeth in Manhattan, working the kitchens at popular American and Italian eateries in the TriBeCa neighborhood before returning to Boston.  His passion for technique, fresh ingredients, and seasonally-focused menus led him to open Red Bird, his first solo venture, in 2014. 

The name Red Bird is tied to St. Louis, and even though Dan thought a name for his venture would come “via an inspirational walk in the woods or similar moment of epiphany,” it came on a whim. “The Cardinals were playing the Red Sox in the World Series in the Fall of 2013, and I had to name the restaurant on the spot in order to transfer the liquor license from the previous owner,” he says. “As my wife and I watched the game, she blurted out, ‘Just call the restaurant Red Bird! You’re from St. Louis — it makes sense.’”

red bird 2The space and concept were inspired by places he worked in Boston and New York, and the cuisine features modern American fare, influenced by his time in Italy. His favorite thing to eat on the menu is the cioppino, an Italian-American fish stew originating in San Fransisco. “I’d say every culture has some version of this dish,” he says. “It’s humble in origins, but now featured as a luxurious entree in restaurants, using the finest seafood and culinary technique to elevate it.”

Dan says one of the things he enjoys most about being the owner and chef at Red Bird is interacting with the customers. “We have an open kitchen in a very small space, so we get to talk with guests as they pass by.  In addition, we provide very genuine hospitality, and guests sense and appreciate that.

“My goal all along had been to own and operate my own place,” he says. “The restaurant business can be tough — 15 hour shifts, working weekends and holidays, at times it’s hard to be away from your family.  However, though there are many sacrifices, I find the work to be very, very rewarding.”

Dan married his wife Hayley, a fellow BC graduate, in 2005. They have three children: sons Caleb, 9, and Cassius, 3, and daughter Grayson, 6. His hobbies include “getting out of the tight confines of the kitchen” to spend time outdoors, and collecting and listening to music and attending concerts.

“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”

Prologue, 1

“This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.”

Prologue, 1

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection.”

Prologue, 4

“If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim. (Ps 33[34]:13)”

Prologue, 17

“Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess 2:12).”

Prologue, 21

“If we wish to dwell in the tent of this kingdom, we will never arrive unless we run there by doing good deeds.”

Prologue, 22

“What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace.”

Prologue, 41

“Therefore, we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service.”

Prologue, 45

“The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.”

Prologue, 47

“The reason why we have said all should be called for counsel is that the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger.”

Chapter 3, 3

“Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.”

Chapter 4, 20-21

“Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love.” –Chapter 4, 25-26

“Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false, but speak the truth with heart and tongue.”

Chapter 4, 27-28

“Place your hope in God alone.”

Chapter 4, 41

“Respect the elders and love the young.”

Chapter 4, 70-71

“Pray for your enemies out of love for Christ. “

Chapter 4, 72

“If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.”

Chapter 4, 73

“The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all.”

Chapter 5, 1-2

“Speaking and teaching are the master’s task; the disciple is to be silent and listen.”

Chapter 6, 6

“The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (PS 35[36]:2) and never forgets it.”

Chapter 7, 10

“Let us consider, then, how we ought to behave in the presence of God and his angels, and let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.”

Chapter 19, 6-7

“On arising for the Work of God, they will quietly encourage each other, for the sleepy like to make excuses.”

Chapter 22, 8

“Every age and level of understanding should receive appropriate treatment.”

Chapter 30, 1

“Above all, let him be humble. If goods are not available to meet a request, he will offer a kind word in reply, for it is written: A kind word is better than the best gift (Sir 18:17).”

Chapter 31, 13-14

“Let all the rest serve one another in love.”

Chapter 35, 6

“Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God.”

Chapter 43, 3

“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.”

Chapter 48, 1

“The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent.”

Chapter 49, 1

“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35).”

Chapter 53, 1

“Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims.”

Chapter 53, 2

“(B)ecause wherever we may be, we are in the service of the same Lord and doing battle for the same King.”

Chapter 61, 10

They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10).”

Chapter 63, 17

“We wish this rule to be read often in the community, so that none of the brothers can offer the excuse of ignorance.”

Chapter 66, 8

“Trusting in God’s help, he must in love obey.”

Chapter 68, 5

Never to do another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16).”

Chapter 70, 7

“No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else.”

Chapter 72, 7

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”

Chapter 72, 11-12

“What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life?”

Chapter 73, 3

“What book of the holy catholic Fathers does not resoundingly summon us along the true way to reach the Creator?”

Chapter 73, 4


Saint Louis Abbey

Saint Louis Priory School

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