Meet Chef Michael Ellison

To those that know me, know that I absolutely hate writing or talking about myself. First and foremost, I am a restaurant chef. To most reading this, that won’t make any sense. For those few that are, or have been, restaurant chefs, you get it. Obviously we aren’t all the same, but we are a special breed cut from the same cloth. We work long, hard, grueling hours, often for little pay. Outside of our family of chefs and cooks, we go unappreciated. Many times our personal lives suffer due to our commitment to our work. Having said all of that, I wouldn’t have it any other way (and yes, maybe that makes me slightly crazy), but this is what I was born to do. Even though this is my true calling in life, it took me several years to realize it.

Even though this is my true calling in life, it took me several years to realize it.

I spent close to a decade working in an office following in the family tradition. Looking at my life from the outside, it was near perfect; great job, nice car, house, security, etc., but I was miserable. So I made the first of several impetuous decisions that would define my future…I quit. I left the safety and security that most people spend a lifetime trying to obtain.


It turned out getting a job, even an entry level one, in the restaurant business was tougher then I imagined. I sent out resume after resume, made call after call, but nothing was happening. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and I still didn’t have a job. My savings was running out, and the bills continued to come in, and for the first time I wondered if I had made a huge mistake.

I still remember the day that I received a call from the chef of a local Quad Cities landmark.

My culinary journey had begun making minimum wage as a fry cook. I spent the next few years in different roles in different restaurants learning all I could. I took jobs outside the restaurant industry to learn skills that would help me grow as a cook. I learned to make sushi, cut meat and fish, and how to manage a staff. I took this new found wealth of knowledge and jumped back into the restaurant world.

I worked harder than ever and watched everyone around me, learning what to do, and more importantly sometimes, what not to do. I went from prep cook to executive chef in the matter of a couple years. I spent time in Des Moines, Iowa and the Twin Cities, Minnesota as an executive chef and a restaurant trainer.

During my travels, I had a chance encounter with a restaurant owner in a small Iowa town.

Her passion for her restaurant, staff and town was obvious from the moment I met her. We spent the next couple of years keeping in touch until the time was right and I once again left the safety and security of the corporate world.

Dotzy's Restaurant

Northeast Iowa native, Danielle Dotzenrod, moved back home after 13 years in LA to open Dotzy's Restaurant and Saloon in Elgin. "We knew we had to be a destination to make it. We just kept telling ourselves, build it and they will come!" says Dotzenrod. So with lots of help from family and friends, they built the entire restaurant out of repurposed materials and covered the whole floor in pennies. Their hard work paid off and the people came! Dotzy's instantly became a dining destination and in 2016 was named Top 10 Most Unique Dining Experiences in Iowa and Top 6 Must See to Believe. But keeping a restaurant running strong for over 4 years, especially in a town of only 660 people, is no small feat! Danielle gives the credit to her dedicated and hardworking staff along with the support of loyal customers she considers part of the 'Dotzy's Family'.

There's a new member of the Dotzy's family Danielle is very excited about and that is Chef Michael Ellison. "My expertise has always been from of the house. So now with Chef Michael at the helm in the kitchen, the sky's the limit at Dotzy's!"

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