Part 2: Dan Landsberg on Odd Requests, Local Foods and the Day He Nearly Burned Down A Kitchen
As we told you yesterday, Chef Dan Landsberg puts an inventive twist on American-style fare at Tillman's Roadhouse in Oak Cliff. For a further peek at the mind behind Tillman's down-home/upscale menu, today we pose a few questions about the chef's likes and dislikes, his methods and his taste in music. (We'll hold our tongues about the latter. The man's a chef, not a DJ. Chacun à son goût.) Tomorrow, the chef demonstrates how to prepare one of his favorite dishes.
Photo by Robert Bostick Dan Landsberg
CofA: Do you have a favorite secret ingredient?
Landsberg: Now, if I told you it wouldn't be a secret now would it? I believe everything needs to have balance of acid, salt and mouth feel and I enjoy finding alternative ways to get there.
CofA: What do you serve the vegetarian guest?
Landsberg: We have a dish we currently called the vegetable collage that is a rotating special where we build a 100 percent vegetarian composed dish. The spring and summer time has been awesome to use this vehicle to build some great doomsday machines. With the fall coming we have been tossing around building one composed dish and keeping it for the season. The one thing that stays constant is that vegetarian meals are given the same amount of thought and consideration as any other entrée on the menu.
CofA: Dallas has been buzzing about burgers and tacos all summer, who do you think makes the best of each?
Landsberg: I am partial to our burger, so I have to say the Landy Burger with ground foie, Madeira aioli, caramelized shallots on our house made Kaiser bun is the best. Besides it comes with goat cheese tater tots we craft in house, dressed with truffle. How can that NOT be the best? Taco's, I enjoy a good barbacoa taco from Fuel City every now and then but for the greatest tacos the city has to offer, I contend that any solid kitchen is going to have better tacos for family meal than you can buy. Hey, maybe there is a new concept in there somewhere...hmm.
CofA: Who from Dallas would you like to see on Top Chef?
Landsberg: Wow. Well I think Blythe Beck would be a great personality and talent for the show and I think J. Chastain would bring his quiet -- deadly combination to the table and kill it. I wouldn't mind seeing Lance Smith and Matt McCallister in there either. Lance has this stoic way he moves through the kitchen and his flavors, creativity and technique are top notch, and with the wild stuff Matt is doing at Pyles, it would be great viewing. Honestly, there are so many great chefs in Dallas; really any of them would blow the doors off the competition.
CofA: If you were not a chef, what career would you most likely have chosen?
Landsberg: Sports broadcaster or psychiatrist after my golf career ended. What? You have a lot of time standing at a cutting board to think...
CofA: What is the oddest customer request you have had lately?
Landsberg: Bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato sandwich -- no bacon...uh...OK?
CofA: What would you pitch to the Food Network?
Landsberg: Hidden cameras in the kitchen to really see how it is, what the true, raw, unscripted life in a kitchen really is like. I think it would have to come on late, after the kiddos went to sleep for language reasons, but it would be great content.
CofA: Best secret ethnic restaurant in Dallas?
Landsberg: Great question. With the broad ethic diversity the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has I know there are some true winners out there, but, would you believe me if I told you that I work too much to venture out much? Sad. I know.
CofA: Do you have any food trend predictions?
Landsberg: I see the continuation of local products. There are some great farms and ranches in the surrounding 150 miles, and I hope more sprout up (pun definitely intended); there is enough cement in the metroplex already.
CofA: What was your worst kitchen disaster?
Landsberg: First day of the second restaurant in my career, Futon's Prime Rib in old town Sacramento. Just a 17-year-old kid on the grill station. I noticed the grill had a bunch of build-up on it. Wanting to impress on my first day so I put sheet pans over the top of the grill and turned it on full bore to burn off the build up. Well, there was also a ton of grease. Yep, it caught fire and being a brainiac I lifted off the sheet pans. We all know what happens when you add air to a fire...it began rolling off the Vent-a-Hood and baking soda was no match for the fire. The Sacramento Fire Department responded quickly and the restaurant did not burn to the ground, however the fire suppression system did not work and the fire department drenched the underground kitchen, flooding it. We were closed for three days while the fire suppression system was reloaded and the restaurant inspected...Remarkably I did not get fired. I began to walk out the door, surely having been fired, and the chef screamed at me to get my bleep back in the kitchen clean the mess I created. I guess everyone has one of those days and he had been there as well...that was a bad day.
CofA: What is the worst dish you have tasted?
Landsberg: Hard to say. There is a ton of R and D in developing new dishes. We tried smoking butter once. I think the wood we used was to harsh for the butter...but hey, if the envelope never got pushed we wouldn't have anything new and exciting to eat.
CofA: If you could master one sport what would it be?
Landsberg: Golf. I love the game. I play any chance I get.
CofA: What is the best music to cook by?
Landsberg: Anything that musically jams. Nothing too hard, nothing too soft. Mama Bear music, but a cooooool Mama Bear...Dave Mathews, Jack Johnson, U2, John Mayer, Eric Clapton, Angels & Airwaves...you can tell what's on my iPod.