Can Campo Survive without Matt McCallister?

Categories: Food News

MMcCallister.jpg
When Campo Modern Country Bistro first opened, it did so to much fanfare. Owners Miguel Vicéns and John Paul Valverde built a charming space from a rundown bungalow in Oak Cliff, and they hired Matt McCallister to consult as a temporary executive chef. In the weeks preceding the opening, McCallister and his team of cooks enticed prospective diners with videos of compelling plates and teasing Facebook photos. When they opened the doors, praise of his cooking was passionate and consistent.

While the owners were clear that McCallister's involvement as top toque was temporary, they were unclear about how he would be phased out. Valverde told me the young chef, known for his creative cooking and brash personality, would remain as a consulting cook, but now McCallister has completely flown the coop to focus on his new concept FT33. He's no longer involved in Campo.

And that, for now anyway, is a problem for Vicéns and Valverde.

A review just published in The Dallas Morning News tones down praise that critic Leslie Brenner heaped on Campo months ago in a first look. Pasta is now tough, plates are now lifeless and salt is overused in many dishes. The cook responsible for the plates critiqued in the article is Josh Black, a competent chef who worked with McCallister from Campo's inception. Yet despite McCallister bailing on Campo sometime last month, his name is mentioned in the review 10 times. Black's name appears four times. The review definitively describes the restaurant as the little bungalow that McCallister used to cook at.

It's a common problem in the era of the celebrity chef: Does one eat food at Dean Fearing's restaurant, or does one eat Dean Fearing's food?

In branding Campo as a McCallister creation (intentionally or not), Vicéns and Valverde have created a vacuum in the young toque's wake. They'll have a lot of work to do either re-branding Campo as a Josh Black restaurant, or perhaps simply a modern country bistro that stands on its own regardless of who's cooking.

Location Info

Campo Modern Bistro - CLOSED

1115 N. Beckley Ave., Dallas, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
16 comments
DallasFoodie
DallasFoodie

@Honestly: Not to ruin your fine venom with facts, but here is a reality check for you: True, Iris asked Steven Pyles how Matt might be able to work for him, and for that she deserves credit. However, that Matt passed his subsequent test, then worked his way from lowest line cook to executive chef in less than three years - then won praise from Pyles himself as one of the most talented chefs Pyles had ever met - suggests that Matt possesses a phenomenal amount of talent. In working at Pyles for four years, McCallister set the record for the longest tenure of any of Pyles' six executive chefs; in fact, Matt's tenure exceeded the sum of the next two longest-tenured XC's combined. Given these verifiable facts, I have to question the basis for your venomous and clearly inaccurate accusation that McCallister "has never seen anything through from start to finish." Jealous a bit, perhaps? You are certainly entitled to both your jealousy and your bitter opinion, but for the sake of other readers, perhaps you could introduce a few facts yourself.

Charlie
Charlie

Here Here Rupert!  What was the point of this article again?  Mr. Reitz you asked a question but never gave an answer.  Well I will tell you that the answer is yes: Campo will "survive".  Will it be as good as when Chef McCallister was head chef?  It's most probable that it will, but surely it will "survive", to use your dramatic term, and even thrive with Chef Black.  You are doing a great disservice to Dallas food by posting this yellow journalism (use of terms survive, bailing, competent).  Say something positive for once and only use negativity when it is absolutely warranted and necessary.  AKA: This is not "Food News"... it's opinion.I hope you are ashamed for this B.S. post.

P.S. This article comes across as a major nod to Brenner, which begs the question: Why, what do you gain???

Rupert
Rupert

Sure, Josh has been there from the beginning.  But wouldn't you expect it to be something of a challenge to transition to wearing the Exec. Chef mantle for the first time?  Leslie swooped in with her dark cloud and was the first to say it's not the same.  I hate that you lent credence to her article with that headline questioning its survival.  You've broadcasted Leslie's untested(by you) perspective, even if you the intent of your article was to ask if "we dine at restaurants for  the name on the tax documents, or the name of the chef."  That question makes me wonder, given the number of McCallister mentions you cited, where was Leslie's focus and did she have her mind made up before she showed up.  Critics infatuation with chefs, however talented, is not likely to be shared with the broad base of DMN readership, but two stars land hard.  I happen to respect your perspective as a critic over all others in town, so to see this article so closely tethered to a less fresh one?  Disappointing.  It's pathetic to think that critics like Brenner contribute to a lackluster Dallas food scene, by casting a pall over some of its most exciting potential.         

Guest
Guest

 funny. I went there a couple weeks ago and thought it was excellent. I saw that review yesterday and read it because I had recently been there. I didn't know any of the details of the chef politics while I was dining but I thought this place was far better than say, Tillman's Roadhouse. That's, kinda of shitty to review a chef right after he's taken over a restaurant though. .

Kerrie Sparks
Kerrie Sparks

I don't think it's fair to say Matt "bailed" last month...that makes it sound like he quit something, which he didn't.  As mentioned in the article, it was always understood his placement was temporary, it was part of the agreement until he went out on his own.  He did exactly what a consultant does, comes in and gets things off the ground, then leaves those he taught to try and excel in their own right.

Give Josh some time to at least try and do that...Matt has only been gone a matter of days at this point, and we're already testing Josh?  Give him time to find his pace.

primi timpano
primi timpano

Another reason for the relatively lackluster Dallas food scene compared to its big city counterparts, chefs playing musical chairs.  Show me a great restaurant and more than likely the chef has been there a very long time.

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

 In Brenner's defense, Black has been there since the beginning. He's been working with McCallister every day. How much time does one need to learn that pasta should be soft and tender (I noted the same toughness cited by Brenner while reviewing Campo with McCallister still at the pass) or the proper use of salt?

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

I'm not reviewing Campo, to be clear. I'm pointing out that the restaurant was closely tethered to his name as evidenced by the copy in another review.

Also, many articles captured the owners saying Matt would stay as a consultant permanently, including the one I linked to.  He didn't.

Bailed, quit, left, jumped ship, it's all the same, right?

Honestly
Honestly

@primi timpano I agree with you however when ever Matt Mccallister leaves a kitchen... It is a true blessing. Now that Matt has accumulated his recipes, Matt has slithered off to waste his parents and investors money.

FoodLover
FoodLover

 First, I don't find the Dallas food scene to be lackluster. Second, I am confounded by your referring to chef McCallister as playing "musical chairs". After serving at Stephen Pyles twice as long as any other executive chef, McCallister left Pyles to broaden his experience by working at some of the nation's top restaurants, stating that he intended to open his own restaurant upon his return. Although he agreed to help his friends, Vicéns and Valverde, get their restaurant started, all three of them stated from the start that this was temporary; all three knew that FT33 was in the works. In this context, "musical chairs" makes no sense.

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

Tracy Miller's  Local.

Not just the chef, but the staff has been there for ages. I think your comment is spot on.

Honestly
Honestly

@Scott Reitz Matt is a total pompous recipe thief. He has never seen anything through start to finish. The only reason Steven Pyles hired him was because his wife Iris, got him the job. He has NO EDUCATION but Matt comes with many smoke machines, mirrors, mommy & Daddies money and many stolen cook books. He will only succeed if his wife carries him like his parents do. He is definitely a ship jumper but more so, he is a total jerk. Just sharing my thoughts with you. Happy Eats... Hopefully somewhere Matt is not cooking.

Kerrie Sparks
Kerrie Sparks

No, Scott, those all have negative connotations.  lol  Also, if you were the newly named executive chef on board, would you want 'the other guy' that brought all the fame and positive hootenany to be in-house as well?  No, you'd want to get your chance to shine too.  Just sayin' we gotta' give Josh a sec before a second review...of which you had no part, I know.

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

 I was going to edit my original comment, but I'll let it stay and clarify. I was agreeing with the fact that restaurants with long-time employees have a tendency to get things right. I wasn't commenting on the overall Dallas restaurant scene.

primi timpano
primi timpano

 Compared to NYC, Chicago, LA, Houston, New Orleans, and SF, I would definitely rate Dallas beneath them all.

4.5 years is not bad but it is one data point, and not terribly long, at that.  Not very long at all compared to the Grape and many others like it.

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

 So you probably disagree with the timing of Leslie's review? But most critic guidelines suggest waiting ~6 weeks to review a restaurant (they're loose). Which is why I wrote this post --  not to pick on Black, but to ask the question -- do we dine at restaurants for  the name on the tax documents, or the name of the chef.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...