Victor Tango's Chef Greg Bussey on Evolving in the Kitchen and the Best Korean Food In Town
Victor Tango chef Greg Bussey is a chef's chef. By that, I mean so many other cooks in Dallas mention Bussey's tables as one of their favorites to dine at. After meeting the soft-spoken, quick-to-smile chef, it's easy to understand why.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
After attending the California Culinary Academy, Bussey spent some time in New York City where he worked at Aureole under Charlie Palmer and Dante Boccuzzi, then with Brad Steelman at The River Café in Brooklyn. Eventually he moved to Dallas, his wife's hometown, and worked as sous chef at Stephan Pyles, Hibiscus and now finds his culinary home at Victor Tango's.
What was your childhood like in a food sense?
I'm from Los Altos, California, and grew up in a rather large family. I have one brother and sister, but also 20 cousins and my grandparents lived next door to us, which was a central point for the entire family. Food was obviously a big focal point at family gatherings. The area around my house was originally an apricot orchard and behind us there were still a lot of trees and my friends and I would always run back there and eat apricots right off the tree.
Did your upbringing influence your decision to be a chef?
It definitely influenced me a lot. My grandfather always gardened and we raised chickens. Understanding that circle of life and where your food comes from is so important. And my grandmother grew up during the Depression so she canned everything -- there were never any leftovers. She grew up in Minnesota and knew how to ration things for a family of six.
It was a really great childhood. I feel very special.
What was your first job in a restaurant?
My first job in a restaurant was when I was 14 at a local pizza joint as the doughboy. I did all their dough production. I only worked about one day a week.
Did you show early signs of being a culinary enthusiast?
My dad always pushed me to be a chef because he noticed that I was always drawn to the kitchen. He wanted to set me up with a trip to Europe, but when it came down to it, I wanted to do the normal college thing. He let me make my own decision and after high school I did some time at junior college, then got into University of California at Davis and studied biology. While I was there my roommates were viticulture and enology majors and every summer we'd go up wine country help with crushing or bottling.
When did you decide to make it a career?
One summer I worked for Korbel, then went back to school and had a bunch of lab jobs, which is when I realized I couldn't do that the rest of my life. I enjoyed that one one job at Korbel too much.
So, after that I decided to go ahead and follow what my dad knew so long ago. I enrolled in the California Culinary Academy in 2002.
Do you think your biology background helps much with cooking?
Not really, I don't use a ton of molecular gastronomy in my kitchen.
You probably just don't realize it...
That's probably true. ... It's a lot about how proteins work and how you cook things either this method or that method to make it more tender. In culinary school things of that nature came to me easier than a lot of my classmates. So, I probably did get a head start in that sense.
Because so much of cooking is really about science, right?
Science and love. [big sheepish smile]