An Interview with John Tesar and Spoon's New Pastry Chef, David Collier
Last week Top Chef contestant and chef John Tesar hired an executive pastry chef for his high-end seafood restaurant in Preston Center, Spoon Bar & Kitchen. For the job, Tesar tapped David Collier, who previously worked with him at The Mansion.
Collier is moving back to Texas this month after working as the executive pastry chef at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City. In 2009 he was selected as a James Beard semifinalist for outstanding pastry chef.
Earlier this week I spoke with Collier (who is still in Virginia) and Tesar together via a phone conference. Here's most of the conversation, which covers pastries in tight spaces, reality TV, and what you can and can't duplicate.
David, are you looking forward to moving back to Texas?
Collier: I really enjoyed my time there. I like the wide-open spaces. I tend to spend a lot of time outside.
When you worked at The Mansion, it was awarded two five-star reviews. Those must have been some formative years.
Collier: I really felt like when I got there it was bigger than the sum of its parts. It was sort of the beginning of an awakening. We were starting to get away from heavy plates. I know there were other people there [in Dallas] starting to do interesting things, but I feel like we really picked up the flag and ran with it and helped to pull the Dallas dining scene into a modern era.
What did you learn from John during that time?
Collier: I think the main thing I got was ... I really appreciated his eye. He would tell me straight-up if he liked something or not. You don't always find that and for me it was refreshing. I appreciated his openness coupled with the trust. It was: 'Here's the ball and run with it. And if you run the wrong way, I'll let you know, otherwise, have at it.'
Honesty can be liberating. Do you agree?
Collier: I do, and that's something I look forward to. It's liberating and a little bit inspiring too.
John, at what point does a restaurant decide to bring in a pastry chef?
Tesar: It's a very simple answer, but complicated procedure. You have to plan for it. And a lot of times you can't afford it when the desserts don't bring in the financial return you expect from the business. It has to do with how much a chef wants to work and their own expectations for their restaurant. I strive to be different, but different for the sake of offering an experience that you can't find here in Dallas. Having a world-class pastry chef here makes our restaurant stronger and something different for the city. Part of my dream is to make a miniature Le Bernadin for Dallas, to get or not get. People who come to Spoon every night really seem to get it.
And, at 55 years old, I just do what I feel is right.