Where Chef Matt McCallister Eats In Dallas

Categories: Interviews

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When he's not gently placing foraged herbs on one side of a plate at FT33, Matt McCallister has to rest his tweezing hands and take a break from cooking some of the city's best food. You won't find him eating any trendy dishes drizzled with truffle oil or pulling into any of the area's many Jack In The Box drive-thrus, but even a chef like McCallister has to eat somewhere outside of his own kitchen.

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The Signature Dallas Dishes That Won't Die, and the Chefs Who Long to Kill Them

Categories: Interviews

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Robert Bostick
Brian Luscher can make a better soup, but diners won't let him.
Some embrace them. Some are torn between tolerance and abolition. Some take the perennial approach. Some don't let them come to pass.

Whatever the case may be, all chefs have an opinion on, and a way of dealing with, signature dishes -- the kind of dish that has survived menu changes and eager new chefs, all to the delight of diners. Ten thousand bowls of old faithful later and restaurants may ache to put a cork in it, but to do so would represent disappointed -- even lost -- customers. Which is why it's so interesting to hear area chefs dish on the albatross in the kitchen.

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An Interview with Matt McCallister, Who Might Lose It If You Ask for a Wedge Salad

Categories: Interviews

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Not pictured: The plate he just chucked against the wall.
If you're talking about Dallas' culinary resurgence in the last five years, there's no ignoring Chef Matt McCallister. As FT33, McCallister's farm-to-table restaurant in the Design District, attracts attention from the country's most respected food critics, it's also helping direct attention to the young, up-and-coming chefs who are working to transform a once-yawn-inducing dining scene.

FT33 looks nothing like the dated southwestern cuisine and uninspired steakhouses that have defined Dallas for decades, but it is probably what the future holds for our city as it becomes a burgeoning food destination. I sat down to talk with McCallister about educating diners on his passion for vegetables, the importance of great ingredients, and why Dallas' food scene is actually much cooler than Austin's.

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Empire Baking's Meaders Ozarow Has Been Doing Simple Since Before Simple Was Cool

Categories: Interviews

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Kelly Yandell/Courtesy of Empire Baking Company
Meaders Osarow of Empire Baking Company
Ask any restaurateur and they'll tell you that it isn't easy to build a business that can withstand the test of time, especially in a market as notoriously fickle and fractured as Dallas. When someone can manage to overcome economic uncertainty, the whims of the public and bad luck to keep their establishment open for a few decades, it usually means that something wonderful lies beyond their doors. There is no place in town that this assumption is more true than Empire Baking Company.

In the 21 years that Meaders Ozarow and her husband have operated their bakery, the food scene has changed dramatically. As food trends marched toward a simpler, less chemical-laden future, places like Empire had been keeping it simple since day one. I sat down to talk with Ozarow about how she's seen Dallas and its consumers change in the last 20 years, the gluten-free craze, and America's unique array of delicious baked goods.

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Where Chef John Tesar Eats Out in Dallas

Categories: Interviews

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Alison V. Smith
John Tesar
Chefs will always tell you that they don't have enough time to go out to dinner, but even professionals need a break from cooking. And if anyone has a right to say that he's too busy to eat out, it's John Tesar. He's still working six nights a week at his spanking-new steakhouse, Knife, which is a tall order even for someone who's been in the business 35 years.

Most of his dining choices have to be made around his crazy schedule, he says, but in our recent interview with him, he name-checked these four Dallas staples as places you might spot him and his misplaced glasses.

See also: An Interview with John Tesar

1. Velvet Taco
This Henderson Avenue gringo taco joint is just down Central from Hotel Palomar, making it easy for Tesar to stop in and chill after a long shift in the kitchen. "I'll get an oyster taco, some creamed corn, a beer after work," he says. "It's a good place to unwind and still be social. And watch the next generation ramble around drunk."


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Kitchen LTO's Brooke Egger Is Learning How Dallas Eats: "If You Want Beef, You Want Beef"

Categories: Interviews

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Courtesy of the restaurant
Brooke Egger is having to temper her enthusiasm for wild game.
In a small and reliably stodgy restaurant scene like Dallas', change isn't something that comes easily. At Kitchen LTO, though, change is the only thing reliably on the menu.

This "permanent pop-up" concept is now in its third incarnation, with a brand new chef, Brooke Egger, who's largely unknown to Dallas diners. Just one month into her four-month stint, I sat down to talk with Egger about her experience in California, adjusting her cuisine to the palate of Dallas diners, and the time that a Laotian Hill tribe killed a water buffalo in her honor.

Dallas has a lot of restaurants that are run by chefs from California right now, maybe more than ever before. I'm interested to know your thoughts on what would attract chefs from Napa and Santa Monica to Dallas?

People eat here. I'm dead serious. I tell tables this all the time, and I think it's kind of amazing. When I go out and talk to my customers, I notice that there will be a table of four ladies dressed to the nines and they're all eating a filet Oscar. This is one of the only places that I've cooked in the world that's like that. People like to eat here, and they're excited to eat. They're not weird and doing faddish diets and have all these restrictions, so it's really cool to be a chef here.

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The Magic of George Rubio's Snowballs

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Kathryn DeBruler
George Rubio's snowballs.
Amid the afternoon rush, George Rubio zooms about behind the counter of his store. Between his tangle of curly brown hair and blazing yellow Brazil jersey, he stands out from his small army of high-school-age employees. "Are you ordering something? Our line's building," the cashier tells me while eyeing the swell of customers. There's no time for debating. Rubio and company are frenetically orchestrating a symphony of ice machines and syrup bottles and I need to choose a flavor, stat.

As syrups get sluiced over the tops of freshly-mounded ice shavings and orders are shouted from one employee to the next -- "small natural mango, large cotton candy" -- I inquire as to whether or not Rubio has time to sit down for an interview. It's not about the time, as it turns out, but the game. Rubio, small business owner and snowball-making extraordinaire, knows where his priorities lie. World Cup first, interviews second.

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Rush Patisserie's Samantha Rush on Bad Macarons and the High Demands of Dallas Diners

Categories: Interviews

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Courtesy, via Twitter
It's no surprise that Dallas lacks in the French pastry department. The involved, highly-technical processes of making macarons, croissants, and other French baked goods just isn't practical for today's high-volume, birthday-cake-and-cookies kind of bakery.

Samantha Rush of Rush Patisserie in Oak Cliff, though, prefers to keep things old school. Her technical background and global experience in pastry has helped her produce some of the finest baked goods in the city, but not without a lot of really hard work. I sat down with Rush to talk about her extensive training in French pastry, Dallas' lack of quality baked goods, and why you won't see gluten-free goods on her menu any time soon.

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Dude, Sweet's Katherine Clapner Wants to Grow Her Chocolate Empire, and "Not Where You'd Normally Think"

Categories: Interviews

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Steve Visneau
" It wasn't that I never wanted Dude, Sweet to grow. We were just surviving."
Katherine Clapner is much more punk rock than your average chocolatier. After spending decades in some of the best kitchens in Dallas and across the globe, Clapner has settled into a chocolate-covered takeover of Dallas-Fort Worth with her Dude, Sweet Chocolate shops. Since opening in Dallas' Bishop Arts district, Clapner has opened two more stores, one on Lower Greenville and another in Fort Worth.

Now Clapner is looking toward the future. I sat down to talk with the creative queen of Dude Sweet about how her business has changed in the last few years, working with some seriously weird ingredients, and what she's planning for the future of her funky chocolate shop.

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Chef Julio Peraza on How Komali Is Helping Dallas Learn to Love Real Mexican Food

Categories: Interviews

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Kevin Marple photo, courtesy of the restaurant
"I think what we're doing at Komali is better and different than most other restaurants out there."
To say that Mexican food in Texas is in a period of transformation is a serious understatement. Tex-Mex restaurants that were inspired much more by Tejanos in Texas may have once been more popular than traditional interior Mexican dishes, but chefs like Nico Sanchez at Meso Maya and Abraham Salum of Komali are working hard to turn the tide.

In the battle against Velveeta-dripping Tex-Mex, Salum enlisted the talented Julio Peraza to run Komali, his intimate and traditional Mexican restaurant on Cole Avenue just a few months ago. Since taking over at Komali, Peraza is learning Mexican cuisine while executing some of the best in the city. I sat down with Peraza to talk transitioning from the traditional French kitchens of his past on the West Coast, his own background in Salvadoran food, and some exciting new options to look forward to on the menu at Komali.

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