How Chef Brian Zenner Helped Oak Recapture That Elusive Fourth Star (Interview)

Categories: Interviews

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Sometimes when a restaurant is struggling, all it needs is a new face to turn the whole thing around. In the short tenure of Chef Richard Gras, Oak went from earning four stars when Jason Maddy was chef to scoring only three from Dallas Morning News food critic Leslie Brenner. After Gras tendered his resignation this summer, Chef Brian Zenner was brought in to revitalize the struggling design district spot.

Before working at the recently-shuttered Belly and Trumpet, which is owned by the same restaurant group, Zenner helped open Oak with Maddy. Oak has since been restored to its four stars with Zenner's "globally influenced soul food" on the menu, giving the restaurant a new luster that it seemed to lack during Gras' tenure. I sat down to talk with Zenner about breathing new life into Oak, played out restaurant tropes, and why it's difficult for a fine dining restaurant to make it in Uptown Dallas.

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An Interview with Dee Lincoln Chef Andrew Powers, Who Makes Steak in Steaktown, USA

Categories: Interviews

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Claire McCormack
Chef Andrew Powers

Ask anyone who's involved in the Dallas food scene what our signature dish is, and they'll pretty unanimously come up with one answer: steak. Even though Dallas restaurants have been throttling toward lighter, more produce-focused offerings, beef is still king. Or maybe, in the case of Dee Lincoln's Steak Bar, queen.

Dee Lincoln has been the long established "queen of steaks" in Dallas for decades. After co-founding Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse, Lincoln is now building a new breed of steakhouse in Dee Lincoln's Steak Bar. In the process, she's brought along Chef Andrew Powers for the ride. Powers' background in some of the country's best fine dining establishment may seem like an odd fit, but he's been beautifully executing her prime steaks and burgers since the Plano location opened in April. I sat down with Powers to talk working with Dee Lincoln, adapting to the clientele in the suburbs, and transitioning from haute fine dining to casual.


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An Interview with Kate Weiser, Dallas' Next Top Chocolatier

Categories: Interviews

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Amy McCarthy
In the world of food, there are few skills more complicated than producing excellent chocolate. The United States may not have the chocolate-making reputation of, say, France or Belgium, but there are plenty of chocolatiers across the country who have been trying to elevate the American palate. Even though most of us are more used to Hershey's bars than bittersweet dark chocolates, the trend seems to be growing.

She may have just opened up her new shop in Trinity Groves, but Kate Weiser has been a fixture in the Dallas dessert scene for longer than you might realize. After getting her start at Chocolate Secrets, the young and effervescent Weiser is stretching her wings at Trinity Groves. Just a few days after opening her new shop, I sat down to talk with Weiser about opening her first business, how she became a chocolatier, and the one chocolate flavor that she really doesn't enjoy.

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Where Michael Martensen, Dallas' Mixologist-in-Chief, Drinks When He Drinks in Dallas

Categories: Interviews

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Find Martensen at the Windmill.
Even though he's spent the last seven years shaking up some of the city's best craft cocktails, Proof + Pantry's Michael Martensen is a man of pretty simple tastes. As Martensen mentioned in our interview earlier this week, the most important part of going to a bar is more about the experience than the drinks.

Needless to say, as a devout Miller High Life drinker, Martensen isn't interested in bars that are primarily staffed by "mustachioed assholes" -- his words, and mine. If you've fallen victim to that in the past, head to these five Martensen-approved joints for a much better boozing experience.

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Proof + Pantry's Michael Martensen Is Battling the "Pretentious Asshole Bartender" (Interview)

Categories: Interviews

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via Twitter
Michael Martensen opens Proof + Pantry today.
It's Drinking Week at City of Ate, which means even more stories than usual about our favorite pastime. Check back for more stories about craft beer, killer bartenders and more.

Even though it's been a relatively enduring trend in bars across the country for nearly a decade, Dallas has only recently caught on to the appeal of cocktails that are much more complex in both flavor and preparation than your average vodka cranberry. Fortunately for mixologists in our fair city, the trend has caught on like wildfire.

Which should be credited in large part to Michael Martensen, the expert mixologist who is opening up his very first concept, Proof + Pantry, today in One Arts Plaza. You'll probably remember Martensen from his stints mixing up some of the city's best libations at Cedars Social and The Mansion at Turtle Creek, but now he's struck out on his own to intensify his focus on making creative and high-quality cocktails. One day before his restaurant was scheduled to open, I sat down with a surprisingly calm Martensen to talk about the history of the craft cocktail trend, what boozers in Dallas like to drink, and what we can expect from his highly-focused cocktail menu at Proof + Pantry.

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Where Gemma Pastry Chef Stephanie Childress Eats Out in Dallas

Categories: Interviews

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Dive bar meets homemade pasta? Are we in heaven?
When she's not busy cranking out housemade sorbets and ice creams at Gemma, pastry chef Stephanie Childress, the subject of this week's chef interview, has to eat. Like most chefs, she's pretty particular about where she dines out, to the point that being at a less-than-great restaurant makes her a little anxious. "I see all of these details, things that could be fixed," she says. "And it drives me crazy."

Still, she finds time to make it out occasionally to check out what some of her favorite spots around the city. The team at Gemma all makes family dinner for each other, but when she's off work, Childress heads to these five Dallas establishments.

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At Gemma, Pastry Chef Stephanie Childress Is Keeping It Simple

Categories: Interviews

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Amy McCarthy
A pastry chef in her natural habitat.

Gemma has been adding a touch of freshness and California cool to Henderson Ave since opening earlier this year, and head pastry chef Stephanie Childress has proven herself a crucial part of the restaurant's success. Our own food critic raved about Childress' well-executed and offbeat dessert dishes, and diners have followed suit.

Working alongside chef-owner Stephen Rogers and front-of-house manager (and Rogers' wife) Alison Yoder has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for Childress, who made her home in Dallas after working in some of Las Vegas' most beloved kitchens. I sat down to talk with Childress about navigating the Dallas food world after working in Las Vegas, how she works with Chef Stephen Rogers for inspiration on both sides of the menu, and her best-in-town housemade ice cream program.


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An Interview with So & So's Chef Nick Amoriello, a Fan of Neither Bros nor Hummus

Categories: Interviews

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Steve Bither
A man with a large task in front of him: making Dallas love Uptown.
With its extensive craft cocktail menus and upscale food menus to go along, the gastropub trend shows no signs of slowing down. Especially not in Dallas. As diners increasingly seek out more casual fine dining experiences, gastropubs are happily stepping into the shoes once filled by stuffy and exclusive restaurants.

In Uptown Dallas, the vibe has always been more bourgie than elsewhere in the city, something that has earned the neighborhood a less-than-positive reputation with people who don't live inside the upscale bubble situated in between Downtown and Central Expressway. But at So & So's, Chef Nick Amoriello is working hard to change both the food and the culture of a neighborhood that restaurants seem to be fleeing in favor of hipper enclaves like Bishop Arts.

Amoriello, a Culinary Institute of America grad who has worked at Nobu, Driftwood, and Central 214, joined So & So's after an unexpected exit from Chef Ian Tate. Since joining the restaurant, he has brought upscale dishes to a menu that was in serious need of a little refinement, and a kitchen in desperate need of leadership. I sat down to talk with Amoriello about how the transition went, whether or not the stereotypes that we all have about Uptown are true, and whether or not the traditionally stodgy neighborhood is prepared for cuisine that is a little more experimental.

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Stock & Barrel Chef Jon Stevens' Seven Favorite Dallas Restaurants

Categories: Interviews

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Nicholas McWhirter
Magic, by Omar Flores.

In the lengthy and sometimes stressful process of opening his Bishop Arts restaurant Stock and Barrel, Chef Jon Stevens spent a lot of time eating out at Dallas restaurants. Ever the chef, Stevens tends to frequent places that most of us would consider a foodie splurge, even if they aren't all that expensive.

Stevens has been working in Dallas for years, and anyone with a culinary background like his is bound to offer up some good recommendations for dinner. Dine like Chef Jon at these eight Dallas restaurants.

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Stock & Barrel's Jon Stevens on Building His Dream and Responsibly Growing Bishop Arts

Categories: Interviews

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Joy Zhang (via the restaurant)
Does this look like a man who's living the dream?

As Dallas transforms into a bona fide dining destination, more and more chefs are packing their knives and attempting to strike out on their own. The world of chef-ownership is tough to navigate, evidenced by the fact that only about 43 percent of independently owned restaurants make it past their third birthday.

In Bishop Arts, chef Jon Stevens is doing his best to avoid becoming a statistic. Stock and Barrel, Stevens' barely 2-month-old Americana restaurant, looks as if it might be beating the odds with its combination of excellent food, prime location in an up-and-coming neighborhood and overwhelming support from the locals. I sat down to talk with Stevens about the process of making his lifelong dream come true, what it takes to create a long-lasting restaurant in Dallas and how he thinks restaurants can improve Bishop Arts without turning into a commercial wasteland.


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