Komali Chef Abraham Salum Knows What Dallas Wants, Knows It Will Change Next Week

Categories: Interviews

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Robert Bostick
When we talk about the burgeoning culinary scene that exists in Dallas today, it's sometimes easy to forget about the chefs who spent years trying to convince us that great food was worth a little extra cash. Abraham Salum's eponymous restaurant Salum has been a fixture of the Dallas food community for almost a decades now, and Salum cemented his status as one of the city's most authentic Mexican chefs after opening Komali, his interior Mexican restaurant located next door.

Still, Salum isn't slowing down. When I originally tried to schedule some time to talk with him, Salum was traveling in Spain and introducing real Mexican food and tequila to a group of chefs at a Michelin-starred restaurant outside of Barcelona. From there, he went on a sightseeing trip to Morocco. When he's not jetting around the world, you can find Abraham Salum in either of his successful restaurants, volunteering for charities, and catering some of the most exclusive dinner parties in the city. Somehow, Chef Salum found time to sit down and talk with me about how he's learned to please the finicky Dallas clientele, legit Mexican food, and why people are so much more in love with food than they ever have been before.

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Where Kitchen LTO's New Chef Blythe Beck Loves Eating in Dallas

Categories: Interviews

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Unphogettable.

Unlike the last chef at Kitchen LTO who was brand new to Dallas, Blythe Beck is intimately familiar with the food scene. Which is not surprising, considering that she worked in some of the city's best restaurants before moving away for a few years to pursue consulting opportunities. Now that she's back, she's ready to indulge in some of her favorite Dallas restaurants once her stint and LTO starts and her schedule slows down.

When I asked Beck about her favorite Dallas restaurants, a look of slight shame crept over her face. "No! That's not a fair question," she said. "I eat at some places that are pretty embarrassing. It's not like when not seen at Kitchen LTO, Chef Blythe Beck is dining on the veranda at the Mansion in my fur coat." Embarrassing or not, these five Dallas joints are where you're likely to catch the "Naughty Chef" when she's not in the kitchen.

Vietnam (above)

This East Dallas Vietnamese joint doesn't get the same fanfare that more upscale places like Dalat and Miss Chi's Vietnamese do, but it's probably still one of the best places in Dallas to find a cheap, authentically Vietnamese lunch. Beck didn't dish on what she ordered, but the usual Viet combination of pho, spring rolls, and maybe a freshly made boba tea are always a good choice at Vietnam.

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Kitchen LTO Chef Blythe Beck on Global Culinary Domination and Sexism in the Kitchen

Categories: Interviews

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In her relative short time as executive chef of the former Hotel Palomar's now-defunct restaurant Central 214, Blythe Beck quickly made a name for herself. Known as "The Naughty Chef" from both her Oxygen reality show and the combination of "booze, butter and bacon" that made her famous, Beck is now back in Dallas after a two-year hiatus as a consultant in Arkansas.

Surprisingly enough, Beck isn't helming her own "swanky Southern" joint, but has been chosen as the next executive chef at Casie Caldwell's permanent pop-up restaurant Kitchen LTO. Even though she'll only be there for four months, Beck is beyond excited to be bringing her flavors back to the city that helped propel her career to new heights. I sat down to talk with Beck about why Dallasites love her food so much, why she chose Kitchen LTO, and her quest for global culinary domination.

What has it been like for you to come back to Dallas and have such a great reception from people who clearly loved your food at Central 214?

Being back in Dallas is the best thing ever. Arkansas is great, and it was really great to me, but the whole time I was wondering what was going on at home. The reaction has been humbling, but it's also been very exciting. To be back in a brand new kitchen with an entirely new staff doing my own thing again is going to be really great.

What about the short-term nature of Kitchen LTO appealed to you?

Everything about it appealed to me. It's actually a double-edged sword because you work with these people in the kitchen and front of house, and they really become your family. It's sad to leave them, but as chefs, we get itchy to move onto bigger things. I've known [owner] Casie Caldwell for years, I consulted on Kitchen LTO in its beginnings, and the timing of Kitchen LTO 4.0 was just perfect. I spent all summer shooting some television, so it was a perfect time to come back to Dallas. I love cooking in the fall here. I was pretty much willing to do whatever it took to come back to Dallas, and I got lucky in that this was just a perfect opportunity.


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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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