How Malai Kitchen's Chef-Owners Keep Looking for, and Finding, Inspiration

Categories: Interviews

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Lauren Drewes Daniels
For most chefs, the flavors that dominate their cuisine come from a very personal place, like a decades of mom's home cooking or a few years of intensive training at a French culinary school.

For others, though, that passion for a cuisine develops in relatively unexpected places. Braden and Yasmin Wages of Malai Kitchen didn't grow up eating Vietnamese or Thai food, but their commitment to respectfully cooking the cuisine and attention to tradition is undeniable. I sat down with the Wages to talk about how they developed their unique cuisine, their commitment to making crazy ingredients in-house, and what the future looks like for these two talented (and wildly ambitious) young chefs.

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Where Chef Danyele McPherson, of Grape and Remedy and Top Chef Fame, Eats In Dallas

Categories: Interviews

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These dumplings are probably made from magic.
When she's not busy planning her new restaurant, Remedy, Chef Danyele McPherson likes to focus on the parts of her life that aren't just in the kitchen. "Food is my passion," says McPherson, "but I also like to do other things, too. I like to ride bikes around Dallas and have beers with my friends like everyone else." Of course, even a busy chef has to eat, especially at restaurants that are not their own.

McPherson's own dining style is cozy and casual. You won't find her beating down the door for a reservation at FT33 every night or rushing around to the city's hottest restaurants. Instead, you can dine like this chef at these six casual restaurants that won't make you feel underdressed in jeans and a hoodie.

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Chef Danyele McPherson Is Ready for Her Next Culinary Close-Up (Interview)

Categories: Interviews

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Danyele McPherson has been waiting for her turn in Dallas' culinary spotlight for some time. After a stint on Bravo's Top Chef and working in the kitchens of Stephan Pyles and The Grape, McPherson has finally landed her own soon-to-open restaurant on Lower Greenville. The highly anticipated Remedy is McPherson's first restaurant as an executive chef, but make no mistake: If anyone's up for this kind of challenge, it's her.

Over the last several months, McPherson has been working tirelessly to open her new spot while helping sister restaurant HG Sply Co polish the menu. To say the least, she's a really, really busy chef. I caught a few minutes with McPherson to talk about what diners can expect from Remedy, the lessons she's learned in her first restaurant opening, and her thoughts on the dishes that define American cuisine.

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Hibiscus Chef Graham Dodds Won't Let Your Hate Mail Stop His Menu from Evolving

Categories: Interviews

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via chefgraham.com
Local food is one of those trends that has been absolutely beaten to death by food critics and chefs, and has recently become a little lost in translation. Any chef can slap "local greens" on their menu when they're really buying from a massive multi-national food conglomorate, but others have fully committed their menus and their restaurants to buying almost exclusively from the bounty of local farmers.

See also: Cold Beer Company Found Out "Local" Is Harder Than It Looks, Especially in Dallas

Hibiscus' Graham Dodds is one of those chefs. After tenures at some of Dallas' other great restaurants, including Bolsa and Central 214, Dodds has been cooking up his ultra-seasonal food at Hibiscus for nearly a year. In that time, he's quietly transformed the Henderson Avenue establishment into an innovative and constantly-evolving restaurant. I sat down with Dodds to talk about what local food really means, how he built relationships with over thirty local farmers, and why he thinks genetically modified food might be causing the downfall of our civilization.

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How Dallas' Young Chefs Are Remaking its Dining Scene, in Their Own Words

Categories: Interviews

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Cover by Tracie Louck/Photo by Can Turkyilmaz
Rush Patisserie's Samantha Rush
The Dallas of 20 years ago exists only on the margins of the current culinary climate. There are more restaurants in this city than ever, and the focus of the chefs who run its best restaurants has shifted dramatically in the last five years. No longer is Dallas known for its decadent-but-boring steakhouses and the stuffy cuisine that goes with them. Before our eyes, this city's culinary scene has transformed into, dare we say, a worthy destination.

The rest of the country is starting to take notice. You can hardly throw a locally sourced radish without hitting a national magazine with Matt McCallister or Omar Flores on it. And rightfully so: These chefs' widely diverse backgrounds, cuisines and personalities have revitalized a sluggish restaurant scene and ushered Dallas into a new culinary era.

Over the past year, we've been asking these chefs what they think about Dallas' culinary renaissance, and how they've contributed to it. Here, alongside portraits from Can Turkyilmaz, we pull together their wisdom, to help paint a fuller picture of what's happening nightly in kitchens across the city. Most of the chefs in the following pages are part of Dallas' new guard, like up-and-comers Flores and Stephen Rogers, but there are a few stalwart voices in chefs like John Tesar and Brian Luscher, who are still here, helping a fledgling food scene find its way.

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Where Transplant Chef Kyle McClelland Eats When He Eats Out in Dallas

Categories: Interviews

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Silky, porky goodness from Tei-An.
After coming from New York City, Proof + Pantry chef Kyle McClelland knew that Dallas had some big shoes to fill when it came to good eats. Fortunately, the city's restaurants have provided this East Coaster with plenty to love, especially in the form of Asian food. Most people think that Dallas is completely devoid of good Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai food, but that's only because they don't know where to look.

Since moving to Dallas, McClelland has taken advantage of the excellent Asian food in Dallas suburbs, along with these other restaurants that he considers to be best in the metro area.

See also: Our full interview with Kyle McClelland

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Chef Kyle McClelland Ditched Brooklyn for Dallas and Isn't Looking Back (Interview)

Categories: Interviews

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An outsider looking in.
The ascension of Dallas' culinary scene has been a curious thing to watch from the sidelines. As a diner, Dallasites have more restaurants to choose from than ever, helmed by some of the country's brightest up-and-coming chefs. At the same time, this progress has been slow-going, and Dallas has been somewhat resistant to change its stodgy culinary scene -- a fact that Driftwood and Proof + Pantry Chef Kyle McClelland is working his ass off to change.

McClelland was a big score for the Dallas culinary scene. After opening Cedars Social here, he jetted off to Brooklyn and opened a much-hyped restaurant called Prospect, which still operates today. After shucking off the pressures of New York City life and making Dallas his home again, McClelland is bringing his New England-influenced food here. I sat down with McClelland to talk about what it's been like to come back, his thoughts on the burgeoning Dallas restaurant scene, and why Brooklyn just can't compete with Dallas when it comes to tacos. Note: This interview happened before he and Michael Martensen tried to box Leslie Brenner out of reviewing their restaurant.

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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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