Cafe Momentum's Chad Houser Is "Cooking to Save Lives" (Interview)

Categories: Interviews

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Stanton Stephens
Chad Houser in his natural habitat.
Not many chefs can say that their dishes profoundly impact the lives of other people, except for Chad Houser. The veteran chef, who once helmed Dallas institution Parigi, is currently head of one of the country's most interesting culinary concepts, Cafe Momentum. In his kitchen, you'll find 37 interns, all of whom spent time incarcerated for non-violent offenses.

After four years of pop-up dinners scattered across the city, Cafe Momentum finally has a permanent home in an old Downtown building. Here, Houser and his staff are deeply devoted to ensuring that the young men who participate in their culinary internship know that they have a future, that their lives matter. Through teaching skills like manning a fry station and proper plating technique, Houser is helping some of Dallas' most at-risk youth build a handsome resume of skills while also putting out fine dining-quality food.

It's a difficult task, but Houser is relentlessly optimistic in his pursuit. In the midst of the always-crazy opening week, I sat down with Houser to talk about the process of opening Cafe Momentum, how he has tweaked the cooking process to work best for his employees, and the primary driving force behind his cooking: saving lives.

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Meet the Marfa Cocktail Guru Who Will Infuse the Perot's Social Science Event Tonight

Jennifer Boomer
Don't put ginger ale in this you dilettante.
When Ashley North Compton isn't busy as a graphic designer or psychology graduate student, she is making homemade bitters and herbal infusions in her Marfa home. Compton's interest in homemade bitters and infusions is really a secret cover for her love of herbs.

"Herbs have really amazing restorative properties and many also happen to go really well with different liquors," says Compton. And she'll be sharing her love and knowledge of herbs, infusions and cocktails at two separate Dallas events this weekend as part of a partnership with Oil and Cotton, Oak Cliff's favorite collaborative creative space.

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Clark Food & Wine Chef Randall Warder Is Building a Smoky Empire on Greenville (Interview)

Categories: Interviews

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courtesy Clark Food & Wine
Randall Warder, chef and business whiz.

The explosion of growth that Greenville Avenue is having when it comes to quality restaurants is really unprecedented. The once neglected street has transformed into a culinary hub, thanks in large part to enterprising and independent chefs with a good eye for the next big thing. One of those chefs is Randall Warder, of Clark Food & Wine.

Warder is as much a businessman as he is a chef, able to spout off food cost statistics and business plans with the same ease as the restaurant's intensive pork rillete recipe. In this new world of restaurants, that's exactly the kind of savvy that is necessary to survive. I sat down to talk with Warder about the opening of Clark Food & Wine, his diverse experience in all facets of the restaurant industry, and his big plans for opening a new restaurant just three short months after launching his first.


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How Hunter Pond, East Hampton's 27-Year-Old Owner, Became Dallas' Sandwich King (Interview)

Categories: Interviews

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Courtesy of East Hampton
Hunter Pond: Sandwich magnate in the making.
There is no one sandwich that reigns supreme in Dallas, something that just isn't true of other cities. As such, our fair city has played host to a variety of sandwich concepts that have attempted to elevate the ham sandwich you eat for lunch every third day. Some have been more successful than others, but there is a growing crop of restaurateurs hoping to cash in on upscale, refined sandwiches.

For East Hampton Sandwich Company's Hunter Pond, that risk has paid off beautifully. Just one year after opening his first shop in Snider Plaza, the 27-year-old Pond has already planned multiple new locations of his restaurant for Dallas, along with being named one of Forbes magazine's "30 Under 30," an award given to innovative young entrepreneurs.

I sat down to talk with Pond about receiving such a prestigious award, the challenges of opening a restaurant as a baby-faced 25-year-old, and how he's managed to make East Hampton one of Dallas' biggest restaurant successes of 2014.

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How Gemma Boss Allison Yoder Keeps Things Cool at One of Dallas' Hottest Restaurants

Categories: Interviews

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Catherine Downes
Allison Yoder, one half of the duo behind Gemma, with husband Stephen Rogers.
For some, the restaurant business is a passion that grew from their days as a pre-schooler, cooking alongside mom. The business was in their blood before they knew it, shaping their views on food, work and the world. For others, though, the calling to the nonstop insanity that is working in a restaurant -- or worse, owning your own -- comes much later.

For Allison Yoder, front-of-house manager and co-owner of Gemma, a passion for the restaurant industry came out of necessity. As a struggling opera singer in New York City, Yoder stood behind bars and service stations at some of the country's best restaurants, often alongside her husband, who now works as Gemma's executive chef.

Yoder's unusual mix of experience in classical music and the restaurant business has clearly worked to her benefit. Gemma was a smash in Dallas this year, packed full most days, often well after 11 p.m. I sat down to talk to the front-of-house virtuoso about the whirlwind ride that has been Gemma's first year, working in harmony with her husband, and their big plans for 2015 at the city's unanimously-acclaimed best new restaurant.

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How The Grape Chef Sarah Snow Keeps Things Moving, and Changing, at a Dallas Institution

Categories: Interviews

Courtesy The Grape
Sarah Snow, Executive Chef at The Grape

As we've mentioned, 2014 has been the year of the young, up-and-coming chef in Dallas. The old guard continue to be successful in our city's food scene, but it's the youngsters who have really driven this period of innovation and revival in Dallas cuisine. Sometimes that innovation doesn't even have to come from opening a hot new restaurant. Even the city's most beloved dining institution is open to a little change.

Earlier this year, The Grape's Brian Luscher stepped aside from running the kitchen at the Greenville Avenue restaurant and handed over the reins to former chef de cuisine, Sarah Snow. Snow has quickly risen through the ranks in her time in some of Dallas' best kitchens, but scoring the executive chef job at The Grape earlier this year has really given her room to grow. I sat down to talk with Snow about working with the inimitable Brian Luscher, keeping things fresh at the 30-year-old restaurant, and her lightening-fast ascent from line cook to executive chef.


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Where Rising Chef Michael Ehlert Dines Out in Dallas

Categories: Interviews

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Catherine Downes
Who could blame Michael Ehlert for wanting to eat a dish like this all the time?
Chef Michael Ehlert is a pretty simple guy. Even though the food he's cooking at Front Room Tavern is rapidly becoming some of the most refined in the city, that doesn't mean he's dining on foie gras and steaks every night. Even chefs occasionally need a break from all that rich, fancy stuff.

He's also damn busy. Outside of running his newly-opened, four-star restaurant in Highland Park's Hotel Lumen, Ehlert became a father about six months ago, and that can seriously cramp your dining-out style. When he does find the time to eat out, you can find him at these eight Dallas restaurants.

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An Interview With Michael Ehlert, Chef of the Revamped and Four-Star Front Room Tavern

Categories: Interviews

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Kevin Marple, via the restaurant
We are officially well into Dallas' renaissance as a destination for excellent food. Still, there are very few restaurants that meet the only star system in town's criteria for four stars, and a five-star rating is even more rare. Amidst the chefs versus critic debacle that has dominated the food community for the last few months, Dallas Morning News critic Leslie Brenner has awarded the coveted four-star rating to Hotel Lumen's Front Room Tavern and its chef, Michael Ehlert. Our own critic gushed about it too.

See also: In the Park Cities, the Flailing Front Room Finds its Way. Will it Stick?

As a relative newcomer to the Dallas food scene, Ehlert has quickly made an impression. Just one day after The Dallas Morning News' review was released, I sat down to talk with Ehlert about his thoughts on the praise, handling the ghosts of restaurants past, and his ascent from flour-covered pizza chef to one of Dallas' brightest rising stars.

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How Bisous Bisous Owner Andrea Meyer Finally Ditched IT to Follow Her Passion: Baking

Categories: Interviews

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Andrea Meyer from Bisou Bisou
Regular shoppers at White Rock Local Market will likely recognize Bisous Bisous Patisserie. Owner Andrea Meyer has been setting up a tiny shop of sorts amongst the tables of farm-fresh produce there since the start of the season. Meyer's table is often loaded with freshly baked French goods -- croissants and pain au chocolat -- and a tower of macarons that presides over it all.

It's a site to behold for any lover of baked goods, but there is one small problem. The best part of buying a croissant, or any other French pastry, is the aroma that hits you when you walk through a bakery door. At the farmers market those smells are whisked away on a breeze, if the smoke from Brian Luscher's hot dogs doesn't overwhelm them first. A sensory experience was missing.

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An Interview With Ser's Anthony Van Camp, One of Dallas' Up-and-Coming Chefs

Categories: Interviews

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via Ser Steak + Spirits
Young but wise.
To be called a chef is to have earned respect in the culinary world -- or at least that's the way it used to be. Now, more and more people who have attended culinary school and cooked in a restaurant for a few years are champing at the bit to designate themselves a chef, or worse, a goddamn "celebrity chef." Sometimes, though, there is a young chef who stands out amongst his peers, and quickly rises through the ranks because he's actually really good behind the line.

Anthony Van Camp is one of those guys who quickly earned the title of "chef," but not without a lot of hard work. After rising through the ranks under Anthony Bombaci at the Hilton Anatole's storied (and now shuttered) restaurant Nana, Van Camp quickly became executive chef of Ser Steak + Spirits when the hotel decided to remodel the formerly Italian restaurant into a casual steakhouse. In the few short months following this transition, Van Camp has been working his ass off to fill his predecessor's massive shoes. According to the critics and the diners who pack the restaurant every night, he's clearly onto something. I sat down to talk with Van Camp about his rapid ascent in the restaurant business, what it takes to serve great steak, and how he feels about modernist chefs dumping on traditional steakhouses.

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