A Conversation with Malai Thai's Chef-Owners Will Make You Want to Eat Pho, Like, Now

Braden and Jasmine Wages of Malai Thai
​Chef Braden Wages of Malai Thai in the West Village is originally from upstate New York. He and his wife, Yasmine, who is from Weatherfod, met while in school at Cornell. Running a restaurant was a long-term dream for both of them. But the concept for that place was based on a what sounds like an epic three-month backpacking trip through Asia.

We spoke with them for our weekly series of chef interviews. We start with Braden.

How did you initially get into cooking?
I am one of five siblings and my parents worked a lot. So my mom devised a system where one of us had to cook each night of the week. We had to create a menu and she'd go buy all the ingredients for us and make the meal and clean up. We started at a young age. My younger brother would do nothing but omelets; I started with casseroles and then went on to other things. I guess my first job was in a kitchen -- my family business was in amusement parks and we all kind of had our own department, if you will. My brother was in entertainment, my sister did gates, another did games, I was always in food.

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La Calle Doce Has Been Serving Mexican Seafood for 30 Years. Here's How.

Laura and Silka Sanchez
​In 1981, Laura and Oscar Sanchez opened La Calle Doce in small house in Oak Cliff. Now, more than 30 years later, with the recent addition of a new bar and patio, it stands as a staple for Mexican seafood in Dallas.

Raised in Monterrey, Mexico, Laura's father instilled in her the importance of an education, which drove her to excel in school, eventually earning her a full academic scholarship to Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She says the most distinctive measure of her American education was its directive to think for herself.

Laura works closely with her daughter Silka, who was essentially raised in this wood frame restaurant on 12th Street. Together they, along with many other family members, run La Calle Doce in Oak Cliff and in Lakewood, as well as El Ranchito. The conversation, part of our ongoing series of chef interviews, begins with Silka.

You grew up in the restaurant business.
Yes, I was 3 years old in 1981 when they first opened the restaurant.

What are some of your earliest memories here?
We were just always here. But it was so much different then -- so much smaller. My brother and I would watch TV back in the office and peek out every now and then, but mostly we just stayed in the back and watched TV.

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Komali Chef Anastacia Quinones on the Allure of Victor Tango's, the Mulato Chili and More

​Anastacia Quiñones is just one week into her new job as chef at the modern Mexican cuisine spot Komali. The Dallas native attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York, then fell in love with San Francisco after just several hours visiting. After working there for a few years, she returned to Dallas to be back with her family and worked at Victor Tango's, Alma and now Abraham Salum's Komali.

We spoke with her for this week's Three-Course Interview.

What was your childhood like, from a food perspective?
My mom was an in-house chef for a family in Highland Park. She didn't actually know how to cook going into the job, she lied about it, and then ended up teaching herself by watching Sesame Street and Julia Child. She would then be so proud of the food she made, things like chicken tetrazzini and spaghetti Bolognese, that she would bring it home for us. So, we ate a lot of different things.

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Oak Chef Jason Maddy on Starting at McDonald's, Tiny New York Kitchens, and More

Chef Jason Maddy, Oak
​Jason Maddy is the executive chef at the recently opened Oak in the Design District. Maddy grew up in Austin and, after attending culinary school in New York, worked at David Bouley's Danube, then the Driskill in Austin. A few years ago he was recruited by John Tesar to work at the Mansion, where he spent the past couple of years with Chef Bruno Davaillion.

We spoke to him as part of Three-Course Meal, our ongoing series of chef interviews.

When did you get into cooking?
My mom was a great home chef. When I was home during the summer she'd call me and tell me to take ten eggs, put them in cold water, put on the stove and make egg salad. It started slowly like that.

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An Interview with Matt Spillers, Chef of Eno's, Oddfellows and the Soon-to-Open Union Bear

​Matt Spillers' parents, Allen and Donna Spillers, have had long careers in the local restaurant business. While raising their three boys in Dallas, dinner out was more than just a family meal together, but also an on-going education on how to run a restaurant.

Always drawn to the kitchen, after high school Matt enrolled in culinary school in New York and eventually moved to Oak Cliff, where he opened Eno's, then Oddfellows, which he co-owns. His latest project, Union Bear in the West Village, should open within weeks.

We sat down recently to discuss how he started his first two projects, how beer brings people together and, most importantly, how camaraderie and the right people often mean a successful business.

Your parents have had long careers opening and remodeling restaurants. Did you experience that much growing up?
Yes, when they would go and do remodels and design projects, we'd travel with them. They also worked out of the house a lot so in the evening they'd always want to get out to eat. And we would pretty much scrutinize the place. We'd look at everything from the fixtures in the bathrooms to every aspect of the carpentry.

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Bolsa Chef Jeff Harris on the Food Network Effect, Go-To Spots and the Mercado's Future

Chef Jeff Harris
​Recently we sat down Bolsa chef Jeff Harris at the new sister store Bolsa Mercado, which is a neighborhood market with unique items, Texas fare, good booze and a bevy of fresh from-scratch breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Harris grew up in East Texas surrounded by farmland, eating his grandparents' farm-to-table meals. After culinary school in New York City and a seven-year stint at Craft (NYC and Dallas), he's leveraging the locavore movement in Oak Cliff.

Where did you grow up?
In East Texas, a small town outside of Longview.

How did you get into cooking?
Both my grandparents were great cooks, they lived on a farm and my mom's parents had a dairy farm with huge gardens and my grandmother was always canning stuff. I actually went to college at North Texas, graduated and worked in real estate and for a bank for a few years, but when I was at the bank I was literally reading menus all day. I started watching the Food Network and the Travel Channel and then looked into culinary school and just had a feeling that was what I really wanted to do. So, I went to culinary school in New York City (The Institute of Culinary Education).

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Hibiscus Chef Brent Hammer on Dish-Washing in a Suit, Vegas and the Blessing of Food TV

Chef Brent Hammer at Hibiscus
​Chef Brent Hammer started his cooking career all because of a slight misunderstanding, in what turned out to be one of longest night of his life washing dishes at a restaurant in Milwaukee. The fast pace of the kitchen lured him in, and soon he began the career path that eventually led him to a hotel just off the Vegas strip, Westside Tavern in Los Angeles and, two years ago, to Dallas, where he's worked for Fireside Pies in Fort Worth, The Porch and Hibiscus.

We sat down with Hammer for this week's Three-Course Meal interview.

I read you got pantsed working as a chef in Milwaukee as retribution for sassing a boss?
Yes, I was really young when that happened.

Do you pants here a lot?
No, I try not to pants.

Don't you think it could be an effective motivational tool?
No. Standing in the middle of a pre-shift with a sauté pan in both hands and nothing but an apron on in front of 18 servers was one of the most mortifying experiences of my life. I had never been so grateful to have on an apron; otherwise I would have been about as naked as the day I was born. I was mentally scarred by it.

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Jay Jerrier of Il Cane Rosso on Guy Fieri, Naples and Making Peace with Yelp

Joy Zhang
Jay Jerrier (left) in pizza pit at Il Cane Rosso.
​In one quick year, Il Cane Rosso has become the most esteemed pizza joint in Dallas. Owner Jay Jerrier discovered this style of Neapolitan pizza while on a trip in Naples with his wife in 1995 and has worked diligently to bring the same pizza experience to Dallas. Recently Guy Fieri and the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives crew stopped by to film an episode, which will air early next year. Recently Jay sat down with us to talk about Fieri, the Dallas food scene and why he's always yelling at his Neapolitan pizza man.

How does a guy with a career crunching numbers at GE Capital get in the pizza business?
Working for GE Capital gave me a really good foundation for running this business. It's all about what gets measured and managed. It taught me about attention to detail, like knowing what our unit cost is for all our pizzas. We measure cost down to the gram. There's a lot of passion that goes into our food, but there's also a lot of science in why we do what we do. GE also taught me about continuous performance improvement and constantly staying ahead of the curve. We knew that everyone liked our pizza, but I brought Dino in (the pizza maker from Naples) because I thought we could be better. Instead of just sitting back, we look ahead. That's a GE thing.

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At Rudolph's Meat Market: Keeping Old-School Butchery Alive One Tip Roast at a Time

Rudolph's 025.jpg
​In 1895, Austrian immigrant Martin Rudolph opened Rudolph's Meat Market in Deep Ellum. Almost 50 years later, Cyrill "Sid" Pokladnik, who was an employee, bought the butcher shop, and it has remained in his family since. Pokladnik's five grandchildren all take part in running it now.

I recently spoke with grandson Brandon Andreason to talk about the lost art of butchery and how the Dallas market has changed over the past several decades.

How long have you worked here?
Since I could walk. My grandfather started working here in 1927 and went on to buy it. My mom worked here as a child and then my dad was here for over 30 years. My brothers and sisters have all worked here too. It's just been passed down from one generation to the next.

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Rathbun Chef Jennifer Newbold on the Rules of the Kitchen, Her Mussels and the Dallas Palate

​Jennifer Newbold has been the chef at Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen for about six months now. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she grew up eating food from her family farm and would like to see an easier way to bring the farm to the table here. She came to Dallas via St. Loius and San Diego, and she makes a strong case on why you should try her mussels.

We sat down with Newbold for this week's interview.

When did you first become interested in cooking?
My grandpa passed away before I was born, but he was a chef. My father cooked a lot too, and growing up in Tacoma, Washington, we would go hunting and fishing regularly. I remember always being in the kitchen with my dad. We'd go pick chanterelles and make a big batch of chanterelle soup. And we always had gardens. We didn't have a lot of money, so we grew a lot of our own foods.

And at a young age I remember going to the grocery store with my mother and she would read the labels on everything to see where it came from.

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