For chef John Tesar, currently competing on Top Chef: Seattle, opening a seafood restaurant in Dallas was like coming home.
"I grew up on the East End of Long Island, was a surfer and fisherman, and lived that life for many years," Tesar said in an interview with The Daily Meal. "I grew up eating fish that I’d just caught, and this restaurant is really going back to what I love to do. I’ve lived in Dallas for five years, this is where my family is, and this is where I love to be."
Tesar’s new restaurant, Spoon Bar & Kitchen, opened Nov. 9 in Dallas, Texas, a city not accustomed to eating super-fresh fish in a variety of preparations including raw, smoked, preserved, and pickled. But that’s just the way he wanted it.
"For lots of our guests, this is something new and different," he said. "We fly in our fish directly from California, and don’t use any local purveyors. When you walk in, you don’t smell fish, and that’s the way it should be."
Tesar drew from his more than 20 years of experience in the industry for inspiration, including running noted seafood chef Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood in New York and Las Vegas.
"We’re emulating the great seafood restaurants in New York, like Le Bernardin," he said, though making clear that he’s not putting himself on the same level as Eric Ripert.
"Almost every night guests tell me that they used to have to go to New York City for food like this," he said. "That’s the greatest compliment I can receive."
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It’s long been known that Chef John Tesar, former Top Chef contestant and steak expert at The Highland’s Knife, was working on a cookbook. But soon, you’ll be able to get your paws on the chef’s meaty new instruction manual on how to sear up the world’s best steaks.
As Eater reported earlier this year, Tesar’s cookbook hits the shelves (or, in these technologically advanced times, ships from Amazon) on May 2. The price of Knife: Modern Steakhouse Meals At Home has dropped about $10 in price from $30 to $19.94 for a hardcover edition of the book, which means that waiting may have actually been the best idea in this instance.
Check out Tesar wielding his knives on the cover:
In the book, Tesar’s fans will be able to recreate recipes that he’s made famous at Knife, like the crispy avocado fries and smoky bacon jam. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he’ll be teaching you how to make that tuna-foie gras torchon from his now-shuttered seafood spot Spoon.
Knife: Steakhouse Meals At Home hits shelves on May 2. In the meantime, steak enthusiasts can pre-order the book to have it delivered straight to the door on release day.
John Tesar on Cooking and Smoking Pot With Anthony Bourdain in the ’80s
Nearly 40 years ago, Dallas chef John Tesar was a pot-smoking cook at New York City’s Supper Club. His sidekick? Globally famous food personality Anthony Bourdain, who died on Friday at the age of 61.
It’s an oft-repeated story — the two cooked together as young men in the 1980s, and Tesar would eventually appear as the barely fictionalized, self-destructive Jimmy Sears in Bourdain’s best-selling book Kitchen Confidential. Upon hearing the news that his old friend had died, Tesar only had one reaction: confusion.
“I don’t understand it. I’m angry, I’m jealous, I’m sad,” Tesar tells Eater. “All I can say is that I’m perplexed. We had our disagreements, we had our snarky comments about each other, but we had a longstanding understanding of who we are with each other.” In the ensuing years after the Supper Club, both Bourdain and Tesar would go on to become renowned cooks and television stars, even if Bourdain’s star burned a little bit brighter than Tesar’s.
The two didn’t hesitate to trade barbs with each other, either. In a 2015 interview with Playboy, Tesar said that Bourdain was a “shitty chef.” In fact, the last time Tesar spoke with Bourdain was in Dallas, and he wasn’t happy about that comment in Playboy. “He revoked my access pass to his performance at The Majestic with Eric Ripert,” Tesar says. “I later apologized on the phone and wished him well, and that’s the last time we talked. He traveled so much and had become so famous, that I would email him and he would respond, but he’d be in Zimbabwe and too busy to talk.”
Tesar still has an unmistakable joy about the years he spent in New York with Bourdain, describing their reign at Supper Club as a 24-hour party. “For three years, we ran a pirate ship on 47th Street in Times Square,” he says. “We cooked and did whatever we wanted to do, which was smoking pot, drinking, rambling around New York hanging out with chefs and talking about life.”
Ultimately, Tesar says that he and Bourdain were in a good place at the end of Bourdain’s life. “We knew each other when we were nothing and we had nobody,” Tesar says. “I’m glad that people realized that we were real friends, even though everybody felt like they knew him.”
These times will never be the same Jimmy Sears actually loved this guy we would sit for hours and talk and drink and eat.Posted by John Tesar on Friday, June 8, 2018
If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm or is anxious, depressed, upset, or needs to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. For international resources, here is a good place to begin.
Top Chef's John Tesar Hates This One Food Trend, Says "You Can't Just Make S*** Up"
The former cheftestant sounds off about "empty and soulless" food.
Top Chef's John Tesar has come a long way since he was dubbed "The Most Hated Chef in Dallas" by D Magazine back in 2011. During Top Chef Season 14, he displayed a newfound zen—and endless patience when it came to dealing with fellow cheftestant and notorious pot-stirrer Katsuji Tanabe during Restaurant Wars.
But there's one food trend that gets John all riled up: the "overuse of botanical products just to make food visually appealing, and then when you eat it it's just empty and soulless."
Huh? Botanical products? "Putting purple and yellow and white flowers on everything," John explained in an interview with The Feast. "I can understand if it has a purpose or a texture, don't get me wrong, but I'm saying…it lures people into average food."
John isn't a fan of chefs who pay more attention to how a dish looks than how it tastes. In particular, he called out Top Chef Season 13 cheftestant, Phillip Frankland Lee, who said on the show that his cooking philosophy was to do "whatever the fuck you want."
He's "the perfect example of that millennial—just make s*** up. 'It looks cool, I thought it was cool,'" John mimicked. "There's a blind arrogance to it. And i don't even think they're aware of it. They're not doing it in a malicious fashion, they're just trying to find some kind of identity for themselves. But it's an insult to hundreds of years of culinary tradition."
Bottom line? "You can't just make s*** up," John declared.
With his first cookbook, Knife: Texas Steakhouse Meals at Home—based on his Dallas restaurant of the same name—John takes it to the other extreme. Before opening Knife, he did extensive research, visiting every notable steakhouse in the country to take stock of the food, wine, and ambiance, he said. "What I noticed for most steakhouses was the steak was the worst part of the experience."
So he set out to source the best-quality Texas beef he could find, from 100 percent Angus cows specifically bred and raised to produce the most delicious meat possible. Aimed at the home cook, Knife covers his philosophy about beef sourcing, equipment, and technique, along with plenty of recipes for steaks, sides, sauces, and other meat-heavy fare.
John stressed that the recipes have been meticulously tested. "A lot of cookbooks you try the recipes and they don't come out the same way you would experience them at the restaurant. I was adamant that if we were going to do recipes that were this classic, this traditional, they had to be proven so the home cook could actually pick it up and duplicate it," he explained.
No filter no #bernaise but about to eat it #Steak @knifedallas
A post shared by Chef John Tesar (@chefjohntesar) on Sep 16, 2016 at 3:37pm PDT
As far as his favorite recipes go, John loves the sides in the book, particularly the collard greens—which are vegan—and the okra. "The picture is stunning," he said of the okra dish.
John Tesar hits an early home run with Spoon Bar and Kitchen
Bad-boy chef John Tesar‘s new Dallas restaurant, Spoon Bar & Kitchen, really wowed me a couple of nights ago. Comfy seafoam hues, cozy alcoves, counter seating right up front, a chef’s counter in the back, a simple, two-page, seafood-centric menu that’s a crazy quilt of fresh fish and shellfish. And no drama. Service is crisp and precise, the bar man knows how to pour a stiff drink, and the kitchen operates with a quiet, organized buzz.
While I was eating dinner at Spoon, the electromagnetic spectrum was buzzing with the national broadcast of Top Chef Seattle, on which Tesar was the evening’s impetuous star. Yet there was nary a peep from Tesar about the show. No celebratory toasts, no throng of supporters crowding around a tv. In fact, there’s no tv in the restaurant. Instead, Tesar propped his glasses on his forehead and got down to business, cooking, grilling, plating, chatting.
On the way out, I asked Tesar about the show and why he hadn’t brought it up.
“This restaurant really is my focus,” he told me. “Nothing is more important to me than making Spoon successful.”
If Tesar can keep the same level of focus and precision I experienced at Spoon, his new seafood boite will rise to the top of the Dallas restaurant scene.
Of the may dishes I tried, one of my favorite dishes of the 20 or so I sampled: the charred octopus with crisp, sweet pork belly and pequillo peppers. The crudo sampler is the best raw seafood dish in town. But really, almost everything thrilled. Go. You will be impressed.
Spoon Bar & Kitchen, 8220 Westchester Drive, Dallas, (855) 947-7666.
John Tesar’s Spoon Bar and Kitchen Will Not Open in Original Space in Preston Center
In mid-January, John Tesar announced his new restaurant, Spoon Bar and Kitchen, would open in the former the 24-Hour Fitness space, next to the soon-to-open Hopdoddy Burger Bar. Early this morning, I received an email from a representative of Rosebriar Holdings. It says:
Rosebriar Holdings owns the building where 24 Hour Fitness was located in Preston Center, and we have seen the on line article stating that “Spoon” restaurant would be opening in the building this summer. We were in discussions with John Tesar, his financial partner, and their brokers, and we have decided not to lease space to the new concept in our building. We wanted you to have this information before any further discussions or any additional articles were printed or published. We don’t have any further comments.
I’ve emailed Tesar for comment but I have not heard back. According to his Facebook page, he is in the Bahamas.
UPPITY DATE: I just received an email from John Tesar:
I am in Bahamas cooking on a private island phone and texts are spotty. I just found out that we had a problem and it’s not really a problem. Rosebriar pulled the rug out it seems for more money from someone else. I had a lease in its final phase they sent it to us for final review. I have hired a designer and an architect you saw the plans. I have no idea. My partner is livid and I am in shock. Spoon will happen, just not in that location as it seems this morning.
Tesar Finally Explodes On Top Chef And Teaches Us New Bad Words
YOU GUYS, I have the best news: We’ve been waiting (somewhat) patiently, like a 12-year-old boy hoping for Sloane to to have a wardrobe malfunction in the hot tub in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, and something totally amazing finally happened! JOHN TESAR FINALLY CRACKED!! And it wasn’t angry angriness spewing all over some poor, sweet, innocent person—John F. Tesar finally showed up pissed off at someone with whom he had every right to be frustrated!
He’s been keeping his feelings in check this whole season, and while we’re all proud of his personal growth and the whole “I’m trying to go Next Level Scorpio and become an eagle” crap, it’s super boring to watch on television.
Thank the Truffle Gods that Restaurant Wars showed up to save the dang day. Every season, Top Chef has a challenge that can force even the nicest chef you’ve ever met turn into a rage-filled, unintelligibly yelling and groaning and skyline-stomping Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
Unlike most episodes, this one gloriously kicks right into the Elimination Challenge without any QuickFire bologna sandwich. The eight chefs are split into two teams, and challenged to build restaurants from scratch. They have full creative power to create the menus they want, the design they want—it’s the perfect way to bury them in stress and panic.
Tesar is one of the last chefs chosen, and ends up on Katsuji Tanabe’s team with Casey Thompson and Sheldon Simeon. Katsuji decides that he would like to make three dishes on the team’s menu, for some unknown reason, and despite the fact that Sheldon offers to be executive chef of the restaurant, somehow Tesar ends up taking on that role.
Everyone watching, even the people who are bad at math, immediately adds up that at the end of this episode there will be a final showdown between Tesar (the executive chef running expo) and Katsuji (the chef who will be forced to fire waaaaay too many dishes at once).
Cut to Tesar drowning in the sweaty weeds in expo during service. Everything goes to crap and the F bombs start bombing. Cut to the judges trashing Tesar’s dish: “It’s slimy. I can’t taste the crab.”
As service hits its ugliest point for his team, Tesar calls for them to plate 17 desserts at once. He’s flailing. Casey is supposed to be hosting, but stays back in the kitchen to help put out the dessert-plating panic-fire. There is simply no way Tesar gets to survive this episode without being kicked off of the show.
And that’s when it happens: A small crack opens in space and time and Tesar’s left arm turns into a wing. He looks a little surprised, but then he drops an F bomb and his right arm turns into a wing. Then, he calls Katsuji “nasty” and “a pig” and says “I’ve never seen such a dirty kitchen.” A beak shows up on his face in place of his nose. John F. Tesar is showing up and blossoming into the Scorpio Eagle we all wanted him to become.
As his frustration peaks and he continues to lay into Katsuji, you can see that Tesar is worried he is going home. Casey asks him how he ended up as executive chef if he didn’t want to be in the first place, and this is when Tesar goes FULL F. EAGLE: “Because I was trying to be nice. And this is what you get in return.”
Tesar flaps his eagleman wings and soars above all the other chefs as he teaches me a new term: “Rat f*cks.” I understand the term to mean that Katsuji has upset him. His rant continues at breakneck pace and for once, it seems like everyone in the room agrees with him. Sheldon isn’t asking him to calm down. Casey isn’t holding him back. Everyone’s just letting the John F.T. Eagle soar.
And then, Katsuji has the best reaction of all reactions in the world: the slowest slow clap to ever have slow clapped. I am so proud of the editing team of this show in this moment. This clap goes on forever.
And somehow (*cough*ratings*cough*), despite the fact that he served the worst dish on the team and despite the fact that he was the Executive Chef of the team, Tesar is not the one held responsible for the loss. The judges choose to send Katsuji home, and we all breathe a sigh of relief. The Eagle is here to stay, folks. I can’t wait to see what new bad words he teaches me next week. #ratf*cks
Sneak Peek: John Tesar’s Spoon Bar and Kitchen Opens Today
John Tesar is having the best week of his life. Wednesday, he rocked Tom Colicchio’s kitchen on the first episode of Top Chef: Seattle and yesterday, he softly opened his new seafood concept, Spoon Kitchen + Bar in Preston Center. It’s right across Westchester Drive from Hopdoddy and Texas Family Fitness, which makes dinner more fun if you’re sitting at the table closest by the door. Staring at people exercising as you dig into the uni appetizer feels so wrong, but so good at the same time. While Desiree and I sat down as Tesar’s guests last night, he was busy sweating in his shiny new open kitchen. Guess who was back there with him? Only our favorite tweet-every-hour baker, Joe the Baker, in the pastry weeds. No wonder he’s been so relatively silent on Twitter recently. Only three tweets on November 7. That day, I almost sent Joe a DM asking if he was still alive.
Jump for more of Desiree’s photos.
Spoon Bar and Kitchen opens today with a bang. Here’s what you can look forward to during your visit:
The Apple Program: People have been stopping by the restaurant all week, curious to see what lies inside this little spot. The bravest have actually walked in, inquired, and received Granny Smith apples in exchange for their curiosity. This explains why there’s a bowl of 30 to 40 apples sitting right next to the entrance. It’s all so very Snow White.
The Very Nice Interior: Spoon is decorated in muted whites, silvers, and pastel blues. Tables line the left side of the room, while a full-sized bar takes up a chunk of the floor space to the right. Towards the back, where there’s an open kitchen, is also a separate living room area where a party of diners can feel special sitting at long table. There’s also a heavy underwater theme (i.e. the light on our table was decorated with fish) that gives the restaurant an aquatic feel. (Get it? You’re eating seafood.) Desiree warned me against writing this, but I’m a journalist. I’m sworn to truth. And the truth is, five minutes after sitting down, the interior reminded me of an upscale bathroom. A really, really nice one. Honestly, the combination of beautiful tile flooring, whitish walls, aquatic table decor, and the evening mood lighting gives off that vibe. Don’t get me wrong, I love bathrooms, so this is really a compliment to Spoon. And I’m pretty sure the restaurant looks completely different in the daylight.
The Bread Program: I’m a sucker for breadbaskets. It warms my heart. A bread man comes by with carbs and doles out whichever bread your heart desires. A little dish of sweet and salted butter arrives with it.
Le Menu: Tesar beasted Top Chef: Seattle‘s first episode with his ability to cook a mean halibut, so you can bet that Tesar is in his element at Spoon. The menu is full of creative appetizers like the raw uni with squid ink, chili oil, and shiso. Our waiter told us that the oyster and black truffle stew would be a solid choice, but we ended up choosing the diver scallop sofrito. Seared to a brown perfection, the scallop lies in a bed of leek purée hiding moist leek pieces inside. As for pastas, there are two: a squid ink pasta with little neck clams and baby squid, and a red wine poached octopus, trofie pasta with seafood marinara and bone marrow. Our bowl of squid ink pasta was outshone by the Kobe beef and yellowtail dish.That Kobe beef was, by far, the most tender piece I’ve ever had, and it came with scallion kimchee that had all the flavors, without the same kind of heat, as traditional Korean kimchee. (For my next visit, the roasted monkfish with turnips and carrots or the olive oil poached swordfish is on my to-order list.)
Joe Baker (or “Joe_theBaker,” as I refer to him) is the consulting pastry chef, and he has designed a black magic chocolate cardamom cake with feuillitine, cocoa nibs, and white chocolate ice cream that I was dying to try, but I went with our waiter’s suggestion, instead. He turned out to be right about the caramel pudding pavé that came with peanut butter streusel and bananas brûlée. The gingerbread roulade cake with vanilla goat cheese mousse was neither gingerbread nor goat cheese-heavy. Both elements balanced each other out, and certainly remind your taste buds of the upcoming holiday season.
John Tesar Taking Off His Glasses: If you tell Tesar that his glasses are amazing, he’ll take them off and let you hold them. They’re from indienation.com, in case anyone out there is wondering.
The After-Dinner Coffee: A waiter brings a French press to your table filled with Hawaiian Kona coffee, brown and white sugar cubes, a glass, and some cream. Stirring your coffee might actually be the first time you use a spoon during the entire meal. Oh, the irony. Little does your waiter know that he just made you want to stay at Spoon, sipping on that coffee, forever.
"My wife will kill me if I'm the last one in the carpool line," he says.
Below are excerpts from our interview.
Question: I read that your cookbook, Knife: Steakhouse Meals at Home, will be out in May. Who do you envision as your readers?
Answer: I want some of the book to be a textbook for cooks coming out of culinary school. And I want it to appeal to a broad enough audience. But I also want it to be a legitimate contribution to the culinary literature world. Josh [Ozersky, a food writer and founder of Grub Street] was supposed to write it, but he died. So Jordan Mackay wrote it, coming off the heels of Aaron Franklin's book [Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto]. To have Jordan was a gift. He's an amazing writer.
Question: The pre-order site for the book doesn't offer a sneak peak or a description of the book. What's your pitch for ordering it, sight unseen?
Answer: The message of the book is: We have reinvented the steakhouse. When you read the book and you eat [at Knife], you understand what I'm trying to do. It's not just throwing a steak on the grill. With a raised eyebrow, we [say], "Is this how you've been cooking before? Well, we'd like to show you a different way."
Celebrity Chef John Tesar’s Current Obsession: The Otto Grill
Chef John Tesar, steak expert and owner of Dallas restaurant Knife, is obsessed with the pricy Otto Grill.
I t takes real chutzpah for a New Yorker to tell Texans how to cook their beef, but Dallas chef and Manhattan native John Tesar has just done that and emerged as one of the country’s foremost steak experts.
As you might imagine, he’s not afraid of creating some controversy and his preferred technique of pan searing steaks is certainly one that is still being hotly debated by grillers around the country. But these days, if you go to his restaurant Knife you’ll find him testing out a new device to create a beautiful sear on his sirloins and rib eyes: the Otto Grill.
The compact German-made and propane-powered grill can heat up to 1500 ̊ Farenheit and has room for two thick steaks. (The Otto weighs just under 40 pounds and is designed to be used outside.) It heats up in 3 minutes and was initially funded by a Kickstarter fund that raised more than $350,000 in a month. Unlike traditional broilers, Otto’s heat source is mounted above the grate and cooks from the top down. Tesar heard about it from Nick Solares the host of The Meat Show. “This thing is unbelievable,” says Tesar. “It’s the perfect thing for the steak geek at home.”
He thinks it’s particularly important to use if you buy dry-aged steaks, since “there’s no water or blood left in them sometimes, so you need to sear it very quickly.”
So for the restaurant experience at home, he suggests skipping the grocery store and instead buying your meat from a butcher shop. Just season the steak with salt and pepper, which is what Tesar does at Knife. Then pop them into the Otto and turn them over just once.
While the grill is certainly easy enough for home cooks to use, the price tag is definitely professional grade: $1,200. While you could certainly get by using an old-fashioned pan (a method Tesar outlines in his acclaimed book, Knife: Texas Steakhouse Meals at Home), this “really bringing the steakhouse to your house.”
We caught up with Chef John Tesar at the 2019 South Beach Wine & Food Festival.