Scallop, Mire Poix, Furikake and Candied Thyme
Being a self-taught chef, when did you feel like you established your own cooking style?
When working under a chef, you are cooking their food. You can’t develop a style until you are in a position where you are allowed to cook your own food. My style is still in development and evolving, definitely. I have a lot of issues with chefs who do not change. [If you are skilled in] acclimating as a chef, you will continuously be at the forefront of things.
What was the first confirmed menu item for your Dallas restaurant, FT-33?
It was a dish that I developed when we planned to open FT-33 in the summer. The dish included pork, watermelon, caraway, and ramps, but we didn’t open until October. We finally put the dish on the menu the following summer, but by then I was over it.
When opening your restaurant, how did you go about finding and choosing local farmers and products?
I have been pretty big in the local movement for a long time, so I already had a long spread of farmers.
How do you promote and support staff development at FT-33?
I am a hard person to work for here. [I am] really particular and can have a temper; but normally I am pretty cool, just very demanding. Only a certain type of person can work for me. If you do not want to take pride in being a chef, opening a restaurant and doing it at a very high level, I will chew you up and spit you out. My kitchen staff is all in it and they are a bunch of bad asses. They still make mistakes, but they show themselves.
For one week in summer, we close the restaurant and I set my chefs up with other chefs to stage. Then they come back...sometimes. I was just in Chicago last week, and one of my previous chefs was the lead cook. I set him up and he has been there for a year and a half. I sent two other chefs to San Francisco and I was convinced they were not coming back, [but] they did. They enjoyed the experience, but they liked working in my kitchen. It’s hardcore. We have fun, but as I said, it’s demanding.
I am not satisfied with how I am as a chef; I am never satisfied. The day I am, I am going to quit because I will be over it. If you do not have what it takes, I’ll be over you and I’m done.
What do you think is the next worst food trend?
I don’t pay attention enough, but truffle oil should not be legal anywhere.
What are your "must have" items in your refrigerator?
Iced coffee, eggs, sometimes juice and beer. I infrequently cook at home since I live right by my restaurant. If I want to cook something, I’ll just go over to the restaurant and bring it home.
Do you have any new projects coming up?
I am opening a new restaurant this spring, Filament. It is s going to be more casual, very lax, and we are going to use ingredients from our region. People think it is a Southern restaurant because in the press release we said we would use Southern ingredients, but that does not classify the restaurant. We using ingredients from our region and we are NOT doing a Southern restaurant. It is a large space, [is] wine, cocktail and beer focused, and definitely will attract a younger crowd.
If you could choose one chef to cook for you (or to cook with) for your family and friends, who would it be?
By: Alex Pioggia