10 Questions: Dan Landsberg of Tillman's Roadhouse
After graduating from the California Culinary Academy, Landsberg cooked at restaurants in Sacramento and San Francisco. However, he became a star after moving to Dallas in 1996.
Working alongside David Holben and Gilbert Garza, he helped open Toscana. From there, he worked high end places like Seventeen Seventeen, the Atruim Cafe and hosting events for the Dallas Museum of Art. He even assisted Stephan Pyles' nationally recognized kitchen.
Pretty fancy digs and pretty big names, all of them. So why does he like hanging out in a roadhouse with a Shiner in hand...?
1. So what's a fine dining chef like you doing in a roadhouse? We are trying to carry on Ricky Tillman's tradition, that fine dining doesn't have to cost and arm and a leg. We want people to walk away thinking 'that was fun.'
2. Does the rise of Oak Cliff surprise you? I don't know if it's surprising. Neighborhoods go through cyclical periods--it was down and then it came back, and it's still on the rise. There's a lot of character here. And it's nice to see restaurants like Bolsa and Eno's.
3. You're one of the chefs who trained under David Holben... Before meeting him, I didn't know a lot about him. But he's the largest contributor to how I run a kitchen--even down to the wording on a menu. There are a lot of great chefs in Dallas, but he's quiet, steady and does it the right way. He's my mentor. I don't know why he hasn't received the media accolades of a Pyles or Fearing.
4. Are menus getting too wordy? You know, it's important to list the origin of ingredients if it's a specialty item. It helps add value--and at high end restaurants people expect to see it.
5. Is it hard to write a menu? I guess if you really love and understand the concept--you know what the public wants to see, but to make it your own it can be challenging. Tillman's Roadhouse is vernacular Texan, which opens the door for creativity. I haven't looked at writing a menu as a difficult thing. What do people like, what's fun and what won't they expect.
6. Do you ever stop learning as a chef? I haven't yet and I pray that I don't. The neat thing is the more people you work with, the more you learn from their experiences, from your sous chef to the dishwasher.
7. Anything you hate to eat? Oh, boy. You know, if it's prepared properly, I'm open for anything.
8. Even junk food? At home, we do a lot of grilling. I love making pizza dough--light up the fireplace, throw on a stone. We don't have a lot of convenience items. Chocolate ice cream, maybel
9. You must sneak into McDonald's once in awhile...I try not to. If I'm going for fast food, it's going to be Whataburger.
10. OK, roadhouse chef, how about cheap beer? Shiner. Oh yeah. I took me 25 years to taste my first--because I didn't move here until I was 25--but that's what's in my fridge at home.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.