10 Questions: Sam Dickey
In two decades of cooking, he's handled everything from seafood to southwestern, including some time spent running a bakery. He's also worked in kitchens in San Antonio, Austin, Houston--at Cafe Annie, no less--and Dallas.
Now he owns Lower Greenville's recently opened Zymology, a place for small bites, unusual wines and craft beers, leading a ripple of new restaurants popping up in the city's bar district.
Being a chef runs in the family, sort of. You'll find his brother, Garreth, at Hibiscus. But as kids their father--a disaster relief specialist--dragged them to Africa, South America, Bangladesh or wherever there was trouble in the world.
So nothing bothers him--not competition, not opening a new concept, nothing...well, except maybe for that bag of licorice he just ate...
1. You're introducing wine into a beer drinking area. How's that going?
Some of the beers we're bringing in aren't familiar to people, either. The wine sales are coming along, slowly.
2. You're brother is at Hibiscus. Any competition?
He was so helpful when I started working on this. We went over menu items together. He's excited for me, but there's always a twinge of jealousy between us--the 'hey, I wanna do that' thing.
3. He went into food service first. Why the hell would you follow?
Actually, he was 19 waiting tables at a restaurant in San Antonio. I needed a job, and they put me in the pantry--at 16. So I was in the kitchen first. Then he was fired--the couple who owned the place were going through a divorce--and the husband hired him for the kitchen, out of spite. So within a few months, we were cooking together.
4. Do you think the small bites concept is catching on?
I think it is. It's more of a casual atmosphere and bar food that people enjoy. People will come in and order several things for the table. They share.
5. It requires a little more creativity on your part, though.
It does. I've been cooking for 22 years. And for years it was the starch, sauce, steak, fish--a menu formula. So I've been playing around with the concept. I love the steakhouse idea of sides that you share.
6. Lower Greenville is changing--are you happy with the area?
I'm excited about the prospect. It's going slower than I'd like, but we wanted to be the first ones in. And I'm excited about the idea of cool and funky restaurants coming in.
7. Are chefs ever happy with slow growth?
[Laughs] Definitely not.
8. What's your favorite guilty pleasure?
I just finished a bag of licorice. It's pitiful, man--about half a pound. My stomach is aching.
9. Is there a mass produced American beer you drink?
Wow, I guess Sierra Nevada wouldn't count as mass produced. Rolling Rock? No? I guess it would be Bud. It's consistent and it's good after mowing the lawn.
10. Ever get a chance to kick back and watch TV?
On occasion. But I'm out of the loop on prime time shows. People come in talking about this show or that--The Office, I've never seen the office. I'm usually watching early morning detective shows. This morning it was Cold Case Files.
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