When news broke a while back that chef Junior Borges had exited his post at Uchi Dallas after receiving five stars and tons of other critical praise, we had lots of questions. And when we heard he would be taking a new post as executive chef at Matt McCallister's FT33, we had even more. So here are some of our questions, with answers from chefs Matt McCallister and Junior Borges.
What was it about Borges that made you want to snatch him up?
McCallister: Junior and I met when he first came to Dallas and we hit it off from the get-go. He is super talented and I didn’t want him to go anywhere he wasn’t able to showcase that.
What changes can FT33's diners expect to see in a Borges-run kitchen?
McCallister: We are always working on new ideas at FT33 and always evolving what we do. Collectively, Josh Sutcliff (my chef de cuisine) and I have been running some amazing food this whole time and with Junior on I expect it to only evolve even more with three brains involved. I’m really excited about all of us and collaborating.
Borges: I'm not trying or needing to change much. What the diners can expect is the continuing commitment to the food. We are working on evolving the tasting menus, to continue developing the food and push ourselves to even a higher level, while still creating a fun environment to be in.
Will there be a lot more fish on the menu at FT33 now?
McCallister: Probably not much more than we currently offer. We change the menu a lot. Sometimes it has more seafood and sometimes it doesn’t. ... It just depends on the season and what we are getting from our purveyors.
Borges: I love fish. We always have fish options at FT and we will continue to do that. We don't have limitations.
How would you describe Borges to folks who haven't met him?
McCallister: When I first met Junior we hit it off immediately. He is a creative person that is driven but fairly quiet and mainly focuses on what he can always do better. I have a similar focus. ... I couldn’t care less about what other people are doing in the food world in most respects. ... I just want to evolve on my own and always push myself.
How do your styles work together?
McCallister: We have very similar styles. … We are both interested in the same food for the most part, and I'm excited to learn from his perspective just as much as I hope he can learn from mine. We just like to make super tasty food that is presented well. … I think that with me, Josh and Junior ... the boundaries are endless in our approach to food.
Borges: We work very well together. Matt and I have similar backgrounds in food, and we share the same philosophy and approach. Our minds think alike, which is super exciting when we brainstorm about dishes and ideas.
Chef Borges, what have you learned working at Uchi that you'll bring with you to FT33?
Borges: Uchi is such a different operation. It was my first Asian restaurant. I got to work with certain ingredients that I usually don't work with and learn a lot, so now I have all of that in my bag of tricks.
What can Uchi fans expect to see from you now that you're over at FT33?
Borges: I feel more in my comfort zone and with the creative freedom to express myself.
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How would you describe McCallister to folks who haven't met him?
Borges: Talented, passionate chef and a nice guy with crazy ideas.
What drew you to FT33 and Matt McCallister and his team?
Borges: The passion for food. The commitment to continue pushing ourselves and helping each other along the way with no bullshit.
What are you most excited for people to taste once they come in?
Borges: I'm excited for the progression of the tasting menu and for people to try the food as a whole. I'm particularly excited to be able to play with cheese, bread and pasta, since I haven't been able to do that for a while.
Chef McCallister, now that you've got executive chefs in place at FT33 and Filament, what the heck are you going to do with yourself?
McCallister: Maybe go on vacation! Just kidding. I have a lot of work to do and this allows me to spend more time at both places. Between Cody, Joel and Josh at Filament and Junior, Josh and I at FT I feel like we can all grow and really expand our reach in the food scene here. I have some things I want to work on ... on the side ... mainly just take better care of myself. You can only burn the candle from both ends for so long, and I want to focus on a healthier me for the long term.