John Tesar Is Closing Spoon, and Opening Another Utensil-Themed Restaurant

John Tesar, plotting his next big move.
John Tesar, plotting his next big move.
Catherine Downes

2014 was a banner year for Chef John Tesar. He's battled his way back from being the designated "most hated chef in Dallas" to running one of the city's hottest restaurants, his modern steakhouse, Knife. Before Knife opened, though, Tesar had been operating Spoon, a high-end and critically lauded seafood restaurant in Preston Center.

Yesterday, SideDish reported that Spoon would shutter after a final dinner service tonight. Tesar owned the seafood spot with Chanticleer Holdings, a management group that purchased the restaurant from its former owner earlier this year. According to SideDish, the split with Chanticleer was "amicable," and that he was excited to strike out with his own company and future ventures.

When reached for comment, Tesar assured us that Spoon did not close because it was struggling financially. "It's not because Spoon wasn't liked, people loved it," he said when reached by phone yesterday. "Business did dip a bit in the second year, but it wasn't enough to put the restaurant in peril." Tesar attributes the second-year slump to the restaurant's location. "The check average means that Spoon needs to be in a different setting."

The setting that Tesar has planned for Spoon's reopening in 2016 is a yet-unnamed hotel. The space that he hopes to set up is currently occupied by another hotel restaurant, and the location will likely not be announced until early 2015. In the meantime, though, Tesar will be extremely busy preparing for his Italian restaurant, the suitably named Fork, scheduled to open in 2015.

Earlier this year, media outlets reported that Tesar's Italian concept would be called Gravy, a tribute to the East Coast colloquialism for the stuff that the rest of us call "spaghetti sauce." Outside of Fork being the logical conclusion to his utensil trifecta, Tesar realized that Gravy might not make sense in a city where most people consider "gravy" to be the creamy white stuff served on top of chicken fried steak.

"I would love to call the restaurant Gravy just because I think it's the coolest name ever, but that would only work in a place like Brooklyn or The Bronx," says Tesar. "Then people kept telling me that after having Spoon and Knife, it would be stupid to not do Fork. I don't always listen to people, but this is one instance where I thought it would be best."

In Fork, Tesar has high hopes. The in-the-works restaurant will be an epic 4,000 square feet with an extensive wine bar, wood-fired grill, and varied menu that highlights pasta, wood-grilled fish and meats, "We want it to be very social dining, like something you'd find in Abruzzio or Tuscany. I don't think that exists here," he says. "We want it to be a statement - a real legitimate Italian restaurant in Dallas."

As for Fork's location, Tesar is close to inking a deal in the Dallas Design District, a veritable hot-spot for new restaurant openings. The restaurant is scheduled to open in April or May of 2015, with construction on the spot starting "as soon as possible."

The closing and new opening comes at an optimal time for Tesar, who is finally hitting his stride at Knife after being open nearly a year. Tesar feels comfortable leaving the reins to his beloved steakhouse over to his chef de cuisine. He's still in the restaurant overseeing purchasing decisions and making sure that the kitchen runs smoothly, but notes that Fork will be his next really hands-on project.

But that doesn't mean that the always on-the-go Tesar isn't planning to keep busy. In the meantime, while trying to get this new restaurant up-and-running, Tesar's schedule is only going to get busier. He's got a top-secret television pilot in the works, and just inked a lucrative book deal with a major publisher. Still, the lifelong chef looks forward to getting back into the kitchen and doing Italian his way at Fork.

Tesar alluded that the announcement for the opening of Fork and re-opening of Spoon would be coming sooner rather than later, so we'll keep you posted on all the crazy projects that Chef John Tesar has going on in 2015. If you want to dine at Spoon's last service, you might want to get your reservation in quickly -- we can imagine that tables are filling up quickly.

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