John Tesar Is Reportedly Replacing Brian Zenner at Oak, Which Is Weird

John Tesar Is Reportedly Replacing Brian Zenner at Oak, Which Is Weird
Catherine Downes

Update: This may not be true! But it also may be!

Original post: In this week's "WTF" news, Chef John Tesar may have an interesting new job. Just weeks after it was announced that Tesar would be opening an Italian concept called Fork and shuttering his seafood restaurant Spoon, Leslie Brenner reported late last night that he would be replacing Chef Brian Zenner at Oak, the four-star Aphelia Restaurant Group spot in the Design District.

According to Brenner's after-midnight post, Zenner put in his notice at Oak last week, with intentions to join Adam Salazar and Chris Beardon in opening two gastropub concepts later this year. Zenner earned rave reviews as executive chef at Oak, including a four-star review from Brenner, but said that he was moving on due to "a great opportunity to work with some great people and do some interesting, imaginative things."

The concepts that Zenner will work with, Deep Ellum's On Premise and Downtown's The Mitchell, have been in the works for some time. It was announced late last year that Asian bistro Lemongrass would be closing to make way for On Premise, described at the time as a "bar with great food." The Mitchell has been planning to open in the old Chesterfield space since at least last October.

Zenner's involvement in each kitchen's day-to-day operations is yet to be sorted out, but Brenner confirmed that John Tesar would be working at Oak in some capacity on an as-yet-unnamed date. Oak co-owner Richard Ellman told Brenner via the restaurant's publicist that the food would be "Spoon meets The Mansion." With any luck, Tesar will resurrect some of the seafood dishes that made Spoon one of the best restaurants in the city.

Undoubtedly, Zenner will be successful in whatever culinary paths he takes, but the move is an interesting one for Tesar. Tesar has worked as a chef-owner in his last two restaurants, but there are no details at present about how exactly he will be involved at Oak. Tesar is known for frequently cooking on the line at his restaurants, and it will be interesting to see how the chef will juggle his responsibilities at a time when his life is the craziest it has been since his time in the Hamptons.

As we reported last year, Tesar currently has a reality television show in the works, travels around the country participating in food festivals and events, and is also involved in several restaurant development projects across the country. He has also promised to reopen Spoon (even if in another city) and will continue to oversee operations at Knife. It's always been clear that Tesar is a workaholic, especially when his restaurants are doing well, but this may be a whole 'nother level of stretching himself thin.

More details will surely emerge in the coming days, and Tesar has still not offered any public comment. We've reached out to Tesar for comment, and will keep you posted as this story develops.

UPDATE: Via Twitter, John Tesar is disputing Brenner's reporting, specifically the assertion that he will step into the executive chef role.


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