Food News

Is Dallas a Michelin Star-Worthy City? We Asked Michelin-Star Chefs

Kathy Tran
John Tesar in the dry-aging room at Knife in Dallas.
A few weeks ago, @Dallasguy2 on Twitter posed a question:
Q: When are we going to be the first city/metro in Texas to get a Michelin star? What needs to happen?
Good question. While Dallas has Michelin-starred chefs — two, to be exact — those awards were given to restaurants in other states, never here. The chefs work here now or also have restaurants here.

Michelin guides are only produced for certain cities in the U.S., and none of them are in Texas. Since there aren't guides here, there aren't stars directing hungry travelers to wonderful restaurants.

The Michelin restaurant guide was first published by Andre and Edouard Michelin in 1889 in France to encourage drivers to burn rubber from town to town — eating their weight in fromage — thus wearing down the tread of their eponymous tires.

The gastronomic guide only landed in North America in 2006, with New York City. Since then it's expanded to the Bay Area, Los Angeles County, Las Vegas and Chicago. And then in 2022, Miami, Orlando and Tampa were added, as well as Toronto.

For Dallas, the exalted designation of a Michelin-starred restaurant now comes by proxy. Last week, longtime Dallas chef John Tesar received one Michelin star for his restaurant Knife & Spoon in Orlando, Florida. And, yes, we had Knife first. So, this doesn't seem fair at all.

For a bit of background on our newly minted Michelin-starred chef, after a culinary school in Paris, Tesar cooked in top restaurants in New York City and Las Vegas. He even spent some time alongside Anthony Bourdain. Tesar came to Dallas in 2006 by way of the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek.

Jump ahead to 2014, and the four-time James Beard "Best Southwest Chef" semifinalist opened Knife inside The Highland Dallas hotel and expanded to Plano a few years later. Spoon was a seafood concept that Tesar ran quite successfully for a couple of years but closed in 2014 as other things were taking off. He appeared on Top Chef twice, seasons 10 and 14. He also has one of the best burgers in the city called The Ozersky.

"There is a star in everyone, you just have to find it." - chef John Tesar

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Knife has a trophy case full of ribbons and awards including many best steakhouse accolades from this publication and others locally. Esquire named Knife the "Best New Restaurant" in 2014, and it was also on Zagat's "Hottest New Restaurants" list. Further, Esquire anointed Knife as one of "The 40 Most Important Restaurants of the Decade" for the 2010s.

So, a Michelin star? Sounds like Knife would be on a shortlist. Only not in Texas. Tesar had to take his concept to the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando, which he did in 2020. Two years later, Orlando gets a Michelin guide.

At a ceremony on June 9, Tesar's Knife and Spoon made the inaugural list of Michelin-starred restaurants in Florida. From the guide:

"Care and skill are the hallmarks of this team, as they turn out contemporary steakhouse fare woven with seafood. ... The dry-aged steaks are big and beautiful, and sides are attention-grabbing, evidenced by the house-made pasta in the luscious mac and cheese."

“It's truly an honor and a dream come true," Tesar said via email the next morning. "I feel like this is not only a tribute to my amazing staff but it's also for everyone I have ever worked with, and for all chefs who never get the recognition they deserve. There is a star in everyone, you just have to find it."

When asked what it might take for Texas to get a guide for our vast state — both in terms of geography and cuisine — Tesar says the major cities will need to work together, "If Texas can come together, Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio, I truly believe anything is possible when it comes to Michelin.”

To gain a Michelin star, restaurants must excel in five areas: quality products, mastery of flavor and cooking techniques, personality of the chef in the cuisine, value for money and consistency. These are assessed by several anonymous inspectors over multiple visits.

We reached out to another longtime Dallas chef who previously held the title as the only chef in Dallas with a Michelin star, Bruno Davaillon. He recently relaunched Up on Knox to what is now Knox Bistro, his vision for causal, elegant French cuisine derived from his roots in France's Loire Valley.

"I think Dallas came a long way as a potential Michelin guide city," Davaillon said in an email. "I have seen a lot of improvement and diversity in our Dallas restaurants over the past 10 years, and the talent is increasing immensely."

Davaillon says he could see a few restaurants in Dallas getting one star, and more in the Bib Gourmand category, which rewards great food with great value.

In terms of Texas' full potential, he says Dallas is still a little bit behind Austin and Houston as far as a concentration of high-caliber Michelin-worthy restaurants, "but we are definitely improving immensely as a city and quickly becoming a culinary destination."

Davaillon guesses that Texas is probably up next on Michelin's radar. "We have some of the largest growing and heavily populated cities in the U.S., all with a reputation as great dining destinations. Houston is a big market for dining and hospitality, as well as Austin, and now I think Dallas is reaching that way, as well."

In an interview last year with Forbes about Miami joining the Michelin club, food blogger David Rosendorf, made a point that being in the guide isn't necessarily reflective all the nuances of a local culinary scene.

“While it's great for Florida to have the attention of the Michelin Man, it should also be noted that The Guide favors a particular type of Euro-centric, fussy, expensive restaurant that does not necessarily reflect the culinary zeitgeist of a city like Miami,” Rosendorf said.