His name is synonymous with "tasting menu" in Dallas, thanks to his work with Lola's Tasting Room.
He runs the main kitchen, as well. But the 10-course tasting ranks as one of the most impressive, spellbinding experiences in the city--at least as far as cooking goes. Uygur's emphasis on seasonal ingredients made him an obvious choice to represent the city at Terra Madre, the biennial gathering of World Food Communities, in 2006.
Trained in Austin, the highly respected chef worked fine dining restaurants in Portland and Atlanta. He returned to Texas in 2001 as sous chef at the Uptown destination, taking over the tasting menu two years later.
Yep, a lifetime in fine dining kitchens. But when he decides to make a good old redneck dish like pork cracklings, watch out...
1. Anyone ever have trouble pronouncing your name?
Of course. It's not as difficult as it looks, though.
2. Why do a tasting menu?
Honestly, for me, tasting menus are the most fun way to try a bunch of different things--rather than sit there with one entree. It's like when you go to a sushi restaurant, you want to try different things. But we present it in an organized way.
3. Is it difficult running two kitchens?
No. They're side by side. I can literally step between them. And I have a good staff.
4. Most places don't make you cook globally, they have a theme...
I kinda just try to be seasonally-based and as local as possible. My tendency is French and Italian, though.
5. Which is your favorite?
Between French and Italian? That's tough.
6. How about wine?
For whites, definitely the French. That's a no-brainer. But I really like my northern Italian reds. Italian wines are almost infinite in their variety. Every once in awhile a tiny variety will pop up from some village of 200 people, where its the only place the wine is made. It's great.
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7. You've had cracklings on the menu before. Why?
It's almost as close to culinary magic as possible. You take pork skin, preferably from the belly, scrape it, boil it and boil it until it's so tender you can put your finger through it. Then dry it in an oven on off for one day, two days, until it's hard like plastic. You can cut yourself on it. It doesn't resemble anything you'd call food. Then you cut it up and when you cook it a second time, it grows. And it's neat to get people in a fine dining restaurant to eat with their hands.
8. When you're done with all that, do you have a favorite junk food?
I'm not a fast food guy. But chips and salsa I can eat, even when I'm not hungry. I can go through a whole jar of salsa.
9. What's your favorite store brand?
It's a rectangular jar--fat, short jar. I just don't remember the name of it right now.
10. Who's going to win the national championship [men's basketball]?
Carolina. I know everybody and their dog is picking Carolina, but are you kidding? I've heard some talk about Villanova, but it's Carolina.