10 Questions: Kelly Hightower

Chances are you've tried and loved his cooking, even if you haven't been to his Oak Cliff restaurant, Kavala Mediterranean Grill,

You see, HIghtower has perhaps the perfect Dallas resume--at least as far as chefs are concerned. He spent a few years cooking for Stephan Pyles at AquaKnox, did a stint at The Mansion, handled chores at Tei Tei Robata Bar, ran things at Ziziki's and Hattie's--and that's the short list.

Kavala allowed him to move home. He grew up in Oak Cliff and started cooking in 1981, slinging eggs before school for the Steven's Park golf course. Despite his love of the 'hood, he still finds the non-OC Winedale Tavern indespensible, at certain hours of the morning...


1. So how does someone named Hightower learn Greek cooking? A lot of hard work and brown nosing a bunch of Greeks. I learned a lot at Ziziki's, but I brown nosed. Greeks don't give up their secrets easily.

2. Can you pronounce spanikopita? It just rolls off the tongue now.

3. What's the most difficult Greek dish to cook? You know, I haven't found any that is off-the-charts hard. But the casserole dishes demand the right seasoning and require a lot of patience. So they're not difficult, but they require time and detail.

4. Olives--Spanish, Greek or Italian? I love Spanish olives. I don't know what it is--the rich oils? The Greeks are so proud of their olives, but...

5. What is the draw of Oak Cliff? Well, I think it's like Deep Ellum used to be, back in the day. There's a little aura of danger right now and a lot of good restaurants.

6. Do you have a favorite restaurant? I do. I love Bolsa and Hattie's and La Calle Doce. Those would be the top three.

7. Is there a 'must visit' place in Dallas? The WInedale Tavern at 7 a.m. It is ugly.

8. What do chefs do for fun? I consider trying new food fun. So I go to Manhattan and do a whirlwind tour--nine restaurants in a weekend, which is about all I can afford--and eat my brains out.

9. Do you like ownership? No. Being a chef, you are cooking or overseeing the cooking. Now it's 25 percent of the job. The other 75 percent isn't much fun.

10. If you weren't a chef...? Oh, God. I don't know. That's the toughest question, 'cause I don't want to be anything else. I guess, if I could go back in time, I'd love to be a farmer.


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