10 Questions: Samir Dhurandhar

Nick & Sam's celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Ten years of prime beef, pan-seared foie gras and such, all cooked under the direction of an Indian chef.

Dhurandhar has been cooking pretty much all his life. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and apprenticed in New York before Phil Romano and Joe Palladino nabbed him to open their Dallas steakhouse.

This winter, Dhurandhar helped opened the downscaled off-shoot, Nick & Sam's Grill. The popular new place gives him the opportunity to mess around with sandwiches, chips and diner fare.

But don't ask, as one guy did, for a plate of Rocky Mountain oysters...

1. Parents say the second baby is easier than the first. Is it the same with restaurants?
No, no--not at all. Each one gets harder and harder. And with this one, we were going for a totally different clientele, too.

2. But is it nice getting away from steak once in awhile?
The development was great, working with new recipes. Joe Palladino presented a clear idea of the concept. It was a great challenge to do simple and inexpensive dishes, with the emphasis on 'great.'

3. That location has been through a lot. Are there really jinxed locations?
I don't know. This is the first place I've opened that they say was jinxed. I don't know. Taking care of the customer is the biggest thing. Do that and you'll be successful.

4. Do you get days off?
I try to take two. It's hard, though. I go to work at 6:30 in the morning and come home at 11 at night. I have two kids and my wife--so I try to take Sunday and Monday off. The key is to have good people and I can trust the restaurant to them--I think. No, really I have good people.

5. You've dealt with steak for years. Is there anything else you'd like to cook?
I love cooking Indian food. I cook it at home. On my day off I'm always at Asian markets.

6. You cook at home?
I do, when she asks. If I have friends over, I'll cook the whole meal. But most of the time, no.

7. What's the strangest request a restaurant guest has made?
I've had people ask for all kinds of food. I've done brains and other things. Someone asked for Rocky Mountain oysters once. I don't know how to play with them--oh, I shouldn't say it like that. I don't know the first thing about cooking them. One day I'll figure it out.

8. Do you keep a clean shirt for the front of the house?
I do. I have one in the car, everyday. I put it on about 5:30.

9. You don't keep it on around those steak ovens, do you?
I gets really hot. But, as you see by my weight, I haven't spent a lot of time in front of the broiler. You can lose a lot of weight. My guys were pretty big, but they've been with me for seven or eight years. They look good, now.

10. If you weren't a chef...?
I have no idea. I used to cook with my mom. That's all I've known. I don't know what I'd do, but I'd be miserable.

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Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries