If you didn't know, being asked to cook at the James Beard House is a really, really big deal. As ground zero for the country's most prestigious culinary awards, each chef that makes the trip to New York City to cook dinner at the Beard House is vying to be named one of the best in America. Over the past few weeks, some of Dallas' best and brightest have made a case for Dallas' culinary revolution in this hallowed kitchen.
Two weeks ago, John Tesar was in New York cooking a course for a charcuterie-centric dinner alongside chefs from restaurants across the country. In homage to the theme, Tesar served a 150-day dry aged 44 Farms ribeye with truffled mashed potato and sturgeon chiccharones, was celebratory for more reasons than just its flavors. With this dish, Tesar marked his tenth appearance at the James Beard House, more than any other chef, according to John Tesar.
Then last week, Hibiscus' Graham Dodds made the trek for his own time in the spotlight, with his trusty kitchen team and locally-raised goats in tow. The theme of Dodds' dinner was "Texas Heritage Meats Celebration," a constant that you'll find in his menus at Hibiscus. Dodds is one of the city's most particular chefs when it comes to food sourcing, and is known for menus that showcases wild game and other less-than-conventional proteins.
To show off with the wares of Dallas' local farmers, Dodds brought cabrito from Windy Hill Farms, and served it with purple potato and Texas honeycomb. Winnsborow's Falster Farms provided porcetta, and New Frontier Farms' rabbit pate was served with chef de cuisine Nick Ocando's rainbow-reminiscent display of housemade pickles. Dodds' throwbacks to his British heritage, including mincemeat pie, were likely well-received by his mother, who was also in attendance. Because of course you attend your son's first dinner at the James Beard House.
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Though these dinners can help chefs put their cuisine in the sights of national tastemakers, they do not influence the actual James Beard Awards. Dallas has no shortage of James Beard semifinalists, but winners are fewer and further between. Veterans like Dean Fearing and Tim Byres have earned the coveted award, but Dallas' hungriest young chefs are still in the hunt, including Tesar and Graham Dodds. If anything could butter up the judges, though, it'd be Tesar's dry-aged steaks and Dodds' perfect pate.