‘It’s Nice to See a Hungry City’ — A New-to-Dallas Chef Weighs In on the City's Dining Scene

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Throughout his formative years when David Fingerman was trying to decide what to do with his life, there was always one constant: cooking.

He went to college and hated it, dropping out after one year. Then he decided to pursue photography. But that didn’t last long, either.

“The whole time I was cooking,” says the 28-year-old chef.

Now, he’s the new executive chef at Madrina, a restaurant in Highland Park famous for its “French-Mex” cuisine. Fingerman started cooking at age 14, helping his mom and working in some local restaurants in his hometown of Chicago. He never really stopped. 

He’s been at Madrina since June 10 after a stint as the executive chef of Graham Elliot Bistro in Chicago. While he adjusts to the never-comfortable Texas summer, he’s also adjusting to a new food scene, too.

“I think Dallas seems to be really eager in the food scene,” he says. “People are getting excited, and it still has room to grow; it’s expanding. It’s nice to see a hungry city. In Chicago, there are a whole bunch of restaurants that are already established.”

Chicago is world-famous for its restaurant scene, but in Fingerman’s point of view, the market is “oversaturated.”

“They’re opening restaurants just to open restaurants. … I think in Chicago for every restaurant that closes, there are like three restaurants that open,” he says. “I love Chicago … but I think that there is more room in Dallas to open more and to do fun things. And Chicago has definitely been one of those places that people already associate with food; and it’s nice to see a city that people don’t blatantly associate with food strive to be one of those cities.

“I think we’re on our way,” Fingerman says. 

Fingerman aimed to move to Dallas with his fiancé, who’s from Texas. He found out about Madrina’s opening, went through the normal hiring process and both sides felt like it was the right fit, he says.

“We’ve changed some of the menu already, but I kind of simplified some things in the sense that I want to make sure that everybody is able to cook at their best level,” he says. “So my first focus is that we’re all cooking the best quality of food that we can. The French-Mexican thing is a lot of fun. I’d like to start doing more tastings, more wine dinners and whatnot, and I think it’s in the future. We just have to make sure we’re physically able to do so.”

“There’s no point in cooking,” Fingerman says, “if no one’s going to come and eat.”

Madrina, 4216 Oak Lawn Ave.

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