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John Tesar, who just celebrated his 62nd birthday, is making a move to partner with the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando.EXPAND
John Tesar, who just celebrated his 62nd birthday, is making a move to partner with the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando.
Kathy Tran

John Tesar’s Next Move Is a Restaurant in Orlando’s Ritz-Carlton

Still to this day, a mention of John Tesar can resurrect the D Mag article that called him the “Most Hated Chef in Dallas.”

That allegedly most hated chef is also one who's been able to open restaurants and make a living. We're not denying one never closed, but he's had success, and Knife does have some of the best steak in town.

But we're not here to talk about Knife's steak, we're here to talk Orlando — and the Ritz-Carlton.

Tesar is opening Knife and Spoon, a steak and seafood restaurant, in the space formerly home to Norman's, at the Central Florida hotel. While a release mentions the “spoon” part of the name “is a reference to the spoon-shaped fishing lure, a nod to the seafood side of the menu,” we in Dallas see nods to two of Tesar's restaurants.

The space looks fairly large, seating 130 people. A later phase could include an exterior patio.

“If you told me 20 years ago I would have one of these opportunities, I would’ve fainted,” says Tesar, 62. “Now I'm trying to wrap my head around how I have these opportunities and why.”

Getting this gig at the Ritz is no small feat — look at Dean Fearing at the high-end chain's Dallas hotel.

“I don't have a big company or a team around me, it's me trying to make this happen,” he says.

Knife and Spoon will have handmade pastas, steak and fish — it will be aimed at pleasing the hotel guest, Tesar says.

“I'm still processing this: how I struggled most of my life; people always have something to say about what I'm doing,” he says. “I can make food taste good, and now it's happening to where I can’t even believe it's happening.”

Tesar has been, dare we say, divisive. But it appears that even beyond steak, he's doing something right.

“I watch people paying attention to the wrong things ... I am an anomaly in that I'm still very youthful and still very hungry, and not hungry for attention or adulation. I'm here to create a good restaurant because I go to so many bad ones,” he says. “The consumer should be the first one to appreciate what I’m trying to do.”

Now, we wait to see what else Tesar, hated or not, is up to next.

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