What was once the home of an auto repair shop on the corner of Garland Road and Lakeland Drive is now a shiny new restaurant where chef David Gauthier is aiming to give East Dallas another destination for smoked meats.
On a recent afternoon, everyone left sincerely raving about their meals. Most of the tables were full at nearly 3 p.m. the day after Christmas.
“I don’t think the neighborhood knew what to expect from us; I think now they’re excited,” Gauthier, 40, says. “The more the neighborhood comes in, they’ll say, ‘OK, this is exciting.’ The food, the atmosphere, I feel is really great here.”
Large windows let light into dining spaces that are simply designed with wood and clean lines — “rustic,” as Gauthier calls it.
The restaurant features a smoked meats menu, with expected items such as brisket, chicken and pulled pork. (Thankfully, there is a beef rib on occasion, though it’s not listed on the menu.)
“At night we do more chef-inspired dishes, more composed dishes. A lot of stuff at night comes off the smoker, inspired by a lot of that heavy smoke, then I add smooth mashed potatoes and a demi-glace, then we have this nice dish,” Gauthier says.
One of his favorites on the menu right now is the beef shoulder, which comes with Parmesan mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and a Dr Pepper demi-glace.
“That’s the thing, too, learning my surroundings; understanding what is part of the history and culture, like Dr Pepper. I didn’t know that until I started researching,” he says.
The owners of Smoky Rose approached Gauthier when he was working as an executive chef in Chattanooga.
“It’s nerve-racking, amazing, that they actually invited me to come out here from Chattanooga,” he says. “To me, that doesn’t happen too often to someone, so I feel special, I feel nervous, I feel pressure, I don’t feel pressure. There are a bunch of emotions, and they’re all positive,” he says. “Being nervous makes me better. It’s all such a great thing.”
The big difference between the food here and there: “That’s smoke."
“Not too many people in Chattanooga have big smokers,” he says. “There, it’s just kind of grilled and sliced on the plate. Here, I get to experiment with smoke; that’s kind of the difference — big, bold spice.”
He will respond if you call him “Chef” and probably “David,” but Gauthier has another name he’s commonly called: Spoon.
“When I was a cook in the Army, that’s what they called cooks, ‘Spoon.’ I thought that was a pretty fun name,” he says. “People would ask my name, and I would say ‘Spoon,’ and I just kept that. My mom calls me Spoon sometimes, the only time they call me David is if I’m in trouble.”
Gauthier explains he learned a lot about cooking mass quantities when he was in the Army from 1994 to 1997; and in 2000, he used his GI Bill and went to Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Oregon. But he had plenty of skills in the kitchen before all of that.
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“I grew up in an Italian family that was always in the kitchen cooking,” he says. “I got my core love of food from my grandmother and my mother. They showed me the ropes: how to hold a knife, how to season correctly, how to make meatballs, all those kinds of fun things.
“When I was younger, I was either going to be a cop or a cook, and I took the chef side,” he says. “I just like to be in the kitchen. I love having a knife in my hand, I love chopping, I love all that stuff. I don’t want to lose all the skills. I want to be in the kitchen as much as possible.
“To me,” he says, “it’s not a job. It’s what I do.”
Smoky Rose, 8602 Garland Road