A certain '90s hip hop group comes to mind as Josh Farrell explains Nameless Chefs, a fluid, ambiguous collective of local chefs and cooks that, while underground, feels more like a super group. In keeping with their fluid mission, these chefs cook what they want, when they want, via a series of local pop-up dinners.
The diverse group comprises close to 10 members ranging from industry newbies to chefs who have worked the line in Michelin-starred restaurants, and it has one goal: serve great meals in unique environments. According to Farrell, who helped establish the group and is the sole full-time Nameless Chef, a passion for new and evolving experiences was an integral motivator.
“Nameless Chefs came from an idea that was born out of necessity to keep my sanity intact,” Farrell says. “After years of tirelessly working, putting my health, loved ones and family on the line all to support someone else’s dream — with no real catalyst of creativity — I couldn't do it anymore. I worked with some amazing people along the way, including Kent Rathbun, Jeff Moschetti and Bruno Davaillon. I have learned so much and am forever grateful, but as I started to sense that my friends and colleagues were having the same feelings I was experiencing, I felt like something had to be done.”
Farrell assembled a group of co-workers from the Mansion at Turtle Creek along with other culinary friends, but there was one problem: Living in the shadow of their employers, none of them could use their names to market the events. Rather than slink away from a challenge, the group adopted the moniker Nameless Chefs.
The initial group consisted of Farrell, Jeremy Hess (now sous chef at Pyramid Restaurant), Brian Kirksey (executive chef at Mercat Bistro), Patrick Rogers (a research chef for a Carrollton-based seasoning company), Jake Cobb (Cook II at the Front Room Tavern) and a couple of other still-under-the-radar associates. The group has since expanded to include the design and event talents of Z Gallerie’s Lacy Cook, the cooking skills of Pyramid Room’s Brenden Vaughn, the mixology mind of Hannah Mills (lead bartender at Blackfriar Pub) and the coffee smarts of Trio’s Carlos Palacio.
This group made its debut at Renfield’s Corner during its Tuesday game night, serving nostalgia-inspired tacos like the TV Dinner, a riff on Salisbury steak TV dinners, made with pomme puree, braised beef short rib, English peas and pickled carrots.
Realizing that there’s more to a dining experience than just food, the Nameless team tailors each event to the location and menu.
“Every event we have done so far has had its own unique qualities that will never be recreated,” Hess says.
The first iteration of the Renfield’s taco pop-up featured a '90s theme to match the classic video games featured there Tuesday nights. The team’s next pop-up — also tacos — took place during the peak of the Pokémon Go craze, something it took full advantage of by popping up at a PokeStop, dropping lures and, in a couple of cases, dressing up as Pokémon.
Most recently, Nameless Chefs put on a four-course dinner with a seasonal, spring-themed meal at Trio Craft Coffee in Flower Mound, a meal of simple yet highly refined dishes using local ingredients and playing with a coffee motif.
Although members have shed most of their anonymity, the group's name will stay; it intends to continue empowering culinary professionals who have not yet developed names for themselves within the industry.
“Nameless Chefs is a constantly evolving collective of people who have ideas or something to say through food, which would otherwise have no outlet or audience,” Hess says. “It is not so much the individuals that make it up as a platform provided to allow people the resources to pull off their vision. We really want Nameless Chefs to become a fully functioning platform with a reputation that allows individuals to work with us and have the resources available to give them a shot at their creative visions and a shot at getting their name out there.”
That opportunity to get their name out while working in someone else’s kitchen can be a rarity, and cooks often must wait until they obtain elusive chef jobs or are able to raise money to open their own places.
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“It was the way we could express ourselves without dealing with investors or ownership and the lack of funds as cooks,” says Kirksey, who sees other advantages in this model. “We can do more creatively with a new setting every time rather than having the limitations within a restaurant such as plates, seating, glassware, music and more.”
According to the Nameless Chefs, a variety of plans are on the table, including pop-ups in other cities, a centralized commissary-style kitchen and even forays into other industries, like art and fashion. And while some involved with the group may still aspire to one day have their own restaurants, don’t expect a Nameless Chefs brick-and-mortar anytime soon.
“The initial goal of the group was to be able to bring people in and eventually do events either based on their own menu or where they are an integral part of it all, so that when people come, it is them they see," Farrell says. "It’s their resume on a plate.
"So the end game of Nameless Chefs isn’t a Nameless Chefs restaurant. It’s more of a stepping stone for others. But I would love to see a restaurant come out of one of the chefs that do events with us. That would be amazing, and I would be absolutely honored to be any kind of a part of that.”