Part 2: Second Floor Chef J. Chastain is So Over Steakhouses

In part two of our three-part series, we lob a few questions at Second Floor chef J. Chastain.

CoA: What is your favorite Dallas restaurant? Chastain: I can't pick just one but I mainly enjoy restaurants that are chef-driven, highly creative but maintain a casual atmosphere.

CoA: What is your most over rated food genre? Chastain: Steakhouses. The more that pop up in Dallas the more I realize lots of them don't really show any kind of creativity. Every restaurant sells a steak, many of decent quality. However, when everything is a la carte, it doesn't showcase the chef's talent for creating a dish. Every place has basically the same staple menu. I see new steakhouses start up a lot and it is a hit for a year, but sooner or later people always go back to the big-name steakhouses in town that have been around for decades.

CoA: Who is your mentor and why? Chastain: Dan Landsberg, executive chef Tillman's Roadhouse. He taught me about respecting your employees and getting the most out of them without beating them over the head with a frying pan.

CoA: What would you pitch to the Food Network? Chastain: The story of the struggle to be a chef. A real-life adventure on what kids have to go through to make it in the industry. Going to culinary school, working under unrelenting chefs, pulling crazy amounts of hours, getting paid minimum wage for very hard demanding work. I think it could be very entertaining as well as give people a good look into the industry.

CoA: What is your current favorite ingredient? Chastain: I always focus on heirloom tomatoes in this time of the summer. It doesn't matter what else is going on. They find their way into lots of my dishes.

CoA: What has been the oddest customer request? Chastain: I had a customer say they were allergic to salt.

CoA: What is your favorite cocktail and who makes it for you? Chastain: Chimay Red -- beer -- on the porch of the Black Friars Pub and Tullamore Dew on the rocks [at the] Londoner.

CoA: What is your favorite music to cook by? Chastain: '80s rock - AC/DC, Poison, Aerosmith, anything with a hard base line.

CoA: What is your food trend prediction? Chastain: I think Dallas is moving away from fine dining and spending their money in restaurants that offer a casual feel but still great inspired chef-driven food.

CoA: Who is the Dallas rising young chef to watch for? Chastain: Matt McCallister at Stephan Pyles. I have met few people in my life that have such a passion for knowledge and who are so dedicated to the craft.

CoA: What is the worst dish you ever ate? Chastain: I hire a majority of culinary students in my restaurants. They usually come with a lot of eagerness to learn and don't have the bad habits of a seasoned line cook. However, every once in a while you get one that thinks they are ready to create the next greatest dish all on their own. I have been brought some dishes to try by my staff that make my stomach curl (raw potato salad, soups made with plum sauce instead of plum tomatoes, pizza's that have so many ingredients on them I think I need gastric bypass just for looking at it, etc.)

Second Floor Westin Galleria 13340 Dallas Parkway 972-450-2978

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