When you think about the word "power," a lot of things come to mind. Some of us imagine a tough, take-no-shit type of personality, and others recognize the influence and, well, power of a quieter, gentler rule. In Dallas' dining scene, we have a blend of those personalities when it comes to the people who make the decisions about the city's new restaurants.
Outside of the chefs, of which there are a few on this list, it is largely the investors, owners, and behind-the-scenes types who drive the dining scene forward. These players wield influence in their own ways, but they have all made their mark on a restaurant scene that is seeing more growth and innovation than ever.
Phil Romano (above) After his massive success in chain restaurants, including Fuddrucker's and Romano's Macaroni Grill, veteran restaurateur Phil Romano has moved on to incubating some of the city's most exciting new restaurants at Trinity Groves. His "restaurant amusement park" south of the Margaret Hunt Hill was easily the most buzzed about restaurant topic in 2014, and had everyone from chefs to diners trying to figure out what was going to happen next, or if the development is as good as it seems for chefs. Ever the savvy businessman, Romano maintains a stake in the Trinity Groves concepts if they take off, which means that he will continue to play a huge role in the future growth of the restaurant scene.
Shannon Wynne The ways that Shannon Wynne has shaped the Dallas restaurant scene cannot be underestimated. Instead of focusing on stuffy fine-dining restaurants, Wynne practically launched the gastropub trend in Dallas with Meddlesome Moth. Even his Flying Saucer Draught Emporiums were before their time, and have since taken off to open in six states. In recent years, Wynne has dipped his toe into fine-dining, opening the much-lauded LARK on the Park in 2013, along with the forthcoming produce-focused restaurant Mudhen at the improved Dallas Farmers Market.
Tim Headington Tim Headington has influenced the oil and film industries for decades, but his reign in the Dallas dining scene has only begun. His boutique hotels, The Joule and The Lumen, are home to some of Dallas' most promising restaurants in CBD Provisions and Front Room Tavern, and there are more to come. It's clear Headington has an eye for talent and prime real estate, a talent that will only drive Headington Companies further in control of Dallas' dining scene.
Lindsey Miller Public relations pros don't get much credit when it comes to the success of restaurants, but there are many in Dallas that owe their packed houses to the work of great PR. In Dallas, Lindsey Miller of Lindsey Miller Public Relations singlehandedly manages some of the city's biggest restaurants, including the newly opened Remedy, Blind Butcher and Gemma. Miller is easily the hardest working woman in Dallas PR, and she has an uncanny ability to attract top-notch clients that are consistently story-worthy.
Nick Badovinus James Beard-nominated restaurateur Nick Badovinus has been in the Dallas restaurant world for a long time, and has been on top of it for almost as long. After a successful run at Consilient Restaurants (now Raised Palate), Badovinus branched out on his own to open Neighborhood Services, his chain of always-humming New American restaurants. Since, Badovinus has opened everyone's favorite burger joint in Off-Site Kitchen. For 2015, Badovinus is planning an open-hearth steak concept, and he recently acquired the restaurant space formerly occupied by John Tesar's Spoon.
Leslie Brenner Love or hate her, Leslie Brenner wields a great deal of influence in the Dallas dining scene. Whether or not you agree with her reviews or rating system, Brenner is still the city's most important critic. If anything, her blow-up with John Tesar and Proof + Pantry is indicative of the power she wields, especially in the national culinary world. One need only look at the ascent of Matt McCallister and Omar Flores, Brenner's chef darlings, into the eye of Food & Wine and the James Beard Foundation to see just how true that is.
Dean Fearing When people outside of Dallas think about our city's cuisine, the first face that pops into their head is Dean Fearing. Even though he's not at The Mansion anymore, Fearing is still the city's dining ambassador for the rest of the world. And who could be a better ambassador? Chefs and diners alike will tell you that there is no one more table-friendly than Dean Fearing, which is probably why he has been such an important part of our culinary history for the last twenty years.
Stephan Pyles Stephan Pyles' reign as Dallas' most influential chef began when he helped kick off the national Southwestern cuisine trend in the '80s, but the veteran chef has somehow been able to firmly keep his grasp on the local scene. His eponymous restaurant in the Dallas Arts District is still a must-stop on anyone's culinary tour of our city, and newer ventures like Stampede 66 and San Salvaje still dazzle the critics and the people who pack Pyles' restaurants every single night. Sure, he's closed restaurants and some concepts have been more successful than others, but it's hard to find a chef that's been so consistently a part of this constantly evolving food scene.
Mike Karns Taking over a 95-year-old restaurant company is no easy task, but Mike Karns has been able to do it with a particularly impressive level of panache. The former real estate magnate currently owns Firebird Restaurant Group, which counts El Fenix, Meso Maya, La Ventana, and a tortilla chip manufacturer amongst its holdings. Karns was also able to finagle the Snuffer's brand away from Pat Snuffer after stepping in to save it from financial demise, managing to even retain Pat Snuffer's surname in the deal. Last year, Karns announced plans to expand Meso Maya to more locations in DFW, along with opening more El Fenix restaurants in Texas and Oklahoma in 2015 and beyond. Clearly, he's not going anywhere any time soon.
Scott Rohrman After the renaissance that occurred on Lower Greenville, Scott Rorhman is poised to build Dallas' next exciting restaurant district. After buying up nearly 30 buildings in the neighborhood, Rohrman's plans for mixed-use development in Deep Ellum has given the historically venue-driven district a new future as a place where excellent restaurants are abundant. Rorhman told the Dallas Morning News last year that his project was ahead of its construction schedule, and that new restaurant tenants would be announced in the coming months. Expect to see some of 2015's most exciting concepts among them.