Food News

The Lodge's Jose Luis Nieto Talks Spices and Cooking for Bobby Flay

In the third part of our Q & A with Jose Luis Nieto, executive chef of The Lodge, he muses on everything from his favorite television chef, his kitchen tools of choice, to what herbs and spices he couldn't live without.

Who are your favorite television chefs? I really like watching the Japanese version of Iron Chef but I have to say my two favorite chefs have to be Bobby Flay and Mario Batali.

Why those two? Primarily because they own their own businesses. And I think they deserve every bit of the good fortune they have accumulated because they have both clearly worked so hard for it. I especially love the charity work that someone like Batali does.

What are your must-have fresh herbs? Definitely fresh tarragon, cilantro, fresh, fresh basil and rosemary. Some more: Fresh dill and fresh oregano. When it comes to spices, there are certain Cajun spice blends that I love to put on my seafood.

Your most important kitchen tools are? Definitely a German-made knife, my favorite whisks, and any electric blender for all the soups we make.

What are the dishes that you've come up with, recently, that you are particularly proud of? One would have to be a horseradish-crusted King salmon. Another is a combination of lobster with pasta where the pasta is combined with three kinds of cheese and then all but showered with fresh lobster. We then throw in some jumbo Gulf shrimp and toss it with fresh basil.

If you could prepare a great meal for a favorite chef, what would you make, who would it be, and what would you talk about? It would definitely be for Bobby Flay. I would make carefully seared venison chops, and serve them with fingerling potatoes, and baby warm spinach. I'd eventually ask him how he can juggle all the things he does such as owning and running restaurants, doing cooking demonstrations, writing books. That must be a big challenge for one person.

When you do eat out at a local place, where do you like to go to just kick back and relax? I love Big Shucks on Mockingbird. They do a Cajun seafood dish that is wonderful. And also, they do something called a Summer Platter which is just full of Cajun shrimp, King Crab legs, spicy andouille sausage, corn on the cob and boiled, new potatoes. I love it.

If there is one city in the U.S. you could head to right now for one meal totally identified with that city, where would it be? I'd go to Boston right now and have all the seafood and clam chowder I could eat.

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Andrew Marton