Chef Lanny Lancarte
Lanny's Alta Cocina Mexicana | Dallas
Fort Worth native Chef Lanny Lancarte grew up in a family
of restaurateurs, doing the dishes and helping with the prep as
a kid. He knew early on that his calling was in the industry and
attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park to sharpen
his skills and develop his already established food knowledge. Knowing
that he wanted to open his own restaurant, Lancarte majored in business
and Spanish at Texas Christian University. While in school he took
the opportunity to work with Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless and
learn as much as possible from them. He saw Mexico, its ingredients
and cuisine, in a new light while taking part in several culinary
tours of Mexico and followed up by completing his externship with
Bayless at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago.
After returning home from culinary school and his
brief stint in Bayless’ kitchen, Lancarte took a huge risk
and decided to forego climbing the ranks in other chefs’ kitchens
by opening his own. He began his first fledgling dining room within
the patio gardens of his family’s established restaurant where
he researched and developed dishes in preparation for opening his
In July 2005, he finished construction on the small,
converted house and opened Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana
in the Museum District, a name that delivers on its promise. With
a delicate hand, Lancarte layers the flavors of jalapeno with foie
gras and lobster in a transparent lobster raviolo that emphasizes
technical precision. The elk loin, cooked sous-vide with garlic,
thyme, and pepper, is placed on a plate lacquered with mole Colorado.
The control Lanny shows when saucing creates a stunning presentation
but flavor always steals the show from his precise and elegant plating:
the mole itself is a layered flavor experience in chili and spice.
Only a month after his opening Lancarte was invited to the James
Beard House to host a dinner and share his inventive, hybrid cuisine
of Mexican ingredients approached with a modern European sensibility.
AB: Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
LL: Diane Kennedy because she has such a strong passion for food
and treats raw produce with respect and integrity. I am also influenced
by the work Rick Bayless does with authentic Mexican sauces.
AB: In which kitchens have you staged?
LL: I staged in both Rick Bayless
restaurants: Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.
AB: What question gives you
the most insight to a cook when you’re interviewing them for
a position in your kitchen?
LL: I see people who come on
recommendation from other chefs or restaurant people that I trust.
AB: Which chefs do you consider to be your peers?
LL: Chef David McMillan at
62 Main and Stephan Pyles, who isn't exactly a peer but
who I really respect.
AB: Is there any ingredient that you feel is particularly under
appreciated or under utilized?
LL: Brussels sprouts: they’re great on their own and are a
really versatile accompaniment.
AB: What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
LL: I think pork and fish work well together, like braised pork
belly with scallops, or braised oxtail with halibut.
AB: What’s your most indispensable kitchen tool?
LL: A good chef’s knife
and an immersion circulator.
AB: Describe a technique that
you have either created of borrowed and use in an unusual way.
LL: I use broths and soups
when building my sauces; they add a lot of intensity and flavor.
AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
LL: Anything by Alain Ducasse. There is so much in there but his
focus on vegetables and ingredients is clean and sharp.
AB: Where would you like to
go for culinary travel? Why?
LL: It changes weekly but I’d have to say Spain because I
have never been. I would also like to go to Japan.
AB: What are your favorite restaurants-off the beaten path-in your
city? What is your favorite dish there? What are your favorite after
hour places and bars?
LL: M & M Steakhouse
for the chicken fried steak and Esperanza’s
(my grandmother’s bakery) for chorizo and eggs.
AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry
LL: Molecular gastronomy, for
good reason: it challenges chefs to try different things but I try
not to lose my focus on the flavor of the food I create.
AB: Which person in history would you most like to have dinner
with? What would you serve?
LL: Jimmy Hendrix because he
seems like a pretty cool person to sit down with. I’d serve
a tasting menu of my favorite dishes.
AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
LL: Multiple courses served
at a slow and leisurely pace with unobtrusive service are all marks
of good dining. I would expect to be at a table for four hours.
Its also about who you are dining with; good company makes all the
AB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be
LL: Playing baseball professionally!
AB: What does success mean for you? What will it look like for
LL: Working in a restaurant that is full all the time and that tends
to avoid major criticism. Longevity of a restaurant means your mission
as a chef is accomplished.
AB: How are you involved in your local culinary community? Nationally/Globally?
LL: I work for charity events as much as I can. I am also trying
to get a Chef’s Collaborative Chapter together.
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