York | Dallas
Sharon Hage was born in Detroit, Michigan and graduated from
the Culinary Institute of America in 1984. After graduation she
began working in clubs and hotels in the Dallas area for two years
until she decided to move to New York and expand her culinary horizons
for a few years, most notably at Arizona 206 under Brendan
Walsh. Hage’s first chef position was at Sam’s Café
in the Upper East Side. She returned to Dallas ready to hold the
Executive Chef positions at Harvey Hotels and Neiman Marcus, as
well as the French boutique Hotel St. Germain.
In 2001 Hage bought the existing restaurant York
Street and turned it into a favorite destination for working
chefs and food industry professionals in Dallas. In what feels like
the same school as Café Paradiso and Chez Panisse,
York Street’s product-driven menu conveys a generosity and
spontaneity from the kitchen to the table. Sharon Hage’s well-balanced
dishes are unfussy and fresh, served in a small, stand-alone house
completely free of pretense. The duck tongue salad, which arrives
with a wobbling softly-poached egg, reveals Sharon’s ability
to make daunting ingredients accessible and comfortable while lending
them a serious depth of flavor and texture. Though her background
is in small and large hotels, Sharon’s restaurant, philosophy,
and minuscule kitchen are the very antithesis. Sharon’s menu
reflects her strong commitment to sustainability with strictly seasonal
and locally-driven dishes and sets the standard for a sustainable
kitchen that does not compromise flavor and creativity.
AB: Where have you worked professionally
as a chef?
SH: I started out as a prep
and short order cook after high school. Then I attended CIA and
graduated in 1984. I worked at Arizona 206 for 2 years
with Brendan Walsh before getting my first chef position at Sam's
Cafe. That was a really pivotal time for me. It was the first
place I encountered that was really focused on seasonality. Modern
American cuisine was in its defining stages and the food finally
tasted like what food should taste like because it was ingredient-driven.
AB: Would you
recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks?
SH: I went to the CIA and had
a really good experience so because of that I support formal culinary
education, but it isn’t be all end all necessary.
AB: Who were some of your
mentors along the way?
SH: Joel Patracher and Brendan
AB: What question gives you
the most insight to a cook when you’re interviewing them for
a position in your kitchen?
SH: I ask situational questions
so I can try to determine their level of overall interest. I want
to know where they like to go eat, what magazines they subscribe
to, basic but important information. I also like to hear how they
handle themselves in negative situations. I ask what their least
favorite job in the kitchen is and have them describe the worst
shift they have ever had and how they handled it. It gives great
AB: What advice would you
offer young chefs just getting started?
SH: They should take their
time and not be in such a rush to move up and get ahead in the industry.
They should learn as much as they can before they forge forward.
AB: Is there any ingredient
that you feel is particularly under appreciated or under utilized?
SH: Salsify because of the
uniqueness of its flavors and its versatility. I also like cardons
because they are so unique, and celery because I think bitterness
is a critical part of the tasting sphere.
AB: What’s your most indispensable kitchen tool?
SH: I also depend on my Cuisinart
ice cream maker. For tools, I need a spice grinder and a VitaMix.
We’re pretty low tech here.
AB: Describe a culinary technique
that you have either created of borrowed and use in an unusual way.
SH: Our preparation of vegetables
and grains is pretty unique. We give them as much individual attention
as we give protein on a plate. Whether it's soaked and then steamed,
or seared and then braised, we use some sort of acid in the bitter
component of every place. We’re very vegetable-centered here.
AB: What are your favorite
SH: I’m not a baker,
so I appreciate Nancy Silverton and Claudia Flemming’s books.
Bulli just has really cool pictures; it’s pretty
out of this world. I like Matt and Ted Lee’s new book, The
Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. I was totally inspired by Danny
Meyer’s new book - his candidness about things that can go
wrong when running a restaurant is proof that you can recover from
just about anything and still end up at the top of your game in
AB: Where would you like to
go for culinary travel? Why?
SH: The Far East because I have never been.
AB: What are your favorite
restaurants-off the beaten path-in your city?
SH: Teppo Sushi for yakitori
and other classic Japanese food. They use some pretty unique ingredients.
I also like Tei Tei, a Japanese Robata bar under the same
ownership as Teppo. Utaka is new sushi place with
AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry
SH: I think things are getting
more casual and people are really interested in the different components
of their food, as well as where it comes from.
AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
SH: Certainly the goal for us is about time and place. You have
to feature products at the right time so they are at their absolute
best. We like to keep it simple and let the ingredients speak for
AB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be
SH: Something that would allow
me to travel more, maybe a travel writer.
AB: If you could eat dinner
anywhere tonight where would you go?
SH: Masa, because
that was a life changing meal on every level.
AB: What does success mean for you? What will it look like for
SH: That’s something I’m still trying to figure out.
AB: How are you involved in
your local culinary community?
SH: I try to support local
businesses like my tea guys. I’m part of Les Dames' local
chapter and I’m doing a two day roundtable to try to transform
our local farmer’s market.
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