Lanny Lancarte of Lanny's Alta Cocina Mexicana

Lanny Lancarte of Lanny's Alta Cocina Mexicana
May, 2007

Lanny's Alta Cocina Mexicana
3405 West 7th St.
Fort Worth, TX 76107


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 dream restaurant.

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.

Interview with Chef Lanny Lancarte of Lanny's Alta Cocina Mexicana - Dallas

Antoinette Bruno: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Lanny Lancarte: I graduated from CIA in 2002. I would recommend school but I would strongly recommend that before going one spends one year in a working kitchen to see if it’s really where they want to be. 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 now? 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 difference. AB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be doing? LL: Playing baseball professionally! AB: What does success mean for you? What will it look like for you? 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.