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Rising Stars Dallas 2007:
What Makes Them Shine

By Antoinette Bruno and Tejal Rao
March 2007

This year StarChefs ventured to Dallas for our very first culinary tour of the city, in search of its Rising Stars. For the cynics who wondered why we would bother with the sprawling metropolis of mega-chain restaurants and strip malls, we present our Dallas Rising Stars!

The chefs we selected, after our intense editorial process of tastings and interviews, are committed to their products and constantly refine their techniques to achieve excellent, delicious dishes that reflect their approach to the craft. They are leaders in the culinary vanguard of Dallas dining and well worth a trip.

2007 Dallas Rising Stars


Click here for more information about
the Dallas Rising Stars Revue on May 14 at Hotel Palomar.

Anthony Bombaci, Nana
CHEF: Anthony Bombaci, Nana
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Never heard of Anthony Bombaci? That’s because he’s spent the last nine years in Spain, honing his skills with some of Spain’s most innovative chefs, including Ferran Adrià and Joan Roca. Perched on the 24th floor of a hotel overlooking the Dallas cityscape, his stunning, artistic presentations at Nana promise a lot and deliver even more with their balanced flavors and textures. While his dishes may sound alternative (sweet tomato marmalade paired with yogurt sorbet and jellied olive oil) one never feels like a guinea pig at the hands of an experimental chef. His mature dishes, which draw from a global market of ingredients and spices, are completely polished and precise, presenting a vision influenced by his years abroad, but clearly his own.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Seared Venison Loin, Caramelized Bananas, Thai Peanut Sauce, Cilantro

- Fresh Tomato Marmalade, Yogurt Sorbet, Texturized Olive Oil

David Gilbert, Luqa
CHEF: David Gilbert, Luqa
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: David Gilbert entertains the diner at Luqa with his interactive dishes that involve tableside activation of rosemary aromas, sucking mousses from tubes, and breaking a crème brulée caramel that hovers a few inches above its generally attached custard. What sets David apart from so many other chefs playing with their food is that each one of his dishes stands alone as a high-flavor, high-concept, sensual experience with pleasing the diner in mind rather than showing off. He elevates lowbrow ingredients like barley, onion and bacon in a tender, concentrated risotto with pink slices of squab, as well as seeking out exotic products like kangaroo which he pairs with pillows of potato gnocchi. David’s experience with Atlanta greats Michael Ganley and Joel Antunes honed his leadership skills.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Fruit Slider with Rosewater Cream and Passion Fruit Curd

- Squab "Through a Window," Smoked Bacon, Pearl Onions, Barley "Risotto," Apple Curry Foam

Scott Gottlich, Bijoux
CHEF: Scott Gottlich, Bijoux
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Scott Gottlich has a way of gently balancing the often underappreciated flavors of bitterness and acidity to create grown-up dishes that direct the palate’s attention to just a few specific flavors. At Bijoux, products like skate wing and pork belly are refined by Scott’s technical precision with temperature and texture, resulting in crisp skins and tender centers. While the menu is rooted in French and Italian classics, like a simple cippolini onion soup that celebrates intense, bright, and clean flavors of mushroom and onion, Scott enhances his menu with international flavors like red Thai curry without losing his strong sense of culinary identity or confusing the diner. His execution and high level can be partially attributed to time spent in the perfected machinery of Eric Ripert’s kitchen.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Slow-Braised Pork Belly with Red Thai Curry

- Eastern Spotted Skate Wing with Belgian Endive

Sharon Hage, York Street
CHEF: Sharon Hage, York Street
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: It’s no coincidence that Sharon Hage’s restaurant is 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 miniscule kitchen are the very antithesis. Sharon’s menu reflects her strong commitment to sustainability with strictly seasonal and often locally-driven dishes and sets the standard for a sustainable kitchen without compromising flavor and creativity.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- The Ruby Salad

- Duck Tongue Salad

Lanny Lancarte, Lanny's Alta
CHEF: Lanny Lancarte, Lanny's Alta Cocina Mexicana
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Lanny Lancarte grew up in his parents’ casual Mexican eateries in Fortworth, prepping and doing dishes; today his self-titled Alta Cocina Mexicana is no overstatement. With a delicate hand, he 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 that surpasses.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Elk Loin with Mole Colorado

- Lobster Ravioli with Brussels Sprouts and Foie Gras Butter

Kevin Maxey, Craft
CHEF: Kevin Maxey, Craft
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Never has a sparse plate of barely-dressed pasta felt as sensual as Kevin Maxey's Kabocha squash-filled tortellini with chestnut honey, sage and parmesan. Kevin's understated presentations and flavors find their way into simple, unpretentious roulades, risottos, and galantines that never crowd the palate, or the plate, with too many fussy flavors. His crab risotto, rich with layers of lemony sorrel and lemon confit, creates the illusion of being absolutely effortless while exploring how a minimum of flavors can play off each other and stand alone all in the same dish (and sometimes even the same mouthful). With mentors like John Schaefer, Damon Wise, and Akhtar Nawab, it’s no wonder.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Jumbo Lumb Crab Risotto with Baby Sorrel and Lemon Confit

- Kabocha Squash Tortellini with Chestnut Honey and Sage

CHEF: Tracy Miller, Local
CHEF: Tracy Miller, Local
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: The moment you walk into Tracy Miller's little world of retro-Scandinavian-functionality with a whole lot of soul at Local, you are entering another world of flavor and style. From the bowl of welcoming nuts, to the perfectly refreshing intermezzo of grapefruit and rosemary sorbet, to the absolutely tiny thumbprint petit four, Tracy's vision permeates every detail of the restaurant and follows through a meditated progression to create a completely transporting dining experience. As a chef she's a perfectionist, skipping the bread service altogether because she's determined to bake the bread herself, and do it right. As it is she runs the savory and sweet side of the little kitchen, putting out beautifully composed dishes that are built with all the delicate sensibility and sophisticated playfulness of The French Laundry while being unmistakably her own. Tracy came into her career later in life, working under Chef Kent Rathbun at Seventeen Seventeen over at the Dallas Museum of Art.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Cream of Celery Root Soup with Crispy Leeks

-
Rosemary-Scented Lamb Chop with Madeira-Honey Finish

Tre Wilcox, Abacus
CHEF: Tre Wilcox, Abacus
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Tre Wilcox is the self-confident chef running the kitchen at Abacus who’s not afraid to discuss how corporate training for a national food chain shaped his skills as a leader. But it's his skills in the kitchen that truly impress: every element on the plate is cooked precisely to point—from the starring protein to the minutia of the pearl onion garnish. Garnishes are always functional and no unnecessary elements find their way to the plate. Tre's dishes, like his duck, which shows off not one but three perfect cooking techniques as well as a sensible, pleasing geometry, are driven by an obvious passion for food and showmanship. Tre arrived at Abacus by way of corporate training but credits mentor Kent Rathbun with polishing his skills as a cook.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Duck Three Ways: Foie Gras, Crispy Breast and Confit Crêpe with Huckleberry Maple Syrup

- Grilled Lamb Rack with Blue Cheese-Crusted Fingerling Potatoes and Rosemary Sauce

Katherine Clapner, Stephan Pyles
PASTRY CHEF: Katherine Clapner, Stephan Pyles
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Katherine Clapner is a fearless pastry chef whose bold presentations and flavor combinations are unexpected but successful. Katherine draws from Stephan Pyles' savory pantry of Peruvian corn, saffron, fennel pollen, Mahleeb, coriander seeds, and white balsamic gel to create whimsical, almost Dr. Seuss-like plates that draw the eye to a tower of dusted doughnuts, spirals of crispy Peruvian Ponderaciones, and generous quenelles of ice cream that teeter between sweet and savory. Katherine replaces sugar with agave syrup for fruity, sugar-free desserts that are true to her well-defined culinary philosophy. Katherine credits Shayne Gorring for sharing his sense of fun and boundlessness.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Meyer Lemon Pudding with Blackberry Upside Down Cake and Fennel Pollen-Huckleberry Ice Cream

- Fresh Ricotta Cheesecake with Brown Butter-Vanilla Pears, Saffron Anglaise, and Blackcurrant Sorbet

Shannon Swindle, Craft
PASTRY CHEF: Shannon Swindle, Craft
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Shannon Swindle's incredible technical execution and precision shine through in his unpretentious creations - from the basic croissant baked a dark golden brown with a firm crust and tender, yeasted center to the almost savory composed plate of ricotta cheesecake seasoned with pieces of goat butter brittle and milky froth. His baked-to-order honey tuiles reveal Shannon's focus on perfecting classic pastry techniques and remind us how the underappreciated translucent crisps can be a serious experience in texture and flavor. Each of his desserts elevates the ordinary to bring our attention to an ingredient that can be, at least when Shannon is serving it, truly special and at the height of its possibility. Lisa and Emmett Fox, James Wagner, Stephan Pyles and Kent Rathbun helped refine Shannon’s techniques along the way.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Goat Ricotta Cheesecake, Goat Butter Brittle, Poached Forelle Pear, and Honey Tuile

-
Ellis County Pecan Chocolate Tart, Roasted Manzana Bananas, and Cinnamon Ice Cream

Morgan Wilson, Bijoux
PASTRY CHEF: Morgan Wilson, Bijoux
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Morgan Wilson plays with classic pastry forms and flavors in his delicately built desserts at Bijoux to create clean, modern plates. His espresso mascarpone trifle is both English trifle and Italian tiramisu, yet refused to be defined as either one. His carrot cake is a dainty deconstructed version of the classic with every element actually refined and more delicious than in its original form of frosting and sponge - with Morgan's high-level technique and focus of flavor, his revisions of the classics are always thoughtful improvements on the original. His commitment to his purveyors is so strong that when his strawberry farmer suffered a bad harvest, he rethought his menu rather than buying from someone else. Morgan’s biggest inspiration came from books like Oriol Balaguer’s Dessert Cuisine and working with chefs Arnold Wong and Scott Mezola.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Espresso and Mascarpone Trifle

- Carrot Baby Cake

Marc Cassel, Dragonfly at Hotel Zaza
HOTEL CHEF: Marc Cassel, Dragonfly at Hotel Zaza
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Donning his sparkling cowboy hat, graffitied sneakers, and cargo shorts, Marc Cassel brings a breath of fresh air to traditionally uptight hotel fine dining. Marc transforms the low-brow kitschy foods of the Southwestern American landscape into quirky dishes like shrimp corn dogs and spicy oyster shooters. While he takes the liberty of sprinkling hemp seeds on his pork loin with smoky, smooth mashed potatoes ("because it's fun") Marc’s focus remains on flavor. The career-changer, who didn’t get into the industry until 32, has the high-energy and promise of a chef half his age, but his eclectic, funky dishes are held together with the mature, singular vision of one who’s been in the business far longer. Marc is another Dallas Rising Star who credits Stephan Pyles, Kevin Rathbun, and Kent Rathbun with sharpening his time management skills and propelling him on a creative path.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Rock Shrimp Corn Dogs with Sweet Chili Ketchup

- Pineapple Ponzu Oyster Shooters

James Tidwell, Café on the Green

SOMMELIER: James Tidwell, Café on the Green
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Though you wouldn’t guess it from James Tidwell’s unpretentious and laid-back approach to wine, the sommelier is on a serious mission to promote professional wine service standards and further wine education. James co-founded the Texas Sommelier Association, a trade association of Texan wine professionals, and organizes an annual Texas Sommelier Conference where the group gathers for seminars, tastings, and lectures. James trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, which gave him a strong culinary sensibility when pairing food and wine. His bold matches - like a Dominique Laurent Nuits, Saint George 1er Cru, “La Richemone,” 1998 with a steamed, ginger-scented grouper and umami-rich shitake in soy broth - elevate flavors and textures to new heights.

 

Justin Beam, Craft
BAR CHEF: Justin Beam, Craft
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: From bussing tables to training with Dale DeGroff, Justin Beam worked his way up before building the cocktail program at Craft and The Living Room in the W Hotel Dallas. Justin’s style is sophisticated and playful, with drinks that tell their own imaginative story with fresh ingredients and attention to detail. His Grassy Knoll, a balanced mix of tart house lemonade, Pimm’s Cup and grassy vodka, evokes an afternoon on the cricket lawn on a summery afternoon. In The Waterloo, Justin uses fresh key lime and blood orange juice to layer the flavor of tequila and sweetens it with agave nectar to create what he affectionately nicknames Napolean’s Margarita. The drink is chilled by one enormous ice cube, rather than a multitude of small ones (which means no immediate watering down), and seasoned with a smoky, salty rim of volcanic salt and agave.

The Cocktail that Clinched it:
- The Asian Poire

Tom Fleming, Central 214 at Hotel Palomar
HOST CHEF: Tom Fleming, Central 214 at Hotel Palomar
WHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Tom Fleming is part of a hotel restaurant movement peeling off the white gloves, clearing the table of crystal goblets and silver, and putting out hearty, comforting American bistro fare. At Central 214, in the Hotel Palomar, Tom serves classic dishes like mac and cheese with tender caramelized onions, roasted garlic cream, and Parmigiano Reggiano, or simple seared flank steak with perfectly crisp fries. His dishes are simple, homey, and nostalgic.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Maryland Crabcakes

-
Scallops with Lentil Rock Shrimp Ragout

 

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