Classic Cusine


“You might use agar and gelatin and foam but at the end of the day we’re really all making reconstructed classics” – Chef John Tesar of The Mansion on Turtle Creek

By Tejal Rao
May 2007

With so many hotels following the trend of casual chic and dismantling the ceremonies of their dining rooms, preserving hotel table service and luxurious classic dishes is a challenge. Classic fine dining relies on its luxurious and often historically grounded image almost as much as it relies on a team of attentive servers and meticulous cooks to deliver it.

For over 20 years, the fine dining image of The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas was maintained by Texas mentor chef Dean Fearing. Fearing joined in 1979 and took the executive chef position in 1985. Last year, when Fearing left Rosewood Hotels and Resorts (owners of The Mansion) and partnered with Crescent Real Estate on a restaurant to be managed by The Ritz-Carlton, Rosewood brought in John Tesar to reinvent its image. Robert Boulogne, managing director of The Mansion, said Tesar would “play a pivotal role as they positioned the restaurant for the next era."

Ironically, the next era would be a return to classic fine dining rather than a modernization with avant garde technique or flavor combinations. The Southwestern dishes were replaced with rich lobster bisque and butter-poached lobster, burgundy snails with fines herbes and garlic-herb butter, and Champagne glazed beau soleil oysters. Tesar makes small adjustments, like the aromatics of a Thai green curry in his mussel soufflé, but the focus is on luxurious, classic dishes that match up to The Mansion’s extravagant dining room.

Tesar took over from an executive chef position at rm restaurant at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas “I was hired to change the menu and didn’t have to adhere to any rules.” But because luxury dining relies on its image, on consistency through the ages, a few of the dishes synonymous with Dallas’ image of the restaurant had to stay. Fearing’s Southwestern legacy survives in the two “Mansion Classics” on Tesar’s menu: tortilla soup with chicken, avocado, and cheddar, and lobster tacos with yellow tomato salsa and jicama. Because Dallas diners were used to the regional food in a fine dining setting, Tesar’s contemporary French menu felt like a novelty.

Dallas is warming up to Tesar, “I’d say the response is about 90 to 10. I’ve got a lot of positive reactions and maintained ratings.” And with a renovation coming up this summer, Tesar’s menu and image is solidifying in the Dallas psyche. Fearing’s project at The Ritz-Carlton is set to open this summer as well, and as a luxury hotel restaurant, is sure to be Rosewood’s local competitor. The question is, what will emerge from all the constructions and renovations? Where is Dallas hotel dining going?

Tesar’s forecast is positive: “Hotel dining has gone through so many phases. We went through this phase where we hired chefs like Gray Kunz and didn’t worry about 65 percent food cost. Now there are so many hotels, so much real estate, that they expect us all to turn a profit. Vegas is a prime example; even casinos have to turn a profit! Nowadays hotel chefs are more accountable for the revenue so they have to be more competitive. Big name chefs are selling their concepts and creating a series of name driven entities. Hotel food is getting better and better. It has no choice.”

Fearing and Tesar’s story may be specific to Dallas, but think of it as a culinary fable that speaks to the larger scene: as the new ages, the old becomes new again. And both chef and diner interest in the classics is still relevant, still important. Like all growth, progress can be achieved by looking backwards, by developing a classic repertoire. In an age of communal tables in fine dining rooms and experimental cuisine, the classics shouldn’t be underestimated; it could be culinary atavism for evolution.


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Maine Lobster Bisque
Chef John Tesar of The Mansion on Turtle Creek – Dallas, TX
Mussels in Green Curry Souffle
Chef John Tesar of The Mansion on Turtle Creek – Dallas, TX
Herb-Crusted Dover Sole with Maryland Blue Crab Brandade
Chef John Tesar of The Mansion on Turtle Creek – Dallas, TX
Passion Fruit Souffle with Passion Fruit Coulis
Pastry Chef James Wagner of The Mansion on Turtle Creek – Dallas, TX