Chefs The Chile Whisperer: Stephan Pyles on
by Amanda McDougall   June 2008

s a 5th generation Texan, Stephan Pyles knows a thing or two about Texan food and culture. He’s known as one of the founding fathers of Southwestern cuisine and a man with an uncanny sixth sense about chilies. Few can discuss – in heated detail – capsaicinoids, the active components of chilies that stimulate pain receptors; the difference between each of the five fiery chili components; and how to harness the power of chilies and pair complementary flavors.

After close to two decades in the business, during which time he opened over a dozen restaurants, in 2001 Pyles took a five year “siesta” from the restaurant world.

                                                       recipes  biography  interview

He used the time to travel, educate, teach, write a few cookbooks, and – we suspect – relax… a bit. By 2006, Pyles was back on the Dallas culinary scene, breaking ground in the then-foundering arts district neighborhood with his eponymously-named restaurant Stephan Pyles (his was one of the first businesses to open there, sparking the rejuvenation of the area).

Pyles refers to Texas as “the land where beef is king” but things are changing. Dallas’ restaurants and patrons are becoming more international and eclectic, even moving toward the small plate phenomena – a bit step for what Pyles calls a tradition of “big plates and big steaks.” As usual, Pyles is at the forefront of this change – which is no small feat after nearly 25 years in the industry.

What’s more, the chile master has two hungry business partners who are adding heat to Pyles’ fire to expand and remain at the vanguard of Southwestern cuisine. Now, with Stephan Pyles in full stride and a talented executive chef Tim Byers (formerly of The Mansion at Turtle Creek) to steer the ship when he’s away, Pyles will be opening a “global tapas” restaurant at the end of this year (name TBA, pending trademarks, etc.). Harking back to his roots, Pyles is also pondering an all-out, deep-in-the-heart-of-Texas, rattlesnake boot-style restaurant a la his now defunct cowboy cuisine restaurant Star Canyon – but what he says will be even more “in-your-face Texan.”

Pyles is on a roll, continuing to help keep the Dallas culinary scene up to date and reaching beyond the usual local flavors and ingredients. His seemingly endless amount of energy and ideas is admirable to say the least – maybe there’s something more to those chilies than tongue tingling capsaicinoids….


Ceviche of Bronzini with Vanilla-Roasted Fennel and Almond Gazpacho

+ Coriander-Cured Antelope with Llapingachos and Cranberry Mojo
   Published: June 2008