GOURMET HIGHWAY: Chef Dean Fearing

He may be the best

By Doc Lawrence.

(DALLAS, TEXAS): The creator of Fearing’s Restaurant and its “Elevated American Cuisine – Bold Flavors, No Borders,” Chef Dean Fearing has developed one of the hottest dining concepts in the country.

Chef Dean Fearing & His Favorite Knife

Named “Restaurant of the Year” and “Table of the Year” by Esquire Magazine in 2007 and No. 1 in 2009 for Hotel Dining in the country by Zagat, Fearing’s has received accolades from The New York Times, Newsweek, Food and Wine, Texas Monthly, and Modern Luxury. Chef Fearing was presented with the April 2009 Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance by Food Arts. With its distinct dining venues, acclaimed farm-to-market seasonal menu and the electric presence of Fearing himself, this acclaimed Dallas restaurant generates almost never-ending buzz.

Long known as the “Father of Southwestern Cuisine,” Chef Dean Fearing has literally spent his life cooking good food. After two decades at The Mansion on Turtle Creek, he opened Fearing’s in 2007 at the Dallas Ritz-Carlton. The lively, comfortable restaurant features seven stylish dining settings, a distinctive alfresco experience and a popular interactive display kitchen offering ringside seating.

The son of a Kentucky innkeeper, Fearing grew up with food-savvy grandmothers schooled in the secrets of Southern cooking and barbecue, learning skills which he still uses, treasuring, he says, their original recipes. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he can be seen in Fearing’s wearing a crisp white chef’s coat with colorful boot embroidery, blue jeans and custom-tooled Lucchese cowboy boots.

When not in the kitchen, Fearing is often found strumming his vintage Fender Telecaster guitar, playing songs from the “Bliss and Blisters” CD he has released with his all-chef alternative country band, The Barbwires. He spends his spare time searching the countryside for Texas culinary inspiration. The state’s rich variety of peppers, dried chilies, jicama, cilantro, tomatillos, fruits and vegetables, cheeses, Gulf seafood and Hill Country wild game play, he says, a major role in his evolving, often adventurous cuisine.

Exuberant and ever friendly, Dean Fearing has garnered the James Beard Foundation Restaurant Award for “Best Chef in the Southwest,” and diners from across the country come to Dallas to experience his signature dishes. Fearing’s current menu includes Barbecued Shrimp Tacos, Rib Eye Mopped over Live Mesquite, Maple-Black Peppercorn-Soaked Buffalo Tenderloin, Tortilla Soup and Pan-Roasted “BBQ-Spiced” Filet with Chicken-Fried Maine Lobster, described by recent diners as a genuine “taste of Texas.”

Chef Dean Fearing shared a few thoughts.

DOC: Your restaurant has garnered across the board acclaim. What are the fundamentals a restaurant must, in your opinion, have in order to be considered great?

CHEF: Great restaurants need “The Big 3” – a beautiful atmosphere, great service and tasty food.

DOC: You are a Texan now, with a Kentucky roots. What flavors, ingredients or cooking methods from your Kentucky heritage find their way into the dishes prepared at Fearing’s?

CHEF: At a very young age, my two grandmothers in eastern Kentucky started passing down numerous deep southern cooking techniques. I’ve incorporated several of these traditions, including casseroles and chicken fry, into the dishes at Fearing’s. Some of my favorite dishes with strong southern roots are our Crispy Barbecued Bluepoint Oysters and Cast Iron Nova Scotia Halibut on Gulf Lump Crab ‘Succotash’ with Tabasco/Bacon Gastrique and Zucchini Fries.

DOC: How has Southwestern cuisine evolved since you became its primary exponent?

CHEF: Southern cuisine has become more common with diners across America. I’m now moving forward by incorporating different combinations of flavors onto one plate. For example, our Buffalo Tenderloin is paired with Anson Mills Jalapeno Grits and a Butternut Squash Taquito, and our Smoked Pheasant is laid on Sweet Corn/Confit Fennel Sauté, a ‘Loaded’ Potato Enchilada and Chorizo Ranchero.

DOC: What do you see the role of wine with your cuisine? What wine styles seem to pair best with your cuisine spiced with chilies?

CHEF: Our Wine Director Paul Botamer is always introducing me to a variety of wonderful wines. I would typically pair a Sauvignon Blanc or spicy Zinfandel with dishes that are spiced with chilies, but I love to explore with the wines Paul recommends. We’ve now paired everything from Bordeaux Blends to Malbecs to Syrahs with chili spiced dishes and the ongoing exploration has lead to a very high success rate.

DOC: Looking into the crystal ball, what do you see as great American cuisine say a decade from now?

CHEF: The future of great cuisine will be more approachable food – prepared simply but with lots of flavor!

DOC: What are your favorite beverages?

CHEF: I love margaritas on the rocks with half salt, a cold beer on a hot day, white wine at the beginning of my meal and red wine at the end of it!

DOC: What are some of your family’s favorite dishes prepared at home?

CHEF: It’s a wide variety! Lynae and I enjoy cooking anything on the grill or slow roasting items, such as a good pot roast. The boys also love Asian foods and classic Italian pasta dishes.

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