Dean Fearing

Chef

Dallas

Often referred to as the “Father of Southwestern Cuisine,” chef Dean Fearing has put his stamp on Dallas. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America — and recognized by his alma mater as a “Pioneer of American Cuisine” — Fearing honed his kitchen skills and has received a handful of accolades, including a James Beard Award for the Best Chef: Southwest. After spending more than 20 years at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, he opened his own eponymous restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas. You’ll often see Fearing in the open kitchen donning his signature chef’s coat, blue jeans and, of course, cowboy boots. When he isn’t whipping up Granny Fearing’s “paper bag shook” fried chicken, you can find him strumming his guitar with his all-chef alternative country band, The Barbwires.

  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    What would Dean Fearing serve at his ultimate dinner party?

    It would be probably a taste of the world. It could go a couple of ways. It could be all dishes from great chef friends of mine. I’ve been to their restaurants and loved their dishes. I love that aspect. Or it would probably be a mix, a global kind of thing where we’d start off with great Chinese dim sum, go into great Lebanese starters and then we’d have to comb the world. We’d need a great Italian pasta dish. This summer, I was the luckiest guy in the whole wide world. I ate pasta, first course, for lunch and dinner every day for two weeks. It was fantastic. What better rule is that than to constantly be eating pasta?

    We’d have to go back into Asia and do something, a fish course from Thailand. We’d have to do meats from Texas being in that whole smoke range. Nothing is better than that from a meat aspect. The perfectly grilled meat is the best. The perfectly smoked meat with a sauce is the best.

    We could go from culture to culture. I would stay right on that. Probably do desserts from Jill Bates, my pastry chef. I love her down-home desserts.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    What are Dean Fearing’s favorite ingredients?

    I don’t know if I could live without hot sauce anymore. It really is an addiction. Probably in the last 30 years since I’ve moved to Texas, I don’t know if I could eat eggs plain. I think that would be unnecessary.

    Garlic is another good friend of mine — can’t live without garlic. Onions are the same way. Cilantro-lime combination, either in my style of food or Asian, cannot be beat. I am the biggest curry hound ever. Love it; could eat it every day.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    What does Dean Fearing always have in his refrigerator?

    I always have good hot sauces. It’s very important — I have various kinds, from Tabasco to little unknown bottling companies down in Louisiana, one being Bourque’s. It’s my new favorite; it’s from Port Barre, Louisiana. This stuff is the greatest. There are lots of hot sauces coming from that area. This is my newfound one that I’ve been turning everybody on to. Everyone’s going crazy; we just bought two cases for the restaurant up here. We love it. That is my newfound friend that’s always in the refrigerator.

    I always have fresh fruit for smoothies because I always start out the day with a mixed fruit smoothie. You have to always have sriracha, too. That’s in that hot sauce line. Some things taste better with sriracha than hot sauce, but that divides down the middle with me. And there’s always open bottles of wine that are waiting to be finished off.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    What does Dean Fearing always travel with?

    I always travel with a bag. I don’t carry a bag around with me on a daily basis, like a mailbag kind of thing or over the shoulder. If I lived in a bigger city and I was walking more I would, but traveling is the only time I get to really carry a bag. I can see why girls love a purse. All your stuff you can put in and travel with it. I love to carry a book, definitely my iPod and earbuds. All of the essentials of traveling — little bags with your toothbrush — you’re never without. I just picked up this new bag from Whipping Post. For me, it’s a great site because they make guitar cases and all of that, which I love. They do a small mailbag there that you’ve got take a look at. I just picked one up. I can’t wait until my next trip when I get to carry it.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    What’s Dean Fearing’s favorite airline?

    I love all of those Far East airlines. They’re the greatest. They really are. From Japanese to Singapore to Thai, all of those are just great airlines. I love Virgin, too. Virgin is starting to come on strong in the Dallas/Fort Worth area now. It’s great that you can take Virgin to the West Coast. I like American Airlines’ pods. If you’re going to go across the big pond, those pods are great. Delta has them, too. You can’t beat pods.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    What does Dean Fearing wear when he travels?

    I’m a boots-and-jeans guy. That’s my travel attire: boots, jeans and a comfortable shirt — either a pullover or button-up — and a great jacket that fits the season. I am a jacket hound. You’d think I’m crazy if you saw my coat closet. I think I’ve got a coat for every day and every season of the day. I love collecting boots; I love collecting coats; I love collecting guitars. You might as well throw watches in there, too. I think coats are the greatest things ever. I think coats make you feel the way you want to feel according to the day. If it’s a rainy day, shoot I’ve got a coat for that. If it’s a warm, cool day, I’ve got a coat for that. If it’s a cold day, I’ve got a coat. I love it that whatever the weather is, you can put on a coat and feel great.

    I’ve got my favorites. My boys gave me a new Billy Reid double-breasted leather jacket for Christmas. I tell you, I can’t take it off now. It’s the most comfortable thing ever. That’s what I love. This fall, I picked up a Belstaff waistcoat, like a motorcycle coat. What else do you need on a cool fall or spring day than that coat?
  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    What are Dean Fearing’s favorite shops to visit when traveling?

    I always am on the lookout for the new boutique men’s shop. I love outerwear. I’m always looking for the new. I know great stores like Neiman’s and all of that will carry in new, but I love these new stores that are boutique in the sense of “we’re not going after the normal; we want the niche.” I love the niche stores that are going for a different look and a different design, and are more creative in finding designers, not just the mainstream.

    I want to find the designer I don’t know. I’m always on the outlook for gadgets, for clothes, for boots, outerwear or little accessory items. I’m always looking for something someone else doesn’t have. The first thing I do when I walk into the hotel is to get a conversation going with the concierge on where the cool new shops are or the ones with one-of-a-kind items.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    What features does Dean Fearing love most in a hotel?

    Number one, great beds are the comfort of life for me. I love what I think everybody else loves. I love genuine personal service. When you walk in and immediately feel comfortable. I stayed at the Mansion on Turtle Creek, my old haunt, and hadn’t stayed there for eight years. I was back there a couple of weeks ago. That is the feel. When you walk in and you feel like you’re at home. It’s the same here at The Ritz in Dallas. Every day I walk in through that front door, and everybody is so friendly, so personable and so helpful. That is what money can’t buy. You can’t force somebody to do that, or else it’d be fake. You need to find people that genuinely want to do that, that are genuinely friendly and nice folks from their hearts. Put that together, and it’s the way I run my restaurant.

    I always say, “If you don’t have a personality like me, you can’t work here,” because it has to be that world here that we live in. The customer comes first. We never say no. They want scrambled eggs and bacon at 8:30 on Saturday night, be my guest. If they want a steak sandwich on Saturday night at 8:30, be my guest. We’re here to make people happy and to give a wow effect. That’s what I live for when I walk into hotels. You feel it immediately. Either you know you’ve arrived or you know you haven’t arrived.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    What are Dean Fearing’s favorite hotels?

    It’s always [Hôtel de] Crillon in Paris. The Ritz in Paris. Last March, I stayed at The Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo. Holy moly. What an experience that was. It’s great to go to a hotel and feel the hotel — feel the friendliness of the people and the service aspects and the architecture and all of that design, restaurants and food, all of that. The Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo — great. The Peninsula in Hong Kong. Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok — great. I still love The Lanesborough in London. In the States, I’m kind of snobbish, I only stay at The Carlyle in New York. I know there are other great ones. The Mark, I love that. Four Seasons there, up on the top. All of the new ones that have opened up — I’ve ran through the lobbies and checked all of that out. Great hotels, but love The Carlyle.

    In L.A., I love Hotel Bel-Air still and I love the new look, the redesign of it. When I can, I love Patrick O’Connell’s Inn at Little Washington, the little spots. I love Blackberry Farm — I’m going to do an event there. I think what Sam Beall does is great, and how he’s kind of built up the Inn at Little Washington feel there is great. I love Stein Eriksen out in Park City. That’s still such a great property. I like it in the summertime.

    The Imperial in New Delhi, unbelievable hotel. And the Leela Palace in Bangalore. We stayed there for four days, and it blew my mind. It was in this compound that was manicured. They had three unbelievable restaurants in there. We never left. That’s the other side of a great hotel, I think, the fact that you never want to leave. I see it [at The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas] when people are staying there and they go, “Okay we’ve had breakfast, lunch and dinner here, and we’re going to have dinner with you tomorrow night.” I’m like okay, then something’s happening. Because that happens to me, too. I get at a great hotel, and they’ve got great restaurants and the grounds are great. Why leave?
  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    Who is Dean Fearing’s favorite travel companion?

    When I was married, it was my wife at the time. Now it’s my girlfriend. I had never had an extensive trip in Italy. Last summer, Angela, my girlfriend, and I did an extensive trip all through Italy around the coast. It was truly amazing. The greatest trips can be with my two boys going to Maui, and spending 12 days there and getting to know the island, getting to know the culture, getting to know the people. Tasting the food, seeing the sights, visiting all the beaches — that is, for me, what traveling is about. I used to travel and try to hit as many places as possible. That’s fun, too. But going to a singular spot and getting to know that area is becoming more and more of what I enjoy the most. What is it about this one area that makes it so exciting, and why is that? Is it food? Is it people? Is it the culture? Is it sightseeing? Is it things that you can’t miss? Is it off the beaten path? All of those things are really exciting now.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    What’s the best trip Dean Fearing has ever taken?

    I love to travel. One of the best trips was years back. The assistant maître d’ of the Mansion on Turtle Creek was named Alex, and he was from Bangkok. A friend of mine, who I went to school with at the Culinary Institute, who was also at the time a chef here in Dallas, and I were like, “Shoot, we’re single. Let’s go on a real exotic vacation.” We both had three weeks off and Alex was with us one night in this bar when we were talking about it. He goes, “Let’s go to Bangkok.” I was like, “Wow, I’ve never been.” He was like, “Yeah. I’ll get you set up at the Oriental Hotel [now Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok], and then we can just do this food sanctuary there.” It was the best.

    I had never been to the Far East, so we jumped on a plane. We get out there and a Bentley picks us up from the airport from the hotel. We’ve got a great room overlooking the city and the river, and all of that. Alex proceeds to take us for lunch and dinner to all of these local places, no tourist attractions. Alex just showed us the city and the countryside firsthand and through his eyes. It was amazing. It was the discovery of eating true Asian food. It was the greatest trip ever for two young, single guys and up-and-coming chefs on our own. It was really a taste sensation.

    My conclusion to the whole trip was that the only thing Bangkok did have that we didn’t have was ginger. They had the cilantro, the lime, the mangos, the chilies — all of those flavors of what Texas was in its Southwest form was exactly like Thailand, except for the use of ginger and soy sauce and their styles of vinegar. It was just such an eye-opening experience to see this culture that you’ve only read about or seen in pictures. To be there and truly understand it from a person who lived there his whole life — wow, that was the start of great trips. There’s been a hundred more after that. It was the eye-opener of what the world was all about and what this world is about.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    What are Dean Fearing’s favorite restaurants?

    L’Ami Louis out in the districts of Paris is a fascinating restaurant for me. I love Paris; I love all the restaurants. When a friend of mine in Dallas said you need to go to L’Ami Louis, it was one of those restaurants that you kind of went to and you’re going, “Oh my God, what am I doing here?” and then the whole experience changes you into a new world.

    I’ll never forget the evening that my ex-wife and I were there. It was raining, we took a cab, you go down an alley and the cab driver stops. We get out and we’re looking for the restaurant, and it’s right in front of us. We don’t even recognize it because it doesn’t look like a restaurant. We’re going, “My God, this is it?” We’ve been to all of the great restaurants, and we come to this little shack of a place. We walk in — it was wintertime — there’s an alcove near the window and everyone just throws their coats there. The coats are piled up all the way to the ceiling.

    I look up on the ceiling and the wallpaper is curling off — the place hasn’t been remodeled in 50 years — and the maître d’ comes up, who is the son of the original owner, Michel. He says, “Do you have a reservation?” and I said, “Yes, it’s under Fearing.” And he says, “No, I don’t have you down.” I’m like, you’ve got to be kidding me; we drove all this way. I said, “No, we made a reservation a week ago.” He said, “No, I’m sorry, we don’t have any room. There’s other restaurants in the area.” So we get our coats back on, open our umbrellas. We walk outside; it’s pouring rain. We’re like, what in the world are we going to do now? There are no cabs, we’re in this alley. Then all of a sudden, he opens the door and says, “Hey, listen, listen, come back in. We’ve got a cancellation.” So we throw our coats back on the pile again, and we go to sit down. Then everything changes.

    It is amazing. I’m looking at the menu, and I’m smelling the smoke, and I’m like where is that smoke coming from? So Michel comes over again, he says, “Where y’all from?” and I said, “Dallas,” and he goes, “Dallas? Do you know Dorothy Barry?” and I said, “Yes, Dorothy Barry was the person who told us we needed to come here.” Then everything changed — wine was coming over, and he said we had to see the kitchen.

    We go back in the kitchen, and it’s the last of the wood burning stoves. It’s a stove that has to be powered by logs of wood. It just blew me away. I couldn’t believe it. All the food in the roasting department, like the legs of lamb and the chicken, all had this great little smoke flavor to it, which was right down my alley, being a Southwest chef and loving that whole smoke aspect. We had the greatest dinner. We had the scallops in a tomato sauce. We had everything — little hens, little legs of lamb. Then at the end of the night, he brings over an 1805 cognac and sits down with us and we talk about Dallas and all that stuff.

    It went from one of the worst starts to a restaurant experience to the greatest restaurant experience ever with just this unbelievable food that was cooked to perfection. Not three-star, not two-star, just great-tasting food. So L’Ami Louis is definitely one of those great restaurants. Every time I hit Paris, I hit there now.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    What are Dean Fearing’s favorite cities to visit?

    This could go on forever. I love New York, always have. New York is an energized city mainly for restaurants, and they just keep on coming. It amazes me how New York produces restaurants. It just keeps moving forward all the time. They are a very progressive city when it comes to food, and I have a lot of chef friends there that I love to go up and visit because in our world we don’t get to see each other a lot. So when we hit a city with our buddies, it’s great to visit. I’m a shopper. I love to hit the stores once I’m in New York; but I really love the restaurant scene.

    I love London as a restaurant city. Talk about progressive. Progressive in design is what I love about London’s restaurants. They really take traditional designs to that edge where it’s really, really kind of quasi-modern or can be completely modern with design elements within the restaurants that are so cool. The last restaurant I was in just had rounded corners on the ceiling. I love London because the fact that you can eat great Lebanese food and then definitely great curry, but then you can eat traditional country French, London food all there at once.

    But then you can go to another element where I can see new designs that blow my mind. I’m like, “Wow, this is edgy.” This you don’t even see in the States. I love that aspect of the newness that London has and it’s still funny how people think of London as having terrible food. People that say London has terrible food haven’t been there for 28 years. London has the best food of all now with an uprising of young chefs that are really tearing it up.
  • On March 12, 2013
    Dean Fearing answered the question: Dean Fearing

    What does Dean Fearing think makes a successful restaurant?

    Personality, look, quality of the food, creativity, definitely personality — it has a lot to do with all of those. It’s people: When they think of a restaurant, they want to go there for a certain aspect, and you and I might want to go to a certain restaurant because we feel like having that certain dish. Now, in the world we live in, people are cooking less at home and eating more and more out.

    I think there’s a funny saying, that when I call my boys to dinner, they get their shoes on. There’s a lot to say to that. I cook at home when I’m off, but we also go out to eat because we all enjoy that. There’s an enjoyment to going out to eat. It’s entertainment. It’s a time for all of us to truly sit around and catch up or talk about things we need to talk about. When I cook at home, I’m cooking, cooking, cooking, then we sit down and we eat. It’s not the same as walking into a restaurant and sitting down and starting a conversation while the meal is coming and being served.