Top Chef's John Tesar has come a long way since he was dubbed "The Most Hated Chef in Dallas" by D Magazine back in 2011. During Top Chef Season 14, he displayed a newfound zen—and endless patience when it came to dealing with fellow cheftestant and notorious pot-stirrer Katsuji Tanabe during Restaurant Wars.
But there's one food trend that gets John all riled up: the "overuse of botanical products just to make food visually appealing, and then when you eat it it's just empty and soulless."
Huh? Botanical products? "Putting purple and yellow and white flowers on everything," John explained in an interview with The Feast. "I can understand if it has a purpose or a texture, don't get me wrong, but I'm saying…it lures people into average food."
John isn't a fan of chefs who pay more attention to how a dish looks than how it tastes. In particular, he called out Top Chef Season 13 cheftestant, Phillip Frankland Lee, who said on the show that his cooking philosophy was to do "whatever the fuck you want."
He's "the perfect example of that millennial—just make s*** up. 'It looks cool, I thought it was cool,'" John mimicked. "There's a blind arrogance to it. And i don't even think they're aware of it. They're not doing it in a malicious fashion, they're just trying to find some kind of identity for themselves. But it's an insult to hundreds of years of culinary tradition."
Bottom line? "You can't just make s*** up," John declared.
With his first cookbook, Knife: Texas Steakhouse Meals at Home—based on his Dallas restaurant of the same name—John takes it to the other extreme. Before opening Knife, he did extensive research, visiting every notable steakhouse in the country to take stock of the food, wine, and ambiance, he said. "What I noticed for most steakhouses was the steak was the worst part of the experience."
So he set out to source the best-quality Texas beef he could find, from 100 percent Angus cows specifically bred and raised to produce the most delicious meat possible. Aimed at the home cook, Knife covers his philosophy about beef sourcing, equipment, and technique, along with plenty of recipes for steaks, sides, sauces, and other meat-heavy fare.
John stressed that the recipes have been meticulously tested. "A lot of cookbooks you try the recipes and they don't come out the same way you would experience them at the restaurant. I was adamant that if we were going to do recipes that were this classic, this traditional, they had to be proven so the home cook could actually pick it up and duplicate it," he explained.
As far as his favorite recipes go, John loves the sides in the book, particularly the collard greens—which are vegan—and the okra. "The picture is stunning," he said of the okra dish.
Looks do matter, after all. At least a little.
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