A lot has been said about Chef Pyles in the last 20-plus years he's been in the business. He's been credited by Bon Appetit with "almost single-handedly changing the cooking scene in Texas," recognized as one of the founders of Southwestern cuisine, and reputed to have put Dallas on the country's culinary map. Here, Chef Pyles speaks ... about the timing for his new restaurant, the influence of travel, and why it's important to give back to the industry that feeds you.
Why the timing was right for the Stephan Pyles restaurant:
"Dallas is finally becoming the city it had the potential to be," according to Chef Pyles. "With the expansion of downtown, the revitalization of the arts district, and the launch of the Trinity River Project, there's an energy that hasn't been felt since the '80s." And while he considers himself somewhat of a pioneer for being among the first to open in the arts area, it's a challenge he relishes. "A lot is going to happen in the next few years. It's exciting to be part of the initial stage."
What he wants people to know about Stephan Pyles restaurant:
"You don't need a reservation to eat at our communal table or the tapas/ceviche bar. We want people to drop in anytime, early or late."
On the influence of travel:
My travels have influenced everything I do - not only my food, but also the way I entertain," says Chef Pyles. His current favorites - Spain, with its "Arabic, Moroccan, Middle Eastern, and Moorish influences," and South America, most significantly Peru. Diners will find this reflected throughout his new menus, both in regular dinner selections, as well as in the assortment of tapas and ceviches.
Most memorable travel experience:
A visit to Freddy Giradet's 3-Star Michelin restaurant in Crisser Switzerland outside of Laussane in the late '80s. "Five of us, including chef/restaurateur Madeline Kamman, were coming from Strassburg and arrived about three hours late for a noon reservation," Chef Pyles recalls. "You can imagine the tenseness. By the time we got there, lunch was completely over."
However, instead of turning the group away, Giradet prepared them a spectacular seven-course lunch. "He welcomed us into his restaurant like it was his home. The tension disappeared." And while Chef Pyles doesn't recall exactly what he ate that day, he says he'll never forget the warm, welcoming environment that left a lasting impression about the importance of hospitality.
On giving back to the community:
According to Chef Pyles, it only makes sense that "we who make our living feeding people should give back to the segment of the population that can't feed themselves." To that end, he's a founding board member of Share Our Strength (SOS), the national non-profit organization devoted to helping end hunger, and a co-founder of Hunger Link, the conduit between local Dallas hotels/restaurants and soup kitchens, ministries, and homeless shelters.