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Jason Sheeler | Photo: Nick Prendergast | April 18, 2014
He’s a dad, chef, author and a guitar picker. After all these years, Dean Fearing still rocks.
Dean Fearing—executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton restaurant stamped with his name for eight years now—has been given every superlative available to famous kitchen guys these days. Best. Five stars. Solid guitar player. “Don’t forget, I’m [a] good dad and an author too,” he says through a laugh.
Oh right, the guy who’s often known as “the father of Southwestern cuisine” has a new book he’d like you to know about. “It’s called The Texas Food Bible—we’re talking nachos, quesadillas. It’s the classics that make up true Southwestern cooking. And I’m including the guys who created Southwestern cuisine.” So that obviously includes his old pal Stephan Pyles. “His recipe in the book is that famous Son of a Bitch stew.”
Fearing downplays any idea of competition between himself and Pyles, whose own eponymous restaurant has furthered the Southwestern cuisine cause. “Nah,” says Fearing, “we’ve been buddies since the ’80s. And the fact that we’re both still around is amazing. What about all those ‘top chefs?’ They’ve disappeared. That’s what’s neat—guys like me and Stephan, we’ve concentrated on our restaurants, stayed in the kitchen.” But, when he’s reminded of his celebrity, he says, “OK, we’ve dabbled in TV, but at the end of the day, we just want to cook.” Fearing pauses. But he’s not done. “Think about it. All those Tom Colicchios, where are they? A few years ago, when he and others came to town, I thought: Holy moly, that’s going to change Dallas. And it didn’t. Bice. Craft. Nove. All those guys were going to come to our town and tell us how it’s done. All those places are gone.”
Fearing takes a breath and laughs. The single father of two teenage boys knows what’s important these days. “I just want to make happy food because I like happy people. And I like being happy too.”
Hand-tooled cowboy boots, vintage guitars, authentic Indian curries, the beaches of Wailea in Maui, wines from northern Spain, Shure SE846 quad driver ear buds—a must-have for flying, Saturday morning pancakes at home with my two boys (load on the butter and syrup)
Unseasoned food, no-personality restaurants, stop-and-go traffic when you have to be somewhere, overuse of white truffle oil, breaking a guitar string onstage, seaweed beaches, when your best jeans shrink