Chef John Tesar is Headed Back to Dallas

I spoke with a very busy John Tesar last night. He has read these comments and would like to tell his side of the story—“to set the record straight”—and dangle a little bit of news.

NN: Are you coming back to Dallas?
JT: I am coming back to Dallas. Currently I have 2 options. They are two separate entities. I have signed a letter of intent with both. I am leaving tomorrow [today] for a short vacation and family business. I will make my decision in five or six days.

NN: Any hint on what you will be doing?
JT: I’m not coming back as the 5 start chef of the Mansion, I’m coming back to enjoy cooking here in Dallas. I will put my head down and cook. Like I said, I have two options. One is quite elaborate with many concepts. The other one is built around me. Whoever I go with, they will make the announcement. Not me.

NN: So were you fired from Tesar’s in Woodlands?
JT: I voluntarily decided to walk away from Tesar’s. I was not fired; I walked away. It’s not going to effect my future.

NN: Is Tesar’s going to continue to use your name?
JT: My only involvement [with Tesar’s] now is whether or not they use the name. I’m not totally against it but it is difficult for me since my name is up there and I can’t be in control of quality. My partners and I split with irreconcilable differences. The restaurant is doing well—just not well enough to pay a John Tesar-style chef. I gave them back my 20 percent and we are still wrangling over things like money the and name.  It’s a good restaurant.

NN: So give me the short version of what happened?
JT: I do not wish ill on my ex-partners. They enticed me to leave New York when I was with David Burke [at Fish]. I went into the business with good will. I realized that the project was opening in the middle of a recession and was undercapitalized. We started out with three partners and the 2 majority partners [Bill and Hilary Burke] pushed out my main contact. But we built this thing [restaurant] and got good reviews. But they had no experience in the restaurant business and we knew it wasn’t going to make enough to pay me, especially since I have a family. [Tesar’s wife is 4 ½ months pregnant with their first child.]

NN: Why do you think so many people get so emotional when your name shows up on SideDish?
JT: I’m flattered by the emotions good and bad because I never figured people cared so much. I let my body of work speak for me. People get so emotionally involved. And many have turned on their mentor and then partners starting turning everyone against each other. My biggest mistakes were that I didn’t take 51 percent and shouldn’t have named it after me.

NN: Well, you certainly have had a controversial career.
JT: I’ve had an up and down career and I haven’t lived up to my potential. I have learned a lot from my mistakes. I guess there is something good about people not liking you.  It builds character.


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  • IfUSeekFoodie

    Thai Steak House, perhaps?

  • Dallas’ culinary scene is much better with Tesar in town. Period.

  • DarnellErwinFletcher

    IfUSeek, I thought that project was being developed by a chef. Besides, theres no way JT would get involved in something that bizarre.

  • Six Oneway

    He always says he wasn’t fired. Suppose that’s true. That means that, in little more than a year, he quit from three restaurants. One was the grand dame of Dallas fine dining. One was a hot new restaurant from iconic New York chef David Burke. One was a restaurant bearing his own name.

    Is being a quitter less unattractive to investors than being fired?

  • TreeHugger

    We can always count on snootyfoodie to get back to what it’s all about. Tesar may be controversial but who really cares? He’s a brilliant chef and longstanding advocate of the sustainable movement.

  • Methinks…

    John Mayer and John Tesar have a lot in common. Unbelievable talent for their craft and an occasional gaffe with their personality. I, for one, am looking forward to both of them focusing on their abilities. Lessons learned, move on and go be great. Welcome home, Tesar.

  • DarnellErwinFletcher


  • Karma Biotch

    From the future headlines department at the DMN, dateline August 3, 2010:

    Antonovich and Tesar Open “TIE Me to the Moon”

    by Lesloo Brenhoffer

    bla bla bla woof woof.

  • IfUSeekFoodie

    Choked on my salami sandwich, I did.

    Darnell, leave your bow tie at the door, have some fun.

    I’m still chewing on what a John Tesar-style chef salary is, exactly. Is it more or less than and Sharon Hage-style salary? Or more of a Stephen Pyles-style salary. How does it compare to say a Gilbert Garza-style salary? How reassuring to any future investors that if the “style” salary ain’t there, neither is the chef.

    There are plenty of brilliant chefs, many with far less ego. John baby, if you want complete control, you gotta put up the complete funding.

  • Tuniz2

    “Currently I have 2 options. They are two separate entities. I have signed a letter of intent with both.”

    This could be part of the problem. A letter of intent generally means you plan to go to work for one of the entities, not one of two.

  • JS

    Cook the food. Plate the food. Serve the food. I had no idea that this simple process could cause such a ruckus. 🙂

  • Amy

    “I guess there is something good about people not liking you. It builds character.”

    Well by the looks of the last Side DIsh post, a lot of people don’t like him and he still doesn’t have any character.

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  • ya gotta be kidding me

    Even a blind seal can tell the short chef Mr. John Tesar is a loser. A month ago he told folks the culinair people in the Big D were giving him $200k to develop Spoon. I guess now they saw the light. Now he’s saying that some new group wants him to oversee all of the executive chefs for there group. Hi hopes for the 5″6″ chef who can’t hold a job. Hope for his pregnant wife this one will work

  • W. Hare

    Yo, Tesar! How about doing a couple of the 48 Nights? Show those chumps what a real chef can do!

  • the_sneeb

    @IfUSeekFoodie wtf do these chefs make anyways?

  • the point

    .was that he was never offered 200k to begin with the_ sneeb. these are just typical tesar claims. now the dallas restaurant group got him for substantially less cuz the deal fell through on spoon

  • tinkerbell

    Type, punctuate, spell check; please – pretty please.

  • Usually it does take an individual to put the information in front of you before you recognize that every person must receive additional care.

  • Tink

    @W.Hare – that is completely offensive to the generous and hard working chefs that started 48 Nights and have made it the success that it is – for charity! Are you saying these people CAN’T cook? Are you saying Sharon Hage is a chump? What about Tim Byers? Tesar’s former executive sous, by the way, who left the mansion for Stephen’s restaurant because Tesar was such a jerk. You’re rude and uninformed.

  • Next. Who really cares. He was here for 1.5 years.

  • Gilda

    The proper way to structure a top chef’s salary is to set it fairly low and compliment it with the potential for several bonuses based on performance goals. That way they stay invested in the project, share in its success and aren’t constantly coming back for more.

  • Rick Smilow’s “Culinary Careers” has salary information for chefs.

  • David

    I am with Culinaire (that’s how it’s spelled) and we had several engaging and stimulating meetings with John about concepts and ideas and trends. He is an awesome chef and a very smart guy. We saw the light all right–his incandescent, talented light, and we truly regret that the opportunities we were pursuing with him did not materialize.

  • el sensetivo

    well then…being the one that went to the Hr department with recording and proof of abuse, i think its hilarious to see how people dont move on with their lives. The people that talked the most shit about tesar when we worked at the mansion, are the ones that followed him. Seems that everyone needs a little education. Is he an A-hole? yes. Can he cook? obviously. He put me through hell but over all made me a better person. When he made a comment about my wife, i couldn’t let it stand. I fried his ass good and he knows he deserved it. He is still trying, but then again what else is he going to do. Everyone just needs to learn their lesson and move on. good luck tesar, God knows youll need it.

  • Taze Me Bro

    Everyone needs to learn what el sensetivo learned, which is that a digital recorder can be a good investment if you ever have to work with Chef.

  • TreeHugger

    When it’s not your name on the blog, it’s easy to verbally abuse others and make claims. We should all be grateful for our mentors. When published critics agree that your talent is extraordinary, shouldn’t those who have reaped the rewards be thankful? Taze Me Bro, looks like you need a new target. Local and national critics agree, Tesar is a brilliant chef period. Who really cares about what happens on the line, other than perhaps you? Isn’t it always hot in the kitchen?

  • TreeHugger

    Mary Wahn-
    Will you explain what you mean?

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  • Still Over It

    TreeHugger – being talented doesn’t excuse horribly abusive, immoral and dishonest behavior. Obviously you’re either one of Tesar’s multiple personalities or his wife, girlfriend, pastry chef or knife wielder but you really don’t know what you’re talking about. And Tesar is by no means at the forefront of the sustainable food movement in Dallas or anywhere else. It’s his lame attempt to differentiate himself. I wish Tesar would leave and never rear his ugly head in the state of Texas again. And you should join him.

  • Food only people. Personal lives need to be left out. We get it, you don’t like him personally. Who cares, you do not have to be around him. Talent is talent! You did follow him. Let it go…..

  • former mansion employee

    Austin enough already, chef is talented and kind and not abusive by any means. Without him where would you be Tazed at Primos high on drugs in jail or just lost in your own false sense of you.
    Why do you need to write this crap night after night.

    Amy he has much character and when people lie about you or make up stories or even use anonymous blogs to air their personal upsets,you bet that builds character.
    Forget John Mayer this guys is more like Jessica Simpson

  • Tony Romo

    Sexual Napalm !

  • Green Peace

    This guy worked with Tom Spicer and planted a garden at the Mansion
    No one for the last 25 years did that.
    He worked with the king of sustainable seafood Rick Top Chef Moonen for 3 years.
    His concept Houston was all about grass fed beef.
    Tesar is a great chef stop this crap already it is giving Dallas and this food lovers blog a bad name.
    I can’t wait to eat his food again. Anonymous haters, lets talk about character and abuse.