Badovinus Tussles With Tesar at The Commissary

I so wasn’t going to write this story, but I have now been contacted by five people in or around the restaurant business. I feel that if I don’t step in and attempt to clear the air, the tale will grow longer and more sordid with each telling. I have heard multiple versions of the heated exchange between chefs John Tesar and Nick Badovinus at The Commissary late Wednesday night.

Round One: I received the following text from John Tesar at 11:20 p.m. Wednesday night: “Nick from Neighborhood [Services] just assaulted two of my staff and created a violent scene in my restaurant…Crazy drug drunk chef stuff. I was calm but he has lost his mind. Sorry for the bad news just wanted you to hear the real story.” I didn’t see the text until the next morning. I texted back: “Huh? Just got this. Call me when you get a chance.” A little after noon yesterday, Tesar texted back: “It’s just best to let this one go 🙂 thank you.”

Oh, but we didn’t let it go. Jump.

UPDATE: Saturday, May 28, 2011. I have just had a long conversation with chef John Tesar. The bottom line is he is reversing the story he told me yesterday. Here is his statement. “I was wrong. It was an error in judgment. I did it to cover up the event. The only reason I did that is that I tried to protect everybody who was involved, not only myself. I had a selfish motivation. I didn’t want to draw attention to a brand new restaurant. At the same time I wasn’t going to throw another member [Badovinus] of my profession under the bus.”

Round Two: I let it go. Then came the first hey-did-you-hear email. Then another, and another, and another. At 6:30 p.m. yesterday, I received a phone call from a reputable person in the restaurant business. I have known this person for many years. He is a straight shooter. He told me he had just left The Commissary, where he’d had a conversation with John Tesar. According to my acquaintance, Tesar said Badovinus had been in the night before, and Tesar was pressing charges because Badovinus had created a scene. Tesar also said, “Boy, I would sure hate for Nancy Nichols to get ahold of this.”

Round Three: What? At that point, Tesar and I had already discussed the event. Even though I was skeptical of Tesar’s late Wednesday night text, followed by my friend’s Thursday afternoon report, I slept on it.

Round Four: This morning, I called Badovinus. He told me he and one of his chefs were out on town, celebrating the Mavs victory. They ended up at The Commissary. “I’ve never met John Tesar,” Badovinus said, “but the guy kept coming by the table and talking crap about my restaurants in front of my chef. My people work hard for me, and I will defend my business in order to keep them employed. But when a guy attacks my hard work, I’m gonna stand up.” Badovinus, who admits he’d been drinking, claims Tesar tossed several derogatory statements like “gotta get rid of those sweaters” his way. Badovinus got up and went over to Tesar. “I told him to meet me outside,” Badovinus said. “We went outside of the restaurant, and I told him to quit talking bad about my restaurant in front of my people.” Badovinus said he went back to the table, tried to pay the bill, and, when it was comp’d, he handed the waitress a hundred dollars. On his way out, Badovinus, accompanied by two Commissary staffers, says Tesar passed by him and provoked him by calling him a “pussy.” Before Badovinus could make a move, the two Commissary employees restrained him.

Round Five: No punches were thrown, but security was called. Badovinus talked to them briefly on the way to his car. Game off. Right?

Round Six: I called John Tesar around 2 p.m. today to tell him I was writing an account of what went down Wednesday night and to clarify some of the facts. “Nothing happened,” Tesar said. “I would tell you if it did. These kind of rumors are just being spread around about me by the guys at Smoke and Bolsa and Marquee. They are all just jealous.” I asked him about the text he sent me. “Somebody picked up my cell phone and was messing with you,” Tesar said. “I didn’t write it. I keep my phone at the end of the counter. It could have been anyone.”

Round Seven: Now I’m totally confused. I said, “So, Nick never said, ‘Let’s go outside?’ He didn’t tell you to quit talking trash about his restaurant?” “Nope. Never happened,” Tesar said. “I walked up to his table and talked about sous-vide burgers, and I may have said I wouldn’t work at his restaurant because of the white sweaters, but I walked away. That was the end of the story.” I asked him if he told anyone the next day that he’d filed charges and he said no. I asked him if he called Badovinus a “pussy” on the way out. “I was in the back,” Tesar said. “I didn’t know anything happened until the next morning.”

Round Eight: I just spoke with Michael Flynn, the sommelier at the Mansion, who was in the Commissary on Wednesday night. “I can’t tell you details because I didn’t see anything,” Flynn said. “But I did see the staff running out the front door, and I did see security taking statements from the staff in front of the restaurant.”

Decision: I’ve called security at One Arts Plaza and can’t get an answer. The PR rep did not answer her phone. Much ado about nothing? Probably. Chefs get into it all the time. However, it seems like when one of the chefs is John Tesar, the mess is always bigger.


  • James

    This has reality show written all over it! And just a note to Tesar, I’ve been to your restaurant twice now. The food was good but nothing great and the service both times was just terrible!! Not to mention the dreadful things I read on the bathroom chalk walls (I hope kids don’t go in there). So I hardly doubt the people at NS, Bolsa and Marquee are jealous!

  • Rob

    His story doesn’t add up. When he texted you back the next morning and said ‘It’s best to let this one go’ he was verifying that he had written the text the night before.

  • WB

    I would take Neighborhood Services over Commissary any day of the week. There’s too much drama that follows Tesar, and his food is kind of trendy (not in a good way).

  • Frenchy

    Ahh, telle est la guerre.

  • gia

    This 100% solidifies my opinion of Tesar as an insecure, conniving, and manipulative individual. I’m never setting foot in a Tesar joint, and will make sure my friends are all up to speed on this intriguing little story…

  • Know Da Man

    Wasn’t there but I know the chef Tesar and he has a well documented history of lying, talking smack especially about other chefs, threatening and even pushing people. And lying. And being a lying liar. So. Good luck Lucy Billingsly.

  • Foodie

    I’m buying Nick’s side over Johns. And how did the guys from Smoke, Bolsa and Marquee get brought into this. Looks like the real John is rearing his ugly head again.

  • Foodman

    A douche Tesar and a drunk Nick and I’m not sure both are at fault. I’d personally like to see Tre Wilcox in a ring against both of these wimps

  • TLS

    Warriors…come out and plaaaaaayyyyyyyy!!

  • L.

    Tesar is a joke. Always has been. Badovinus is a breath of fresh air in Dallas… NS (and its siblings) will always be my must-eat at Dallas restaurants when I visit—definitely not Tesar.

  • 7 Eleven

    Did you hear that Kent Rathbun and Stephan Pyles were arm wrestling in the patio?

  • linus

    ~These kind of rumors are just being spread around about me by the guys at Smoke and Bolsa and Marquee. They are all just jealous.” I asked him about the text he sent me. “Somebody picked up my cell phone and was messing with you,” Tesar said. “I didn’t write it. I keep my phone at the end of the counter. It could have been anyone.”

  • justanudavoice

    sounds like the real pussy is the one unable to stand by his actions. and why in the hell would anyone start rumors about John T when the real stuff is better any way? Get real Tesar.

  • Tahini

    Tesar sounds like an insufferable douche. In his defense, Badovinus’ restaurants are just jazzed up Applebees with snazzier clothed waiters and longer waits. Not a bad thing, smart for Dallas and obviously a thriving business model. Time will tell if Tesar’s concept holds up. If my burger comes with a side of snarky unapologetic attitude, I’ll stick with Maple&Motor.

  • lovestomixitup

    Was Nicks hair involved or were the coke bottle glasses damaged? Chefs cant we all just get along!

  • Tsk tsk, gentleman. There’s a perfectly good schoolyard over at Booker T, try to keep the scuffles out of the restaurant.

  • B

    It is well known that John is bi polar and a big bitch..
    So he has a burger joint wow he is awesome.
    He had every opportunity to man up outside with Nick but called security instead..

    Thanks Nancy for laying all this out and showing us all what a punk John is.

  • Brad Thedinger

    My six and eight year old nephews are more mature than these two supposed adults put together.

  • Avid Eater

    Oh, Tesar! Why must you always self-destruct?!

  • Marcus

    I’ll wait for TheBrad to tell me what happened before I pass judgement.

  • LS

    its nice to know that people in Dallas are so quick to judge others. especially people they do not know personally. John is a talented chef and a good person. I have worked with him and never seen him threaten or shove anyone. I was there that night and none of these accounts is accurate. Perhaps those of you that werent should keep your comments to yourselves. Rent a movie or something.

  • Just some dike

    Ive also worked with the wonderful John Tesar and although he is a talented chef, he is absolutely crazy. Everyone can say whatever they want about the guy… HE knows what he’s done and what is an exaggeration. Unfortunately most of it is not an exaggeration. John, YOU go rent a movie, instead of getting into things a father and a husband shouldn’t be getting into….

  • Shemp

    All these things are true and then some. Tesar is a puss and rolled over on too many in this latest round of nonsense. The Brad wasn’t there and wouldn’t roll over on his little butt buddy anyway just like his boy Flynn.

    If I was Tre, Tim or Graham I would be lined up for some whoop ass.

  • honesty

    I also worked with Tesar for many years. I was his bartender. Every night I would be asked by Tesar for a glass (plastic cup) of champagne promptly around 5pm and would keep filling it until the end of every service. So If you think Tesar was sober in all of this. I can tell you from personal experience. He was not. Which lead to his destructive behavior once again. Every time he gets close to success he WILL Eff it up. That text you got Nancy was from Tesar. He just wasn’t thinking of the end result. Too bad. The guy can cook, but he gets in his own way.

  • littleloo

    I have been wanting to get over to the Commissary for lunch. Think I will pass now. NS is awesome and I can’t wait to get back there for some of those amazing mussels!

  • Borborygmus

    I think what we have here is a failure to communicate. Only to be resolved by the ultimate chefs whoopa$$, a COOK-OFF. Tesar can wear a shirt that says “Pussy” and Nick can wear one of his sweaters. The main ingredient will be Crow. The $100 door charge to watch will go towards the North Texas Food Bank.

    Maybe then they’ll realize how ridiculous they were behaving.

  • Derring Hatfield

    Extreme Chef with Tesar? More like World Extreme Fighting (cage fights, anyone?) The Commissary = The Sanitarium, Pussy=Tesar, Good chefs=dime a dozen, Wherever you go=there you are. Tesar is insane. So many people have had the same experience with him, and then I see the 1 am comment that says “you don’t know what your (sic) talking about. Tesar is a great chef and a good person, blah blah.” Guess what? No one buys that line. John Tesar: get help for the sake of your wife and child.

  • marisa

    What is the saying,” there is no such thing as bad publicity”? You little boys duke it out on the play yard. Charge admission b/c you will need the funds when your biz tanks.

  • yvonne crum

    nancy.. the post is good but the comments amazing.. he said he said is very entertaining… Bet the Mansion is thanking thier lucky stars… JT wasn’t there…

  • sara

    Had been hoping to try both The Commissary & The Table since they are in my neighborhood, but all I ever hear about is the drama behind Tesar. I will continue supporting any project that Badovinus is behind – his team is very professional and they are totally dedicated to working with him – no drama there or they would not have been with him for years. Maybe Tesar’s people are jealous they aren’t working for a true gentleman and pro like Nick.

  • jane

    There once was a chef named JT,
    Whose mental state was quite slippery,
    He bellowed, he brayed,
    O what a knave,
    And then he fall down go BOOM!

  • Whatever. I was not there, and honestly have not spoken to Tesar about any of this. It’s just chef BS. I’m a director with an interest in food – I understand egos and am the owner of a significant one myself, it comes with the job. I know John pretty well, Nick not at all, Tesar can cook, and Badovinus is a formidable restaurateur. Seems like a little ball busting got out of hand. And Nancy got the perfect post for the long weekend.
    Eat. Drink. Love.

  • Liquid Ninja

    “gotta get rid of those sweaters”. hilarious. Ur daddy called, he wants to buy you another restaurant.

  • Not a fan

    Tesar is the food industries equivalent to the Jersey Shores’ “The Situation”

    ….Famous for being a dumbass

    Bad press will still make him money in the end

  • tricia

    I have respect for NB because the NHS restaurants all seem very upstanding and professionally run. I have respect for JT because his food is usually phenomenal. I agree this kind of behavior is childish and customers shouldn’t be subjected to it, but if JT really has some of the problems people are saying here then I’d say lay off…those are serious issues and it doesn’t help anyone but your online persona to be a judgy little prick about it. I hope to see him get straight and succeed but I guess only time will tell. Just my two cents.

  • Karma Chameleon

    Payback’s a bitch, hey JT? You don’t get to arrogantly trash-talk every respected chef in town behind his back (or in this case, to his face) like your some savior sent in to rescue Dallas’ culinary scene and not expect people to wish for at least your come-uppance, if not your exile from the city. I’ve personally heard your condescension regarding Fearing, Pyles, Rathbun and Gottlich and now you drag in Badovinus, Byres, Dodd & Wilcox. Who’s really the jealous party, Johnny?

  • Thanks, Tristan!

  • I have deleted several comments because they were slanderous. If you use your real name and post that is one thing, but please don’t throw out accusations as truth if you use a fake name. If you have information you feel is relevant to this post and do not want to your name, email me.

  • mmmmmm…..

    Wow. It is so true. Who was it that made the comment about people hiding behind fake names when they trash talk? So true. So true. If you gotta hide behind some lame-ass fake name, you are even lamer than who you are slamming. Anyone can talk brave behind the castle wall. Sheesh. Grow.UP.

  • Round 8.60212

    Check Facebook! Tesar is calling you a half-truth reporter! He has also asked me (the dining public) to question you. He wants us all to check the police report on Tuesday, which I’ve already nicknamed “Round 9.0!”

  • hrmmm…

    why does a “food critic” have such a personal relationship with a chef in which she has to “critically” review? i think it is highly inappropriate that any “food critic” is on such a personal basis with a chef to receive such a text message.

  • Moishe Pipic

    Probably because he knew she would write about it and by doing so, it would sound like he (JT) was in the right and NB was in the wrong?

  • mmmmm2

    Wow . . . this guy is toxic and just can’t seem to get his act together. He’s lied so many times, how do we know the update is true. I just checked his faceBook page. His quote is something like, “You reap what you sow, karma baby.” That’s right Tesar. Karma baby. Which is why even though people might think you make a decent C-Vap burger, you are toxic. Your energy is toxic and you are surrounded by people who are. Go away. And you bash SideDish and the food critic but yet that food critic just reviewed Cedar Social pretty favorably. Remember, JT, you reap what you sow.

  • (inhaling smoke) What were we talkin’ about again? (exhale)

  • Buck

    Hate to see good restaurants compared to the Commissary trainwreck.

    Badovinus should take his staff someplace with more class. Say, Heart Attack Grill–

  • Hmmm. a text is not a personal relationship. I use my phone to interview and fact check stories all the time. For most chefs a text is a faster and easier way to communicate than a computer. Please keep the comments on point. If you were at the Commissary, feel free to email me. If you worked with either of these chefs and are commenting about them, please use your real name. Thanks.

  • I think Tesar is mostly upset with restaurants that have the audacity to make money. Nick’s do. John’s tend not to.

    I’m sure this will seem counterintuitive to some, but this would be a much more civil society with less electronic anonymity, and just a little more punching in the face.

    I know Nick. I know John. I like Nick. I wish John would call me a pussy.

  • Claire

    Well, Tesar deserves some credit here for trying to keep this mum. Since it has come out that he wasn’t in the wrong, I think it is pretty freakin’ admirable that he was just trying to minimize the effects on everyone involved. He could have just made a super huge deal about it and tried to get some sympathy. Instead he acted in everyone’s best interest.

  • Wilson G

    Give me a break. Tesar only ever has one interest at heart – his. Since when is trash-talking someone and calling them “pussy” in their best interest?

  • honesty

    The problem with Tesar is this. He was coming up at the same time as such Chef’s as Flaye, Bottalli, Colicchio, and he even hired a drug addict. Bourdain. He has tried for success so many times and has had these kind of things happen over and over. In his head. He is better than all of them. And he could be, BUT the minute he get’s even the slightest success. His ego ruins everything! He has major anger management issues and when he feels attacked he goes for the jugular with any and all around him. This, unfortunately, is his downfall.

  • Claire

    You guys seriously just like to trash Tesar. Why don’t you all go sit around and talk about your own shortcomings for a while.

  • gia

    Honesty – right on.

    Perkins – I’d pay the equivalent of 50 overpriced Commissary burgers to see the fight that would ensue should your wish come true.

  • Gail

    Go Nick!!!! I love Nick and think the Neighborhood Services’ restaurants are some offer some of the most flawless service and consistenly excellent food in the city. John Tesar, on the other hand, is a pompous jerk who is no balls and all talk. I’m on team Nick.

  • Claire

    See, this is when it is so obvious that you are just talking out of your, ahem, posterior region. Gia, overpriced? That’s just a crock of BS. And Gail. Seriously. Flawless service? That’s overstated for pretty much any restaurant. And read the police report. Nick was the raging ass here. But no one seems to care about that. Seriously. You guys need to get a life.

  • Claro Que Si

    Claire, I’m glad Tesar has a friend.

  • gia


    Tesar sends inflammatory text to Nichols. Tesar then states “would hate for Nichols to hear this”. Look up “conniving”, mmkay.

    Regardless of how things went down, Tesar’s subversive handling of the situation reveals a truly nasty character. I love it when people become a success doing what they do well, and I’ll go out of my way to support that. When people are as rotten as Tesar has revealed himself to be – no thanks.

    Will be hitting Nick’s NS pronto, the one that serves a wedge of iceberg lettuce for $9. You bet your posterior that’s overpriced; even grossly so. But you know what? I want NB to succeed, especially after hearing this whole story, so I don’t mind it one bit, and will continue to be a patron at his establishments.

    PS – Nancy, thanks for posting this story to your blog.

  • Freeman Davis
  • Allison

    There is no way the guys at Bolsa or Smoke are jealous of Tesar and the Commissary. The COmmissary isn’t even at that level of good food! I love Bolsa, it is one of a kind and The Commissary doesn’t compare.

  • honesty

    Freeman. Your an idiot. Your just some poor guy or gal that Tesar got to know and then used all of your shortcomings to really do a number on your head! THAT IS HIS TALENT! The fact that you went to look for that means that you were DEEPLY hurt by him. He’s a man that believes his own lies. He always thinks he’s in the right, NO MATTER WHAT! Nothing you or I write here will change anything about him.

  • Freeman Davis

    Honesty (or lack thereof) –

    Actually, I’ve never met Tesar. I just like to stir it up. But nice try.

  • AJB

    Thanks Nancy for the Dallas Chef’s report. It might be of interest or even funny to your readers but this type of incident is NOT a good thing for all the Chefs out there. As Chefs(I have been one for many years) some of us have fought for a long time to change the image of the Chef as this authoritative and verbally abusive tyran that the general public has come to hear about and compare us to.I am saddened by the lack of professionalism from these two. Drunk or not, famous or not it is still unexcusable. Real leaders lead by example. Nick should have walked the minute he felt JT was abusive and John for sure should know better than being involved in stuff like that in his OWN place.Our business is tough enough as it is and it is just too bad that Chef’s egos and arrogance have ,once again reared their ugly heads.
    What’s done is done.So these two need to get together ASAP,tell each other whatever and move on.(free beer ONLY if they apologize to each other) If they have too much energy to spend they need to get out in the real world and make a difference where it count the most and the causes to choose from are plentiful. So there ! Also, when you guys decide to apologize,please include your known and unknown fellow Chefs who actually are still fighting every day to keep the reputation and image of the Chef a positive one.
    As I always say: WE ALL CAN LOOK STUPID ON OUR OWN, WE DO NOT NEED ANY HELP ! By acting the way these two did they just proved my point. I am not particularly happy about that but for me I am still and always will be proud to be A CHEF !

  • CPDallasFoodie

    I think we’re all making a bigger deal of this than it is. Surely both of these talented chefs feel bad about something that happened in the heat of the moment & got out of hand. We’ve all been in situations we regret – even the most self-righteous of us.
    It doesn’t help that a food editorial has now become a gossip column. The sheer number of comments (including mine…guilty!) are just proving that this type of gossip sells. I love that there is so much passion for both sides & for food in general in Dallas, but…..time for us all to move on.

  • David

    Been twice–good food (which is why we went back), horrible service (which is why we’ll try somewhere else next time).

    Not sure how this place survives in its current incarnation more than 6 months.

  • Reid

    Honesty, your last post says a lot more about you than it does John Tesar (or Freeman).

  • mmmmmm…..

    I so agree with Reid and with CPDallasFoodie…..what happened to a food blog being about food?!?? I mean, come on. Say whatever you want, but Tesar is an amazing chef. And judging from the comments, everyone semi-disregards anything good and pounces on anything bad. Talk about confirmation bias! Maybe we should just do what The Brad suggested….Eat. Drink. Love. (And move on.)

  • Claro Que Si


  • Tater

    It’s best to support decent business owners who treat their employees and customers with respect. That’s why I pay attention to articles like this one. Keep em’ coming Nancy!

  • Hospitality Instructor

    I concur that The Commissary does have great food and some serious service problems. BUT…what is more alarming is when there are some serious, glaring service issues and no “management” or even worse “ownership”, seems to notice or give a rat’s patoot. I’ve been several times because they are open late. But when you can’t get service right after a month with a half empty dining room, you are pretty much ensuring that is all you will ever have.

    Forget about reality television and get a restaurant right. Your NY equity was massive but after the past few years, the tank is nearing E.

    Bottom line: less drinking on the job, more attention to how your guests are walking out the door feeling.

  • 4xTex

    “Are you ready to rumble?”
    How do I get tickets to fight night?

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