I’ve written a lot about Leslie Brenner. Some of you hate what I have to say, and some of you agree with me. Over the holidays, I promised myself I would not write one-sided rants and keep my Brenner observations to myself.
Yesterday, my first day back on the job, I read Brenner’s year-end round up, The Best of DFW: Best New Restaurants 2014, and I couldn’t sit on my hands. Brenner chose Gemma as the restaurant of the year. I won’t disagree with that choice, but I find it odd that she left chef Stephen Rogers off the Best Chefs list she published in November. She notes that she visited the restaurant in the last three months, yet Gemma still holds a three-star rating. Another on the list, San Salvaje , has four stars and chef Stephan Pyles was chef of the year.
Her list of best new restaurants includes two restaurants that are outposts of existing restaurants. Lockhart’s and Neighborhood Services are both fine restaurants, but I don’t feel they qualify as new restaurants. The menus are basically the same. And a third restaurant on her list, Pecan Lodge, was merely a relocation. What about CrushCraft? Killer.
Which leads me to what I think is an obvious omission from her list: Knife. Brenner has long maintained her ability to remain objective in her reporting. Despite Knife chef John Tesar’s childish antics and relentless Twitter rants, he has managed to open one hell of a cutting-edge steakhouse in a city where steakhouses rule.
So I emailed Brenner yesterday, and I left her a voice message this morning. My email:
I just read your Best New Restaurants 2014, and I would like to ask you a couple of on-the-record questions. I’m not looking for a fight. However, I will continue to have conversations about the Dallas restaurant scene that I have covered for 18 years. To that end:
1. How do you see Pecan Lodge, Lockhart’s, and Neighborhood Services as new restaurants when they were all operating before 2014? Two are new locations, and Pecan Lodge only switched locations.
2. I am also confused about Gemma. In November, you left Gemma’s chef, Stephen Rogers, off your list of best chefs. Yet you named the three-star restaurant as Restaurant of the Year. Is there a reason for that?
3. Chef John Tesar’s childish antics aside, how does Knife not make your best new list? Despite what any of us feels about him as a person, he has elevated the steak house experience (240-day dry-aged beef!) in a city full of magnificent steaks. Can you help me understand?
She replied in an email: “Thanks for your message and your voice mail. The story stands on its own.”
Anybody else care to shed some light on the subject?