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How Dallas's Restaurant Industry Would Change the World Through Food

How would you change the world through food? Local experts weigh in.

To mark the relaunch of Eater today, the Features team compiled a collection of seventy-two of the best ideas for how people around the world are or how they plan to or how they want to change the world through food. A lot of the ideas are incredibly earnest. Some are ambitious beyond reason. But what they all have in common is a belief that, with hard work and good food, the world is headed in the right direction.

As a local component to this feature, we asked the Dallas community to chime in. So check out the national responses over here and scroll below to see what local thinkers and doers would like to do to change the world through food. Have a suggestion? Add it to the comments.

Zoli's. [Photo: Garrett Hall/EDFW]

Jay Jerrier, owner, Cane Rosso and Zoli's New York Pizza: ‘Change the world' may be a bit of a reach... but with the growth of social media, I kept seeing posts about dogs needing homes and I kept going back to that Lily Tomlin quote, "I said, ‘Somebody should do something about that.' Then I realized I am somebody." Dogs are part of the DNA of our restaurant [Cane Rosso means ‘red dog'], and we are lucky enough to have a popular restaurant with a pretty active following on social media platforms. We want to use our social media reach to help pets in need - not just for food porn and comedy gold. We can't save all of them, but we can make a difference for some of them, which is why we started Cane Rosso Rescue. I think the food world, in general, has done a good job of leveraging their reach for more than just trying to bring customers in the door.

Brian Luscher, chef/owner, The Grape: My parents' and grandparents' generations thought abundance was a watermark for success. Not necessarily great food, just a lot of it. ‘We'll never go hungry' was my father the butcher's boast. We also heard, ‘finish your meat' or ‘clean your plate' with heaping portions that would fuel a blue collar worker. Also to be grateful for the food you had and to eat it all because there were those less fortunate, one of which could even be you someday. I would hope to make a change in my daughter Landry's view of food - where it actually comes from and its impact on society. I want her to understand the importance of supporting local farmers markets, community garden plots and trips to the ranch along with volunteering to help feed those in food deserts or who are not as fortunate as others. I want her to understand that she has several choices when it comes to what she eats and how it is sourced. She doesn't need to become a militant vegan localvore, I just want her to know when to make smart choices.

Dean Fearing, chef/owner, Fearing's: I am amazed at how food is already changing the world. With the planet a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, food and flavors cross borders every day, in a positive way. We're thinking more and more globally about food, really. Who doesn't like sushi, or a great curry— or a feast from the Middle East or fresh Polynesian seafood? Northern African and European cuisine are much loved too, as are the great beef of Argentina and the fantastic flavors of Mexico. Nine years ago, when I was beginning to put together the menu for Fearing's, little did I know that our tagline of ‘Bold Flavors, No Borders' would become more relevant as each year goes by. I continue to be inspired by this, and I do believe that food has become a universal language.

Jon Alexis, owner, TJ's Seafood Market: One fundamental changes in how we eat can change the world: eating more of the seafood we catch. Fact: Global demand for seafood is increasing exponentially. Fact: To meet this demand, we are overfishing our oceans. Fact: When targeting a species, fishermen throw back nearly every other species they were not intending to catch. Fact: The majority of these fish die when thrown back into the water. The Gulf of Mexico alone has over 1,000 edible species of seafood. We target about 10 of them to the brink of overfishing, and throw many of the other 990-plus back into the water. Everyone seems to agree that seafood is a crucial part of the world's diet. But the way we inefficiently target the last wild animal on earth we still hunt is a joke. The answer to solving the world's hunger problem is sitting on the bottom of the ocean... literal tons of the best source of lean protein on planet Earth that was already harvested up to a boat is tossed over the side. Are you a red-blooded capitalist? The greenest environmentalist? Either end of the political spectrum should be appalled at this terrible waste of natural and business resources. Keep most of the seafood we catch. Explain to customers what it is. They only recognize ‘grouper' over ‘barrelfish' because that's what you've been selling them all their life. Have some faith in the consumer — once we started carrying the ‘Total Catch' [Gulf by-catch] it wasn't even a tough sell. They took the fish home, it was delicious, and they kept buying it.

Brian Zenner, executive chef, Oak: "It's my passion to introduce people to ingredients and techniques from around the world at Oak. Having them explore different traditions through food at the restaurant further opens their minds to different cultures, and that's contributing something... That's helping to change the world through food in some small way.

CBD Provisions. [Photo: Margo Sivin/EDFW]

Michael Sindoni, executive chef, CBD Provisions: By encouraging people to embrace our local seafood and fishermen and stop relying on imported frozen products from faceless distributors. While some of the best tasting shrimp in the world is in our backyard (the Gulf), we are importing massive amounts of shrimp harvested by slave labor in unregulated, unsanitary conditions in Asia.

Tim Byres, chef/partner, Smoke and Chicken Scratch: I would change the world through food by putting a focus on the similarities we share while at the table rather than the differences. As a member of the American Chef Corps and a supporter of Chefs4Kids, I've had the opportunity to experience cultures around the world. It's during these travels that I've noticed just how similar we really are. As people, we instinctively want to share our cultures with others — especially with those who seem most foreign. And when sharing cultures, the common thread is always food. Despite language barriers and culture gaps, we're able to communicate and relate to each other through food. So it seems to me that it's around the dinner table,where cultures can be shared, that social equalizing can come about. This sharing is the great exchange that alters the world.

Abraham Salum, owner, Salum and Komali: I would like to organize different cooking events around the world. I would showcase the different regional cuisines, opening the door for guests to meet people of other cultures, start to understand their customs and ethnicities, thus promoting a peaceful understanding and acceptance of our differences. People would understand why certain things are cultivated and eaten in different countries. Sort of like the World's Fair, but for food and culture.

Knife Dallas/Facebook

Knife. [Photo: Margo Sivin/EDFW]

John Tesar, chef/partner, Spoon Bar & Kitchen and Knife: I wish food could change the world but unfortunately, it's arrogant to think that. Some people have too much food, some people have too little food, but food is a language we can use together to start a conversation and communicate with each other new and improved ways to better our world.

Casie Caldwell, creator, Kitchen LTO at Trinity Groves: My passion is to inspire innovation, growth and opportunity through food and art for those who might not otherwise have the resources to experiment. I want to foster creativity by giving emerging chefs and artists a real-world venue to showcase their craft. LTO becomes the ‘incubator' by which they can test and shape their ideas— where they get to prove themselves outside of the traditional path. I think Kitchen LTO opens up the food arena by pushing boundaries and providing a platform where these creative minds get wide exposure to their craft. It's a space where new ideas can emerge, and for the first time, the public can influence what they want to see and experience [in a restaurant] through our voting channels. This is the kind of setup that produces innovation - for the entire city. This is something that, I think, Dallas is actively seeking. Kitchen LTO exemplifies it, and proves that risk is worth it. Most importantly, I hope that I'm showing the world that giving others an opportunity to grow and shine is worthy, and hopefully all who come in contact with it will want to pay it forward.

Andrew Powers, executive chef, Dee Lincoln Steak Bar: With our society of chefs becoming ‘celebrities' and pushing the artistic envelope, I feel we have really strayed away from the basics of food. In my opinion, the ‘molecular gastronomy' movement has really saturated the culinary scene and can tend to be more about the art rather than the soul and heart of the actual food and ingredients on the plate. I also feel like it's more about the chef's own experience rather than thinking about what the diner may want. Watching someone eat my food and being genuinely satisfied is what made me want to become a chef. Seeing the smiles on patrons' faces is so self-gratifying. Eating food with vapors, foam and other chemicals is not food in its natural form. I prefer to make food people crave, and I want them to taste the love, heart and soul behind every dish. My hope is for all of us chefs to take a step back and really let the food speak for itself and return to the core of what good food is supposed to be - simple, fresh, back to basics and prepared well with the best ingredients possible. Perhaps making it mandatory for doctors to tattoo ‘I LOVE BACON' on the right foot of every newborn child is a good place to start.

Oliver Sitrin, chef/co-owner, Blind Butcher: It starts with education and awareness. I think food is becoming more of a convenience and losing the respect it deserves. The craft of cooking is not being passed down from generation to generation. We as humans need to reevaluate how we look at food and the whole planet. Overpopulation and the destruction of natural environments has hit a critical point. We need to educate people on how to grow their own food on a small scale to respect the environment and place value on the gift of the sun— not wasting anything, sourcing locally, reducing carbon footprint, personal scale farming, solar power, rainwater recycling, and awareness. Leading by example in preservation, conservation, and awareness. Demonstrating the value of actually CARING about not only a better future but a better present. Being in a kitchen and sharing knowledge, techniques and ultimately the food as an end result is an experience nobody should go without.

Garrett Hall

Gemma. [Photo: Garrett Hall/EDFW]

Allison Yoder, owner, Gemma: I want to change the world of food with hospitality. I truly feel that our restaurant culture— as a whole and on a national level— has forgotten that we are here to serve our guests. Hospitality is sadly a lost art. I think restaurateurs and chefs need to remember why we are in existence and in business in the first place— the customer. We want our guests to feel special and offer an effortless and friendly dining experience. Regardless of who they are, they should all be treated as VIPs. I am really working hard to instill here at Gemma that we are about the entire experience and hospitality should be number one.

Erin McKool, owner, Start Restaurant: I would create an international holiday, recognized by every nation, where people would share a meal that day with someone of a different religion or ideology - because love drives out fear. The fears that become hatred and divide nations might wane if people of different cultures broke bread with one another.

Danyele McPherson, executive chef, Remedy: I think food and restaurants have gotten away from what the best part about enjoying a meal is: community. It has become more about supporting the egos and current whims of a chef than about making real food that people want to eat. We should cut all the bullshit and just make food from our souls. Let's share our stories with each other through food, not strive to outdo one another on how exotic our ingredients can be.