If you go
What: “The Fine Art of Living” vintner dinner with chef John Tesar; wine selections by Clarke and Elizabeth Swanson of Napa Valley’s Swanson Vineyards. The event is being held by Trinity-by-the-Cove Episcopal Church to benefit its Archangel Fund and Collier County charities.
When:6:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Port Royal Club, 2900 Gordon Drive, Naples
For information and tickets: $350 per person; 262-0353 or e-mail email@example.com
John Tesar is a hard man to pin down — and with good reason.
This acclaimed chef is poised between overseeing the opening of two Dallas eateries, the Cedars Social and the Commissary. Still, he’s finding the time to travel to Naples and serve as the featured chef for the upcoming inaugural Fine Art of Living fundraiser series held by Trinity-by-the-Cove Episcopal Church.
The Cedars Social launched this year. Tesar calls it a “cocktail den with a comfort food kitchen.” For foodies, it’s a mix-and-match mother lode, with a menu that includes everything from marinated salmon sashimi to fried chicken and waffles.
In April, he’ll open the Commissary, a restaurant with what he calls a focus on “serious chef-driven fun food,” and a menu of gourmet hamburgers, wine and beer. Frou-frou it’s not, but there’s absolutely a fine-dining element, including a 14-foot chef’s table inspired by Alice Waters’ celebrated Chez Panisse.
Born in New York, Tesar was raised in the Hamptons. A childhood spent outside on the East Coast has shaped the way he feels about food and its preparation, as Tesar continues to favor seafood and the freshest ingredients in his cooking.
He went on to cut his culinary teeth in the Hamptons, at French restaurant Pierre’s. Later, he studied cuisine in Paris. After returning to the United States, Tesar worked in restaurants in New York City, including 44 & X Hell’s Kitchen and the Supper Club, as well as California and Las Vegas.
A longtime friend of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, Tesar has notched up a number of his own television appearances, including on the “Today” Show and the Food Network.
We caught up with Tesar to talk inspiration, trends and what to rescue from a fiery kitchen. In the process, he also gave us a peek into what he plans to prepare for the Art of Fine Living vintner dinner. He promises a lineup that honors his seafood-loving roots — expect a mouth-watering ceviche — as well as recognizing the part of the country where he has spent the past four years of his stellar culinary career.
Daily News: What or who was your inspiration to become a chef?
John Tesar: My mother, basically. My mom was an amazing cook, and growing up in the Hamptons with a farm in the backyard.
DN.: Name one thing that’s in your refrigerator.
JT: A good bottle of white wine — a white burgundy.
DN: If your kitchen was burning to the ground and you could only rescue one thing, what would it be?
JT: My copper pots and my cast iron pan. My cast iron pan would probably be my second thing because it would survive the fire.
DN: What’s your idea of comfort food?
JT: My idea of comfort food is kind of everything we’re doing in these restaurants (The Cedars Social and The Commissary) — everything from a hamburger to a charred piece of octopus. Comfort food is anything that makes you feel good.
DN: What’s your favorite dish to prepare?
JT: I love to cook seafood. There’s no one particular dish. For me it’s all about creativity, being precise and being creative.
DN: What’s the best dish you’ve ever eaten?
JT: A great oyster, right out of the water in Seattle, right out of the ocean, popped fresh and tasted by the sea.
DN: Name one culinary trend that you’re interested in right now and why.
JT: I just love the interaction of cocktails and wine with food, the marriage of the sommelier and the chef as a team. I think that’s a great trend —the fact that Americans are becoming more beer and wine lovers and they need someone to guide them through it.
DN: Do you have any culinary apps on your Smartphone — and if so, which ones?
JT: My favorite one is Mario Batali’s new app. I’m so jealous. I have an app on my phone that tells you whether sake is fresh or not, because you should really only drink sake that’s six months old.