The Dallas/Fort Worth restaurant scene is the stomping grounds for many an iconic chef. But for every Stephan Pyles, Dean Fearing or Kent Rathbun, there are talented fresh faces who’ve worked their way through the ranks and now hold the keys to the kitchen. Some have been around these parts for years and some are brand new to the area, but they’re each shining brightly in their newest gigs.
Paul Niekrasz, HG Sply Co.
The Paleo diet, based on how our caveman ancestors would have eaten, has become an impassioned food trend with legions of devoted followers. At HG, which pays homage to all things hunted and gathered, Chef Paul Niekrasz has taken a fad and created a menu filled with bold flavors and high-quality ingredients, allowing even non-Paleo enthusiasts a chance to see what all the fuss is about. Originally from Chicago, Niekrasz seems to have truly found his culinary calling, thanks to unforgettable dishes ranging from blood orange-glazed pork belly and pale ale steamed mussels to juicy New York strip with mushroom ragout and crispy Arctic char with caramelized onions and fennel. The ingredients may reflect foods from thousands of years ago, but Niekrasz’ approach is nothing but modern. 2008 Greenville Ave., 469-334-0896, www.hgsplyco.com
Patrick Stark, Sundown at Granada
Getting noticed isn’t a problem for Executive Chef Patrick Stark, the man with the bright red mohawk. He’s been fine-tuning the eclectic bar food menu at this Greenville Avenue haunt, infusing staple items with interesting twists or elevated ingredients. But now that he’s appeared on the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen,” people are really starting to pay attention. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Stark has just introduced Dallas’ first GMO-free menu, which includes vegan, raw and gluten-free choices. Standout dishes include spicy berry-barbecue Atlantic salmon, chilled buckwheat soba noodles and his version of surf and turf, which features a grass-fed hangar steak, gulf shrimp, roasted onions and chimichurri butter. 3520 Greenville Ave., 214-823-8305, www.sundownatgranada.com
Danyele McPherson, The Grape
Danyele McPherson began her Dallas career as an intern for mentor Stephan Pyles, who recognized her skills and promoted her to sous chef in just two years. Today she’s got a new mentor in Brian Luscher at one of the most well respected restaurants in the city. Building on the knowledge she gained at school, with Pyles, and her stint on the Bravo reality competition “Top Chef,” she’s putting her touches on the menu as chef de cuisine. A huge draw of the menu is the charcuterie, all made in-house. Chicken and caramelized mushroom terrine, smoked ham, rabbit mortadella, pork rillettes, spicy sopressata or chicken liver pate can be paired with artisan cheeses for a beyond-ordinary happy hour or the start of a leisurely meal peppered with influences from McPherson. 2808 Greenville Ave., 214.828.1981, www.thegraperestaurant.com
Eddy Thretipthuangsin, Pakpao Thai
One of the newest restaurants on the radar is a tiny Design District space serving up some robust, exciting dishes thanks to Eddy Thretipthuangsin, a Thai native who comes to town from L’Orient at Naples Bay Resort in Florida. In his repertoire are delightful presentations of color, texture and flavor. Braised short ribs with Massaman curry are already one of the most popular, but guests are loving his red curry duck, crispy soft shell crab and pad Thai with equal passion. 1628 Oak Lawn Ave., 214.749.7002, www.pakpaothai.com
Stefon Rishel, MAX’s Wine Dive Fort Worth
In a restaurant known for fried chicken and champagne, Executive Chef Stefon Rishel is making his mark where he can, thanks to a firm belief that food should be an ever-changing art form. Each MAX’s restaurant features a classic side of the menu, available at all locations, but the other side is a rule-free playground where each local chef can run wild. Originally from Michigan, the self-proclaimed “converted Texan” is focusing on locally sourced, sustainable products to produce exciting dishes, such as bone marrow-foie gras mousse, buffalo frog legs, blackened diver scallops and pan-seared Texas redfish served with bacon-jalapeño johnny cakes. 2421 W. 7th St., Suite 109, 817-870-1100, www.maxswinedive.com
Brad Phillips, Asador
Farm to fire. That’s the simple concept of Asador, now beholden to the imagination of Brad Phillips, who comes to Dallas from the Brasserie in Grand Cayman. Phillips collaborates with chef-proprietor Dean James Max to bring new flavors to life, primarily by combining his experience in the Midwest, South and the Caribbean with the Tex-Mex influences so essential to Dallas. That translates into options like pulled pork tortilla soup, a Texas tomato and queso Chihuahua sandwich, Wagyu chicken fried steak with Brussels sprout mashed potatoes and seared scallops with Texas grapefruit reduction. Local never tasted so good. 2222 Stemmons Fwy. (inside the Renaissance Dallas), 214-267-4815, www.asadorrestaurant.com