Dallas, the cultural and commercial hub of Texas, has several great art spaces and museums. However only one of them managed to activate all of our senses - The Nasher Sculpture Center. Located in the Dallas Arts District beside the Dallas Museum of Art, it houses an amazing collection of contemporay and modern sculpture from the Patsy and Raymond Nasher collection. The 9,700 m2 site was opened in 2003 and till this day offers the perfect space to BREATHE, SEE, TOUCH and TASTE!
Not a stranger to designing and building unique museums, Renzo Piano was selected to create the 5,100m2 building of the Nasher Sculpture Center. Of course, Mr. Piano did not diassapoint! But we are not here to speak about the starchitect today. We'd like to shed light on the culinary adventure that the Nasher Sculpture Center has to offer - Nasher Cafe by Wolfgang Puck with Chef Chris Bardeloza. Between creating a new menu for the season and running a fantastic museum kitchen, Chef Chris took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions.
WARNING! This feature contains mouth-watering imagery, scroll through with caution.
Chef Bardeloza, can you tell us a bit more about your culinary background and how it developed into running a museum kitchen, the Nasher Cafe?
I went to The Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, TX and then started my career off in 2009 by working as a Chef De Partie at Wolfgang Pucks 560, making sushi under executive sushi chef Hiroyuki Fujino. Three years later, I transferred over to the hotline and I worked under chef Ray Scradzinski and Chef Patton Robertson, and they promoted me to a Sous Chef. Shortly after that, my wife and I moved to Istanbul, Turkey to open the restaurant, Spago. We lived there for a little over a year, but when the environment became more hostile we decided to move back to Dallas. I resumed my position at 560, but then decided it was time to move onto other Wolfgang Puck divisions such as catering. I learned of the Executive Chef position opening at the Nasher and knew it would be a great fit—I have an interest in art and took art classes in college, and I enjoy painting as a hobby. That definitely made the Nasher an attractive place to work.
What would you say are the differences between working in a “normal” kitchen and one in a museum?
We have a wide range of catered events such as wedding receptions, galas, meetings and luncheons, as well as a daytime café for the Museum, but we have a small fulltime staff to handle these day to day functions. For example, in a restaurant kitchen I would have several dedicated prep chefs, whereas in a museum environment all staff has to be cross trained to handle various objectives.
Do you get inspired by the art/ sculptures surrounding you?
By the specific sculptures, not really, but the simplistic and modern environment has inspired me to create pure but elevated dishes.
What is your favorite art piece in the museum?
Bronze Crowd by Magdalena Abakanowicz is my favorite sculpture in the garden. In my opinion the sculpture represents the population as people being looked down upon. They don’t have identities; they are just people. I think this is often how we are viewed and how we view each other.
What is your concept and/or approach to creating the menu for the Nasher Café?
I think about food in colors and textures first, I fill in the flavor gaps a little later. I think this comes from my experience with art, envisioning the finished piece then figuring out how to get there. I also try to keep things very simple and recreate familiar foods in a way that might surprise people.
What is the connection between museum and restaurant? How is the museum collection translated in the menu?
I feel that the biggest connection with the café and the museum is the experience that I try to create for the guests, it’s very calming and refined. The café has a full wall of windows looking out onto the sculpture garden as well as a terrace so that guests can enjoy their meal while being surrounded by a serene environment. We also try to rotate the menu seasonally as we display new and traveling artists work in the museum, this way guests are enjoying a completely new experience when they tour and dine in the café.
Where do you source your produce from and is the menu seasonal?
The menu is seasonal; we base our menus off what can be found locally. We sometimes have produce specially grown for us, when possible. One unique produce source that we have is the Chef’s Garden—they specially grow all of our micro greens and petite vegetables, and they harvest a lot of the specialized produce that we use, such as baby heirloom eggplant and tomatoes that you cannot find elsewhere.
We love that you do catering for special events, such as weddings amongst others. Can you tell us more about the process?
My part comes in after the events are booked. I typically meet our clients for the first time at the tasting. I tell them about the dishes that we offer through Wolfgang Puck or they can request custom menus. We spend several days preparing the food for these larger events. The day of, we work out the logistics of how to efficiently serve for larger groups several hours prior to the event. I also try to be very hands on when it comes to allergies and specific food requests from our groups to ensure we are prepared for the event.
What is one the most exciting menus and events you have worked on recently?
We are currently working on the Nasher Prize Gala menu. This will be the first Nasher Prize Gala I have worked on and I am excited to have a large role in creating the menu. I am working with Chef Drew Swanson, who ran the event last year, to maintain the high standard of catering that is expected at this event. The menu at this event is exciting and different, it is a chance to showcase different cooking techniques and specialty items. We can really show people how creative we can be and work together as a team to show people something they have not seen before.
Would you share one of your favorite recipes with us and our readers to try at home?
This is recipe I learned while training at Spago in Beverly Hills. Not only is it worthy of a Michelin star restaurant but it is also casual enough to serve to your family at home.
5# diced veal
4 cups small diced mirepoix
7 cups tomato concasse
¼ cup chopped garlic
½ cup olives (halfed)
4 cups white wine
1 cup red wine
1 cup port wine
¼ cup tomato concasse
1 cup veal demi
4 cups chicken stock
Bouquet garni of 1 bay leaf 10 sprigs of thyme, 1 sprig rosemary and 3 sprigs parsley
Season veal with salt and black pepper. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Lightly dust veal with flour. Lightly. Not dredged or crusted, just a very light coating.
In hot saute pans with olive oil, gently sear all sides of the lamb. Work in small batches, getting even color on all the meat. Do not over-sear and make crusty or dry. add a tablespoon or so of butter to each pan as the meat is nearly caramelized.
When the meat has been caramelized, remove it from the saute pan to a perforated hotel pan to drain. Deglaze each of the pans with a small amount of the wine. Set the wine aside.
In a rondeau, add about ¼ cup of olive oil. When it’s hot, add the mirepoix, season with s & P and cook over high heat until it begins to caramelize, then reduce the heat. Add the chopped garlic and continue to cook out the mirepoix until a bit darker.
Add another couple tablespoons of olive oil, then add the concasse. Season again. Adjust the heat – it should be hot enough for the tomatoes to cook out, but not so hot that they scorch before they are finished. Let the concasse cook out until it starts to break down, then add the tomato paste. Cook the paste out for a minute or two, then add the wine.
Reduce the wine to about 1/3 the original volume. Add the seared veal, bouquet garni, stock and demi.
Simmer until veal is tender. Finish with olives.
Ricotta Gnocchi (Spring 2002)
4 cups fresh ricotta (pureed and chilled completely)
4 egg yolks
scratch of nutmeg
1/3 cup parmesan
1 Cup flour