In the midst of an influential culinary career spanning nearly four-decades, Executive Chef and Partner John Tesar takes a classically trained chef’s approach to steakhouse cuisine at Knife Dallas, a sophisticated destination for in-house dry-aged steaks sourced from nearby Texas farms. “For years, I thrived as the European-trained seafood chef,” Tesar explains, “so for Knife, I travelled to steakhouses around the country to find out how I could change and elevate the game.” Opened in May 2014 in the Highland Dallas hotel, Knife finds its drive from the products it sources through partnerships with nearby Heartbrand Beef and 44 Farms and the innovative, classically rooted techniques it employs in the kitchen, as well as the science behind its up-to-240-day on-site dry-aging process.
The success of Knife stems from Tesar’s distinct leadership philosophies. “It’s all about carrying on those classic traditions while keeping your mind open for growth and new experiences,” he says, valuing purity, hard work, style, and integrity. With the expansion of the Knife steakhouse brand throughout Texas and the country, as well as the introduction of Knife Burger and Knife butcher shops—first debuting in Plano, TX’s Legacy Food Hall in autumn 2017—Tesar relishes the enthusiastic support his concept garners from staff, guests, and critics. “To identify, execute, and multiply a niche like this is truly a treasure,” he says.
Prior to reinventing the Texas steakhouse landscape, Tesar enjoyed a lengthy career in fine dining that stemmed from his upbringing in Manhattan and the Hamptons. Inspired by his mother’s cooking, Tesar picked up a job in a Hamptons pub during the summer, when he would head to the laid-back enclave to surf and skate, and progressed naturally towards a career in food. With classical French training from Paris’s La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine, Tesar worked at Westhampton’s Club Pierre, a premium French eatery, for six years until ultimately purchasing it. In addition, he furthered his craft throughout the ‘90s at iconic NYC restaurants including 13 Barrow Street, 44 & Hell’s Kitchen, Vine, and Supper Club—at which he worked alongside celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain—before leaving New York City behind in the early 2000s to join chef Rick Moonen in Las Vegas at RM Seafood.
With its blossoming food scene, Dallas drew Tesar to Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in 2006 to lead the high-end establishment as executive chef, rapidly garnering two five-star reviews. He later went on to open Spoon Bar & Kitchen to bring premium seasonal seafood to central Texas in 2012, meanwhile consulting on numerous DRG Concepts properties including Dallas Chop House and Dallas Fish Market, as well as on The Cedars Social, The Commissary, and more. Spoon gained immediate recognition as one of the best new restaurants in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, and Esquire, and Tesar’s visionary consulting worked helped shape the Dallas food scene.
Shifting his culinary focus to become an authority on steak, Tesar took on his steakhouse project in 2014 with the caveat that it be different from the rest—a distinction he achieved by investing in long-term dry-aging inventory and by contemporizing the classically stuffy steakhouse atmosphere into an intimate and engaging, product-driven experience. Recognition for Knife Dallas includes Eater National’s “Most Anticipated Openings,” Esquire’s “Best New Restaurants,” Zagat’s “Hottest New Restaurants,” Maxim’s “America’s Best Steakhouse Specialties,” D Magazine’s “Best Steakhouse in Dallas” 2015 and 2016, Gayot’s “Top 10 Best Steakhouses” 2017, and a feature on Esquire Network’s “Restaurant Revolution” program.
On the heels of Knife’s success and national recognition, Tesar has taken on the fast-casual dining scene with his burger stand spinoff project in 2017, Knife Burger, located at Legacy Food Hall, and opening soon in Fort Worth, with additional locations on the horizon. Continuing with the momentum, Tesar is heading to the West Coast, bringing his new seafood concept Outer Reef to the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point, CA. Outer Reef will pay homage to Tesar’s critically-acclaimed seafood restaurant Spoon Bar & Kitchen (Dallas, TX 2012 -2014) with a selection of favorites from its menu including crudo, caviar and fresh shellfish, as well as select meat offerings from his steakhouse concept Knife.
Never one to slow down, Tesar continues to grow the reach of his consultancy in addition to his expansion of the Knife brand, the development of a television show, and the 2017 launch of his cookbook, Knife: Steakhouse Meals at Home, which features endorsements by talented chefs. A four-time James Beard “Best Southwest Chef” semifinalist, two-time contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” and winner of Food Network’s “Extreme Chef,” Tesar’s national media presence also includes appearances on “The Today Show” and “The Early Show” as well as coverage in The New York Times, Food & Wine, New York Magazine, and more.
When he finds free time among his busy schedule, Tesar often fills it by attending food festivals around the world to meet new people, work with new chefs, and learn new culinary techniques. An avid traveler, he naturally gravitates to the beach and the slopes to fulfill his lifelong appreciation for surfing and snowboarding.