My Dal­las/Fort Worth

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STEPHAN PYLES

The celebrity chef dishes on Texas cui­sine, his love for travel and his fa­vorite DFW restau­rants.

A fifth-gen­er­a­tion Texan, culi­nary icon Stephan Pyles got his first taste of the res­tau­rant busi­ness at his par­ents’ West Texas diner, the Big Spring Truck Stop Café. Dozens of restau­rants and mul­ti­ple James Beard awards later, Chef Pyles sat down with us to talk tacos, tamales and why he’s al­ways called Texas home.

You’re hailed as a found­ing fa­ther of South­west­ern cui­sine. How did this ti­tle come to be

In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, it was mostly con­ti­nen­tal and French, then New Amer­i­can … To do some­thing re­gional [was] what I learned from the French: Use sea­sonal, lo­cal in­gre­di­ents and recipes that were drilled into my head at an early age – jalapenos, cilantro, tacos, tamales. In­te­grat­ing the ta­ble I grew up with was the way I cooked then, and it’s the way I cook to­day.

Did you learn the ba­sics of cook­ing from your fam­ily?

My grand­mother was a great cook. The recipe for hon­eyfried chicken (on the menu at Stam­pede 66) is hers, but done in a mod­ern style.

De­scribe your fond­est mem­ory from be­ing in the kitchen.

There are sev­eral, from be­ing in the Mon­davi Win­ery to work­ing next to Ju­lia [Childs].

One would be from the Truck Stop Café, be­cause ev­ery­thing seemed so mas­sive as a kid. The line cooks and fry cooked seemed so big, and the din­ing room was clas­sic Texas – the juke­box play­ing, wait­resses with big hair.

What was it like work­ing with Ju­lia Childs?

I was star-struck. Not only was she per­son­able but she was knowl­edge­able; and she was the first one to say she wasn’t a chef – she was a cook. She taught me fun­da­men­tal things like how to hold a knife bet­ter and how to cut ar­ti­chokes.

What do you love most about Texas?

I like to say that hos­pi­tal­ity was cre­ated in the South, but it was per­fected in Texas. There’s a great energy and a pi­o­neer spirit here, and the idea that any­thing’s pos­si­ble.

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