Interview with Kim Pierce, April 5, 2022

Dublin Core

Title

Interview with Kim Pierce, April 5, 2022

Subject

Asian Americans
Texas--History
Cooking, American
Food writing

Date

2022-04-05

Format

audio

Identifier

2021oh002_di_007

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Betsy Brody

Interviewee

Kim Pierce

OHMS Object Text

5.4 Interview with Kim Pierce, April 5, 2022 2021oh002_di_007 01:29:13 ohdi Digging In di001 How Food, Culture, and Class Shaped Asian Dallas Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans This project is possible thanks to the support of a Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship. Asian Americans Texas--History Cooking, American Food writing Kim Pierce Betsy Brody m4a oh_audio_dig_pierce_kim20220405.m4a 1:|16(5)|41(11)|54(7)|67(2)|76(13)|86(1)|99(5)|108(10)|116(12)|129(1)|137(14)|147(13)|156(13)|167(1)|174(13)|186(16)|203(1)|216(8)|225(2)|236(3)|251(8)|263(13)|276(5)|289(2)|308(4)|317(3)|333(6)|340(9)|351(6)|366(4)|375(12)|385(1)|394(8)|403(5)|412(10)|427(13)|436(5)|444(12)|451(4)|459(14)|475(7)|492(3)|504(9)|514(13)|527(3)|541(11)|552(9)|567(2)|578(4)|586(8)|601(12)|615(1)|628(2)|637(12)|652(1)|670(3)|682(14)|692(2)|703(9)|716(11)|725(2)|734(3)|747(6)|756(10)|766(2)|774(6)|785(9)|796(8)|805(9)|820(6)|834(9)|845(7)|854(4)|863(4)|874(15)|886(16)|903(7)|911(10)|928(7)|944(11)|954(15)|967(2)|980(8)|998(8)|1007(5)|1015(1)|1030(7)|1045(8)|1055(15) 0 https://betsybrody.aviaryplatform.com/embed/media/162894 Aviary audio 0 Introduction Asian Americans ; Cooking, ; Cooking, American ; Food writing ; Texas--History 32 Moving to Texas from California assassination ; California ; Dallas ; IBM ; JFK ; Texas 110 Career as a writer for the Dallas Morning News Dallas Morning News ; Derro Evans ; fine dining ; food ; food writing ; Guide ; health ; nutrition ; Old Warsaw ; olive oil ; restaurant reviewer ; restaurant reviews ; Routh Street Cafe ; Stephan Pyles ; Tex-Mex ; Victor Wdowiak ; wine ; writing 572 Routh Street Cafe and cooking with Texas ingredients Agnew's ; Alice Waters ; American ; California cuisine ; celebrity chef ; Chez Panisse ; Dean Fearing ; educate ; education ; fine dining ; flavor ; French ; local ingredients ; Mansion on Turtle Creek ; menu ; nouvelle cuisine ; Routh Street Cafe ; service ; Stephan Pyles 1029 Memories of the Dallas restaurant scene in the 1970s barbecue ; Brink's ; Campisis ; Chateaubriand ; China Clipper ; Chinese restaurant ; Dallas ; Dickey's Barbecue ; fried rice ; Hong Kong Cafe ; Lakewood ; Lim Yee ; noodles ; Old Warsaw ; pizza ; Steak and Ale 1227 Getting started in food writing Brian Reinhart ; bridge ; D Magazine ; Dallas ; Dallas Morning News ; Dallas Times Herald ; El Centro ; ethnic food ; ethnic markets ; food landscape ; Food Section ; food writing ; grocery stores ; Guide ; middle class ; Nancy Nichols ; negative reviews ; restaurant reviewer ; restaurant reviews ; restaurants ; reviews 1578 Qualities that make a good restaurant critic/ Thoughts about &quot ; authenticity&quot ; in food Americanized ; authentic ; authenticity ; bridge ; culture ; curiousity ; dumb down ; education ; food ; palate ; respect ; restaurant reviewer ; restaurant reviews ; reviews ; Southern cooking ; Taco Bell ; tomatoes ; western palate 2147 Asian food landscape in Dallas Arlington ; Asian community ; Asian grocery ; Asian restaurant ; Chinese community ; crab ; East Dallas Community Garden ; gardens ; immigration ; Indian community ; Indian food ; ingredients ; IT ; Korean community ; Muslim ; Ramadan ; rice ; Richardson ; Taj Mahal Imports ; telecom corridor ; Vietnamese 2533 Food as door into other cultures culture ; dashi ; food ; Japanese ; PBS ; sake ; soy sauce ; television ; tofu ; wine 2785 Dallas as a restaurant city brunch ; Dallas ; food ; restaurants 3098 Restaurant reviewing and the impact of social media dumb down ; restaurant reviewer ; restaurant reviews ; reviews ; social media ; star ; Yelp 3409 Asian food businesses communicating Asian culture Asian community ; Asian Mint ; Buddhist Temple ; business ; Central Market ; cooking classes ; culture ; curiousity ; fried rice ; Hare Krishnas ; Kalachandji ; Nikky Phinyawatana 3757 Challenges faced by Dallas restaurants COVID ; crab ; expensive ; fast casual ; Jon Alexis ; labor shortage ; supply chain ; Taiwan ; tornado ; Wu Wei Din 4058 Future of high end dining in Dallas expensive ; fine dining 4583 Changes in the Dallas diner Anatole ; Cafe Royal ; celebrity chef ; Chez Panisse ; Dallas ; Dean Fearing ; Fairmont ; fine dining ; Gus Katsigris ; hospitality ; hotels ; Mansion on Turtle Creek ; nouvelle cuisine ; Plum Blossom ; Pyramid Room ; Ritz Carlton ; Routh Street Cafe ; sophisticated ; Stephan Pyles |00:00:00| BRODY This is Betsy Brody. Today is April 5th, 2022. I am interviewing for the first time Ms. Kim Pierce. This interview is taking place in my home office in Richardson, Texas. This interview is possible thanks to the support of a Mellon/ ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship and as part of the project entitled &quot ; Digging In: How Food, Culture, and Class Shaped the Story of Asian Dallas.&quot ; Hi Kim, thank you so much for joining me. |00:00:28| PIERCE Hello. |00:00:30| BRODY I&#039 ; ve been looking forward to this. Well, just to start out, let&#039 ; s get a little bit of background on you. Where and when were you born? |00:00:38| PIERCE I was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1950. I grew up there. And in- when I was 18, I moved with my young husband back to Texas. We were looking for job opportunities. In a way, it was also a return to my roots because I am descended from the whole Hill Country German community that we know so much about in this state. So even though I grew up in Southern California, I also had these very deep Texas roots. |00:01:13| BRODY Where did you come when you first came back to Texas? |00:01:17| PIERCE We came to Dallas. |00:01:17| BRODY To Dallas. |00:01:18| PIERCE Yes, we moved in with my sister and her husband in Garland. |00:01:23| BRODY Were you working at that time? |00:01:24| PIERCE No, I did not. It was my. My husband was working. He came. He was hired at IBM, which again, it was a, it was a great time for coming here for commerce. We don&#039 ; t, we weren&#039 ; t even thinking about things like the assassination and the associations with the city. We just wanted to get our little family going. |00:01:48| BRODY What is your current position? |00:01:52| PIERCE I am retired. Happily retired. |00:01:53| BRODY What did you retire from? |00:01:56| PIERCE I retired from writing, from basically from writing. I&#039 ; ve been at the Dallas Morning News for...I had been at the Dallas Morning News probably 35 years before I went freelance and still continued to write for the news. Gosh, I mean, I could...If I had an idea tomorrow, I could sit down and write a story because I have that kind of currency with the editors, but I&#039 ; m glad to not be doing it. So I am retired from food journalism primarily. |00:02:30| BRODY So were you writing exclusively food related articles or were there other areas that you wrote about as well? |00:02:39| PIERCE I wrote about health and food and health. I was always very interested in nutrition, and so food and nutrition was sort of a natural pairing. And from that, I evolved into doing more of the restaurant writing. It&#039 ; s, it...It was not a straight line by any means, but I really enjoyed writing about food. |00:03:07| BRODY What is it that you liked the most about, about focusing on food and nutrition and those types of things? |00:03:14| PIERCE I really loved being able, on the one hand to tell people to clarify information as best we could within the scientific context of the times. And I say that because- it&#039 ; s ever-changing. The information is ever changing. When I began writing about health and food, people who are heart patients were discouraged from using olive oil because it was a fat. And it was because the research had not yet caught up to breaking down the facts to the point of understanding that monounsaturated fats were different in the body than the than the polyunsaturated fats. So there was always this evolution of information, and I really enjoyed being able to clarify when changes came, when information changed, when we started using food labels, how to read them, what they said. One time we did a page...I was so proud of this. It was a whole newspaper page and it was simply called &quot ; The Bone Clock&quot ; . And it showed you the development of your bones and what happens to them over the course of a lifetime. And it was an easy to- forgive me- easy to digest form of information where people could go, &quot ; Oh, OK, so that&#039 ; s why this is important.&quot ; And from that, we segued into restaurants because the executive editor, I&#039 ; ll never forget, I got a... I was the editor of the Guide at the time and I got a note. I actually did the health and nutrition writing a little later than that. But while I was editor of the Guide, the executive editor sent me a note with a single star drawn on it. And because I&#039 ; m a very linear thinker and I&#039 ; m like going, &quot ; What does he want?&quot ; And he said, &quot ; We think we need to do a star rating system for our restaurants. Tell us how we would go about doing that.&quot ; And this was when Dallas had a much more manageable number of restaurants. So we developed a system. My staff and I and our food critic, our restaurant critic at the time, his name was Derro Evans. D-E-R-R-O Evans. He has passed. He took us to, I want to say, five different styles, types of restaurants like Tex-Mex, fine dining, a couple of others where to just sort of introduce us to the genre and what you look for and how things are different in the different areas of concentration. And then we also took a wine course. In fact, what&#039 ; s interesting is in the whole telling of Old Warsaw&#039 ; s story at our conference, and I can&#039 ; t. What was the name of our conference? (Reference to the Legacies Dallas History Conference in 2022) |00:06:29| BRODY Legacies Dallas. |00:06:30| PIERCE Legacies Dallas conference. Thank you. They left out Victor Wdowiak, who was and will have to spell that for you. But we left out Victor Wdowiak, who was one of those Polish merchant marines who went to work at Old Warsaw, and he was one of the, you might say, founding fathers of wine education in Dallas. And he really took it upon himself to help again to help people understand the difference between Chablis and Burgundy from California and the real Chablis and the real Burgundy. And essentially the wines of the world. So armed with that, Derro would do the main restaurant reviews, and then we and the staff would do the smaller ones that you saw the mini reviews. Where we would go, we would evaluate the restaurant, we would write it up, and that was that. And then he was he was followed by another great restaurant reviewer, and that was Liz Logan. She is still about, but she keeps very much to herself. She, I think she&#039 ; s up in New York at this point and this this just became a very popular thing. And there was a short period of time in the early 80s when I did the main restaurant review for a while and I...My greatest claim to fame, if there were any is that I was the first critic to review Routh Street Cafe, Stephan Pyles&#039 ; first restaurant. Stephan Pyles, who was essentially a nobody on the Dallas food scene, even though he had some very good background working with, I want to say, the Mondavi Winery. Oh, he-you should ask him because I&#039 ; m not going to get this right. But he was not unknowledgeable, but he had no fine dining credentials we&#039 ; ll say up to that point. And Routh Street Cafe, which opened in 1983...What I lacked in knowledge, I made up for in having pretty good instincts about what was happening. And I knew that that restaurant was- I say I knew, and then I&#039 ; m going to say &quot ; was probably&quot ; - a game changer. And I, and I it&#039 ; s the one and only time that the News has ever given five stars on the first review. And I at the time, I&#039 ; ve shared this with Stephan many years since I said, &quot ; You know, we were just either going to sink or swim together.&quot ; If the restaurant closed in a month, well, you know, my reputation was diminished too. |00:09:31| BRODY What was it that you saw in the restaurant that that made you get that special feeling? |00:09:38| PIERCE Well, the first thing was the warmth of the setting. It was up until that time most fine dining was very formalized. I won&#039 ; t say everybody. All the waiters wore tuxedos and bow ties, but it was that sort of rigid, upscale, very accommodating service. But yet there was an evolution to it at Routh Street. You had the same level of service, the same cosseting we&#039 ; ll say. But it was very warm. It was very personal. It was like the waiter might lean down a little, literally next to the table and talk to you at this level about something about the food that was very good. So it was a, it was a different feel. So there was that and the other piece was the food was following on a trend that had begun earlier, first with nouvelle French cuisine and then with what we like to call the California cuisine movement of using fresh local ingredients. And it&#039 ; s funny we...You could look back at one of these menus now and you&#039 ; d go, &quot ; Whoa, what was the big deal?&quot ; And it was a big deal because it was using...there were things like cilantro on the menu, which, which, as Stephan will even tell you, we, he said, &quot ; We had to ask our Mexican cooks in the kitchen how to use it because we didn&#039 ; t understand that the flavor was in the stems.&quot ; It was a whole new frontier of dining, and Stephan had an extraordinary sense of putting flavors together. And so you had the ambiance, you had the relaxed approach to the service. And yet and you also had this really simple but elegant food, and it felt like it was a game-changer right out of the gate. |00:11:55| BRODY Good instinct, since it was. How much of the success of, of Stephan Pyles&#039 ; empire was also, you know, tied in to the time period and celebrity chefs and sort of the personality of the, of the person... do you think ?|00:12:15| PIERCE It was all, it was all of the time and of a movement. What Alice Waters and, now she wasn&#039 ; t the only one, but she almost certainly gets credit, a credit deserved. This, the French nouvelle cuisine movement was about using fresh local French ingredients and absurdly- you talk about your airport story- Dallas restaurants, the finest, the ones that were doing French nouvelle, would fly the fresh ingredients over from France. And it was- I know we laugh now, but this is what you did because all fine dining emanated from Europe. So it, in the context of the times, that wasn&#039 ; t absurd. Well, then you have Alice Waters and Chez Panisse coming on the scene and going, &quot ; You know what? We have this incredible agricultural richness in California, Northern California. Why don&#039 ; t we start using these fresh ingredients?&quot ; Because the flavors pop, there&#039 ; s so many things you can do with fresh ingredients that you can&#039 ; t do with ones that you know, fly over on a jet. Plus the expense. So there was that. And so there began to be and I&#039 ; m getting...I know we don&#039 ; t want to make this the whole interview. But I&#039 ; m going to take you back to- this is a- and you may take a picture of this when the time comes, when you need it. This is a menu from Dean Fearing&#039 ; s, one of his dinners at Agnew&#039 ; s, which is where he was prior to The Mansion on Turtle Creek. And it (the menu) was positively innovative because it had all these local, this is American, not Southwestern, but it was all of these. There was an all U.S.-product menu coupled with an all-California wine list. Yeah, and this was it. I won&#039 ; t say it was heresy, but it was really revolutionary. And this actually precedes by about a year. I think I&#039 ; ve got the date on here. Well, we&#039 ; ll take a look real quick. We&#039 ; ll take a look. Yes, this was this was 1982, and Stephan&#039 ; s restaurant opened in 1983, and it very...This whole idea of using the fresh ingredients very quickly caught on. We called it. And over the course of my career, this is probably the most important development in food. Not...The celebrity chef trend, we&#039 ; ll call it, calling out the personalities, coupled with &quot ; what can we do with local indigenous ingredients?&quot ; Which was actually a lot more complicated than it sounds because you&#039 ; ve got to find somebody to grow them. So that that was the revolution in dining, and it really swept Dallas up at the time. |00:15:38| BRODY And you can really see that, you know, to tie together a lot of what we&#039 ; ve talked about already, you know, in, you know, in your interest in talking about health and nutrition and science, that you&#039 ; re-what you were doing- and food, what you were doing was really translating science on a practical level for people who are going to eat and try, you know, try to live right and live more healthy. And in the case of, you know, sort of the transformation of fine dining. Right? To not have it be about just French techniques and French ingredients... |00:16:18| PIERCE Very much in French, Italian, Continental. Correct. |00:16:22| BRODY Right. To translate that into an American context and, and even more localized a California or a Texas context, depending on what grows. |00:16:33| PIERCE And it was happening everywhere. It was happening in New York. It was happening in Minnesota. I mean, these each of these areas was doing it with their own products. |00:16:44| BRODY With what they could grow or farm or fish. Yeah. So yeah, I mean, so it&#039 ; s it&#039 ; s really a lot of your enterprise is, and what you&#039 ; ve been doing is educating people and translating things, it seems. So just to sort of jump off of looking at this fascinating menu from what looks to be a very fancy dinner... |00:17:07| PIERCE It was! |00:17:09| BRODY What was the restaurant scene like in Dallas- when- before you arrived? What did you know about it or what was it like when you got here? |00:17:18| PIERCE Zip. Nothing. I mean, not literally. There were... There were there were some very, very high end restaurants like Old Warsaw, like Chateaubriand was another one. But those were not places that I was going to in 1968. My most memorable restaurant experience was eating barbecue at one of the original Dickey&#039 ; s satellites. It&#039 ; s, it is not the same food today that it was then, but it was quite eye-opening how good it was. There were I think three Chinese restaurants was the extent of the Asian scene. There was Hong Kong Cafe on Garland Road, which everybody misses. It&#039 ; s still in business. It&#039 ; s the only continuously operating Chinese restaurant that I know of in this area. Dreadful menu. Because much of it is some of it is still the same food, you know, with three you get pork fried rice with four you get noodles, whatever. And then the other one was, let&#039 ; s see, there was another one, I think it was called the China Clipper. And then there was Lim Yee in Lakewood. That was Chinese. I knew I was in trouble. I had...I grew up in a neighborhood in Southern California, where there were some interesting restaurants, good restaurants, like a very good Jewish deli, a very good Italian pizza spaghetti restaurant that I would only later come to understand that these actually were good places to learn about food. But where was I going with this? I was going somewhere, the train was going somewhere. Oh well, shoot. We&#039 ; ll just have to pick it up. |00:19:26| BRODY Well, we were talking about what Dallas was like when you got here. |00:19:30| PIERCE Oh, I know what it was. I knew I was in trouble when I got here, and I think Shakey&#039 ; s was the predominant pizza restaurant. And oh, and Campisi&#039 ; s. And I mean, this was... God forgive me, Campisi fans, but this was like pizza hell compared to what I had been eating. So it was...There were some home cooking restaurants, but I tell you, it was pretty slim pickings. |00:20:04| BRODY So you have that fine dining and then, you know, some Shakey&#039 ; s, maybe a handful of Chinese restaurants and... |00:20:12| PIERCE There was Steak and Ale. There was Brink&#039 ; s, which was a coffee shop. But just not much of a restaurant scene. |00:20:27| BRODY Had you already known that you wanted to write about food? How did you how did you get into it in the first place? |00:20:35| PIERCE Well, I wanted to. I can&#039 ; t take too long with these stories. I...I wanted to go to school and get a degree, which I did. I was working at one of the community colleges, El Centro, at the time in the Admissions Office, and I missed a job promotion for not having a degree. So I made it my first of all, made it my goal to get a degree. And then when I was, I was at University of Texas at Arlington. My final semester, I had a choice to make between taking a course that would put me on track for graduate sociology or take a journalism course to try and see what my writing was like. Well, I took the latter. Out of four classes, I did more, I produced more inches than any other student. I loved it. It came, writing came so naturally to me and had all my life. And I published my first freelance story the following fall in the Chicago Sun-Times. |00:21:41| BRODY That&#039 ; s incredible. |00:21:42| PIERCE So it was a very well. It was- it was a bumpier road after that. But then I sort of fell into the food writing. First, I was the editor of the Guide, which meant a lot of discovery of places for people. I, it was our...We really saw it as our job to tell people what was out there in their world that they could do. And of course, restaurants and shopping at, we called them &quot ; ethnic markets&quot ; because our...I finally realized that we did this because we were writing to our readership, which was a predominantly white upper middle class readership. And so that was where we fell into using that terminology, which is almost politically incorrect today. |00:22:39| BRODY But at the time, it seemed like it was descriptive. |00:22:42| PIERCE Yes. Yes. Because this was unusual to our readership. So from there, of course, we trans... We, we moved toward doing the restaurants. And eventually, when I left the Guide, I went to the Food Section, which is why I started writing more food stories. But I never stopped writing restaurant reviews all through that time. In fact, I was I was writing them even in the, probably as recently as five or ten years ago. I was still writing restaurant reviews because they wanted me to, so... |00:23:17| BRODY That&#039 ; s great. What is your philosophy around food writing? |00:23:23| PIERCE You know, I consider it. I started out as a rock and roll critic for a year at the Dallas Times Herald, and I consider the mission somewhat the same in that you want, you want to tell people. You want to bring people to the experience, you want them to taste the food you- just like, you want them to hear the music- you want them to taste the food based on what your words say and then you, you do want to use that space to educate them about what it is they&#039 ; re eating. And you know, you bring up the sticky point of authenticity, which we&#039 ; ll get into later. But we... but you really just want them to know more about what they&#039 ; re eating. Whose, whose restaurant is this? What&#039 ; s, what is the, what is the food like? How reflective is it of their culture or system? And then does it taste good? Does it work? Does it not work? |00:24:32| BRODY Right? How does it feel? Kind of what you were saying about the ambiance that Routh Street and so on, how does it feel to be there? |00:24:38| PIERCE I want to take them there. I want them to... And I think Brian does this too. We&#039 ; re talking Brian. |00:24:45| BRODY Reinhart. |00:24:45| PIERCE Reinhart. I think he does that as well. He takes you into the experience. So I think that&#039 ; s all part and parcel of what you do. |00:24:55| BRODY What would you say the main goals of a restaurant review are? |00:24:59| PIERCE To tell people what&#039 ; s out there in their community. We used to- it was funny- at one point the only time we ever did negative reviews. I use those terms and I use that advisedly, that&#039 ; s kind of a hot point word. The only time we did those (negative reviews) was when we were reviewing a restaurant that was associated with a well-known chef. And you had to continue the story. But most of the time, the prevailing philosophy was if there is no reason to send people here, we probably shouldn&#039 ; t take the space, the precious space we have, to write about that. Even if why you send them, there is something very small. But if it&#039 ; s going to be a straight pan, this is and we had those. We had God awful experiences. |00:26:02| BRODY And just chose to not go to print with it. |00:26:04| PIERCE Well, we just we didn&#039 ; t write the review. We came back. We expensed it. We talked about it and said &quot ; Nah. This one&#039 ; s probably not one.&quot ; Or, &quot ; Let&#039 ; s give him six months and see if anything changes.&quot ; |00:26:16| BRODY Revisit. What qualities make a good restaurant critic, in your opinion? |00:26:21| PIERCE Well, you have to love to eat. You have to have a very good digestive system. And I say that&#039 ; s not a joke. Both Nancy Nichols and I, Nancy, being the former D Magazine reviewer, she and I both have intestinal issues at this point in our lives and we can&#039 ; t eat that way anymore. I can&#039 ; t eat anything that you put in front of me. I got to be fairly...I have to be fairly careful about just what I eat. So maybe that&#039 ; s the karma for me. But you do have to have a pretty strong gut. I think you have to have an intellectual curiosity about what you&#039 ; re eating. I think it&#039 ; s great if you have education in the cuisine. There&#039 ; s a fine line there because I&#039 ; d rather read a review by somebody who is enthusiastic and interested than somebody who knows the cuisine chapter and verse and talks down to me about it. To me, that&#039 ; s not enticing. And boy, the whole- tell me, when do you want to go down the rabbit hole of authenticity? But because there were times when we would get into a cuisine that was new to us. Let&#039 ; s say, Ethiopian...because we didn&#039 ; t have Ethiopian restaurants in this city for many, many years. So what we would try to do is hook up with somebody from that community who would go with us and help us understand what we were eating. That was that was the only way to, I think, be fair, because some of these cuisines were strictly for the community. They weren&#039 ; t for- just, just as the very first the Mexican food in the early 20th century, in Mexican kitchens, kitchens was different from what was served in the Mexican restaurants for an Anglo audience. So you got into authenticity issues right away? |00:28:48| BRODY Yeah. I mean, what do you think about that? I mean, it is a tricky, sticky kind of topic when you&#039 ; re talking about food. And I would imagine in particular when you&#039 ; re reviewing restaurants and, and, as you say, trying food that you may never have tried before and be very unfamiliar with, |00:29:09| PIERCE You have no benchmark. |00:29:11| BRODY Yeah. So but yet, you know, it comes up more often than you would think. Whether a particular restaurant is &quot ; authentic&quot ; to whatever its purported roots are right, whether even if it&#039 ; s a, you know, Southern style, you know, restaurant, you know, making chicken-fried steak, is it authentic? Even, you know, going into our later topic of, you know, of Asian restaurants, you know what is authentic? What does, what does that term sort of mean to you or, you know, how is it, how does it play out when you&#039 ; re doing the work that you do? |00:29:53| PIERCE Well, you&#039 ; ll notice that I just grimaced. It&#039 ; s because there have been whole conferences in, around the world, on the concept of authenticity. And you know, my favorite thing to sort of illustrate what a rabbit hole this is, is to talk about tomatoes in Italian cuisine. You know, before there was trade with the free world, I mean, the Western world. What am I saying? The New World, before there was trade with the Americas, there were no tomatoes in Italy. And so are they Italian? Are they authentic Italian food ingredients? One would certainly say so now, but five hundred years ago you would not. So I think there&#039 ; s a real balance between authenticity and evolution. There&#039 ; s, there&#039 ; s evolution in fine dining where you have an authentic foundation and you try to just like a chef does in any cuisine, where you try to push the boundaries and do things that are exciting and innovative. And then there&#039 ; s the cultural appropriation or of dumbing down concepts like Taco Bell. We shouldn&#039 ; t always pick on Taco Bell, but any of these restaurants like that where they&#039 ; ve sort of co-opted a concept and taken it to its lowest common denominator. |00:31:37| BRODY Yeah, that&#039 ; s really interesting, I mean, it&#039 ; s just. There&#039 ; s so many layers to that that whole topic, right? I mean, like you talked earlier about fine dining and there&#039 ; s, you know, that whole area can be fraught as well, like if especially when we&#039 ; re talking about fine dining restaurants using and learning from the techniques of other cultures. Yes. Where, I mean, what are some of your observations there? Sort of that nexus between learning from other cultures,... Adopting the techniques, whether they be French or Japanese or whatever? And also, you know, creating something new, like you said, pushing the envelope on the types of food that you&#039 ; re serving. |00:32:29| PIERCE I think when a chef sets out to do something like that, I...I don&#039 ; t look at it as so much as cultural appropriation as I do....This is...It&#039 ; s, it&#039 ; s like a color palette in art. This is the palette that the chef is chosen, and if he wants to do things creatively with that cuisine, I don&#039 ; t have an objection to that because this is what he stated. He didn&#039 ; t come in and say, &quot ; I&#039 ; m going to do an authentic such and such restaurant.&quot ; He said, &quot ; I am...I&#039 ; m a Brazilian chef and I&#039 ; m going to take my Brazilian cuisine and now I&#039 ; m going to put my creative mark on it.&quot ; I&#039 ; m fine with that. The ones, the ones that grate are the ones that say they are authentic, but then they&#039 ; re basically Americanized. I think this happens nowhere more frequently than Italian. If you&#039 ; ve ever been to Italy and eaten Italian food in Italy, you know that there&#039 ; s a certain, I use the French &quot ; je ne sais quoi&quot ; that makes it so delicious, so simple, so fresh. It, it, it&#039 ; s very hard to replicate that in America. I can&#039 ; t really think of anyone right now who does. And you. Would you? Let&#039 ; s see, what am I going off on here? You also have American expectations, and I&#039 ; m going to come to the Asian in just a moment. You, if you remember the movie, &quot ; The Big Night?&quot ; The great scene where the couple ordered risotto and then the wife wanted to know if she could have a side of spaghetti because that&#039 ; s what other Italian restaurants gave you. And the waiter and the chef who were brothers had this big fight back in the kitchen and he says, you know, the chef is going, &quot ; You don&#039 ; t, you don&#039 ; t put pasta with risotto, can&#039 ; t you tell her that?&quot ; And the poor waiter is going, &quot ; But this is what she wants. She&#039 ; s paying for the meal.&quot ; And that particular conundrum is one I think Asian restaurants definitely come up against. All I have to do is, say, &quot ; Pad Thai&quot ; or &quot ; Tandoori chicken.&quot ; And it&#039 ; s like if you&#039 ; re a Thai restaurant without Pad Thai or you&#039 ; re an Indian restaurant without tandoori chicken, you know you&#039 ; ve just canceled probably 25 percent of your profits because that&#039 ; s what your American audience wants. So what do you do? |00:35:36| BRODY Right? It&#039 ; s a business. |00:35:37| PIERCE It&#039 ; s a business. And if you want to make money, you&#039 ; re going to have those on the menu. But hopefully you can have other things as well that are more representative of your culture. |00:35:47| BRODY Yeah. So it sounds like when you first got here, there weren&#039 ; t that many Asian restaurants, but that obviously changed. Can you tell me about your observations of, not just in terms of Asian restaurants, but the changes in the Dallas food scene over the time that you were involved in paying attention and writing about it? |00:36:09| PIERCE It was many, many years. And, I think there has been an uptick in interest in cooking that has helped to fuel this, an ability to get ingredients, which I think was brought on by the immigration of people to the area. I mean, it&#039 ; s not one thing. I remember when in the post-Saigon era, in the late &#039 ; 70s, while you were still in kindergarten, I remember the little Asian stores in East Dallas. And if you wanted certain ingredients, you could go there to get them. I would get black rice to make black rice pudding because I love that. People...I remember there were live blue crabs, you know, in a little pan that people could buy. I remember the gardens where you could go and, well, I don&#039 ; t know if you could buy things from the garden. But anyway, I remember the little stores. And then you did the story on Taj Mahal, which was part of the Indian influx. Now I get a little hazy on dates, but what I remember is the real flourishing of Indian food came with the advent of the telecom corridor in Richardson, where you, you drew and you began to have a population that could support a grocery store. You saw that. I don&#039 ; t know what the jobs were that drew Koreans to Dallas, but you saw the whole Koreatown develop at Royal and I-35. There were, I remember there being communities, of course. Richardson, then the Greenville-Beltline area was very early, primarily Chinese, but also other groups. There was South Arlington was another community. They were, there were just slowly began to be clusters of shops. I think, for example, in the Royal-35 corridor, that&#039 ; s stayed fairly Korean. But then you go somewhere like Richardson. And within a few blocks, you&#039 ; ve got Mediterranean cultures. You know, it&#039 ; s so funny. We went to a restaurant last Saturday. My, my partner and I. It was a Mediterranean buffet that we&#039 ; ve been to before that we really liked and we walked in and they had all their pastries in the pastry case. But the buffet was closed, and I looked around and I thought, &quot ; Oh, this is the first day of Ramadan.&quot ; And so this was a Muslim-run buffet. But then we could go up the road to Afrah, which is Lebanese, same, similar food culture, but different. And we could, and we had a wonderful meal there. And then that same little area there, Sara&#039 ; s which... |00:40:04| BRODY Grocery store? |00:40:05| PIERCE Pardon me. |00:40:05| BRODY The grocery store. |00:40:06| PIERCE The grocery store. And you can go in there and you can find, oh, you could find zaatar the spice. Let me get this right, the spice. But you could find the Lebanese version. Yeah, the Persian version. I mean, you just you get, you get it down to very fine levels in the store. And again, this is all within probably a square mile. So it&#039 ; s odd the way things have landed, but I and then you go...The other big development that I saw was the movement to the supermarkets, not just grocery stores, of which we had so many, but then we suddenly had Super H-Mart, which is Korean-owned but really caters....I mean, they definitely have. You definitely see that with the kimchi and the different various products. But then it was so much more. And it also the signs were in English as well as other languages, so they were clearly looking for an American audience. And then up on Legacy, you have Mitsui, which I think is Japanese, and then you&#039 ; ve got another really big store. |00:41:33| BRODY Ranch 99. |00:41:34| PIERCE Well, there&#039 ; s Ranch 99. I haven&#039 ; t even been in Ranch 99. We go straight to Mitsui where we buy everything for our sashimi. We make sashimi at home and... |00:41:45| BRODY I&#039 ; ll be right over. |00:41:46| PIERCE You know, it&#039 ; s wonderful. So, you know and again, but Super H-Mart came first and it it was just a revelation of products and the availability of what you could get. Now we didn&#039 ; t always...I don&#039 ; t think Americans necessarily know what to do with some of those things. We would probably make them cringe if they... |00:42:13| BRODY But on the other hand, I mean, that&#039 ; s sort of what we&#039 ; re talking about here in, you know, in all these different ways, the, the way that food can educate people about other cultures. And serve as sort of a, you know, a point of entry. |00:42:33| PIERCE It&#039 ; s a door. Absolutely. It&#039 ; s because once you have the food. I don&#039 ; t know. I just, there&#039 ; s something so primal about sharing food. And it does create a door like you. And a very tiny example is...I, I have a lot of wine knowledge in my background. And out of that, as we got more Japanese restaurants, I became more interested in sake and then began, and again, this is on a very small scale, but it&#039 ; s, but it&#039 ; s how food leads you in to I, I I. There was a wonderful documentary a few years ago and it&#039 ; s got the word &quot ; sake&quot ; in it. But it was just such a beautiful story of how this drink is made, the love, the care that goes into it, and you relate to it because it&#039 ; s an artisan product. And what we know artisan from this food over here are this food that we make. And so, yes, I think it&#039 ; s absolutely a door. A door, a window, an entry point, whatever you want to call it. And it leads to more understanding. |00:43:57| BRODY And it kind of what you said earlier that people were during this time period and the sort of the 80s especially starting to be, I guess, quote unquote adventurous with their own cooking, you know, exploring different cultures, learning about different cultures from the food section of the newspaper or from television, you know, various chefs on, you know, and PBS channels and things like that, introducing them to different ways of cooking things from other parts of the world. |00:44:32| PIERCE So, you know, we still get that today. I don&#039 ; t know if you ever watch Christopher Kimball&#039 ; s &quot ; Milk Street&quot ; but &quot ; Milk Street&quot ; and &quot ; America&#039 ; s Test Kitchen&quot ; was really a split in philosophies where Jack Bishop with &quot ; America&#039 ; s Test Kitchen&quot ; wanted to keep going deeper and deeper and deeper into what is the very best version of lemon meringue pie that you can make versus Christopher Kimball, who wanted to push those international boundaries in international cuisines. And we still, we, we still watch the shows. It&#039 ; s, I think it&#039 ; s on (channel) thirteen point three in our market today. We watch the shows and we still get the recipes and we still make those foods. I&#039 ; m, I&#039 ; m....One of my favorite things to do is I make a mushroom stock, a pork mushroom stock and I do fried tofu. You do a little bit of dashi in it (the stock), a little bit of soy sauce, and I hope that doesn&#039 ; t offend anybody. But we do that, then we throw in our fried tofu, and it&#039 ; s just, it&#039 ; s a fabulous comfort soup. |00:45:46| BRODY Sounds wonderful. And again, you know, you have access to all of those ingredients. |00:45:52| PIERCE Yes, and they&#039 ; re good. They&#039 ; re good ingredients. They haven&#039 ; t suffered in transit. And you can, you know, you can buy the artisan soy sauces, you can buy the artisan sakes, you can buy all of that now, where it was not available, I&#039 ; m going to say even 20 years ago. This this has really been an explosion of interest, but you know, at home, at restaurants. And I mean, I think it&#039 ; s great. |00:46:25| BRODY Well, Dallas is really known now as a restaurant city, a place where there&#039 ; s a culture of eating out and plentiful choices at this point of, you know, as you said, all different types of foods, you know, Middle Eastern, fine dining, all different types of Asian foods, African foods and so on. What would you say are some of the characteristics of, of Dallas that, you know, that sort of made it possible for it to become this? I mean, it was at the time that you came, not something you would have predicted. Right? So how did it happen? What were the factors that led to Dallas just sort of bursting out as a food town? |00:47:18| PIERCE Brunch. |00:47:19| BRODY Really? |00:47:23| PIERCE That&#039 ; s not the only thing, but I think Dallas has definitely become a brunch-crazy city and brunches were always...I mean, I remember we would review brunches back then because people again, people wanted this. People like to go out to eat in this city. What? I don&#039 ; t know for sure what goes into that. Maybe it&#039 ; s not wanting to cook so much. Well, it&#039 ; s both. Some people love to cook at home. People like to go out. There&#039 ; s a certain convivialness when you go out. I, you know, I don&#039 ; t know other than we&#039 ; ve just had so many people come into the area and they like to go out to eat. |00:48:15| BRODY How would you characterize in a, in a few words, in a few words, how would you characterize the food landscape in Dallas today if you were, you know, representing Dallas at a convention or something like that and had to tell someone who&#039 ; d never been here? What&#039 ; s the what&#039 ; s the food scene here? |00:48:34| PIERCE Wonderful variety. Depth in some cuisines. Not so much in others. If you want to eat Tex-Mex or Mexican...Because of our proximity to Mexico and the commingling of the cultures, you know, that is a cuisine that you can go very deep. I was sitting here, I was thinking of Mexican regional cooking, some of the some of the things that I know Brian has written about. And then even more of beyond Mexican, Central American, you even a little bit of South American? Not very much yet, though. And then really good fine dining. We do have good fine dining in this city. You don&#039 ; t have to have a lot of those restaurants. One of the weakest links in the chain continues to be Italian. If I want great Italian food, I&#039 ; m probably going to go to Houston. Or but more specifically, I probably (would) more likely go to San Francisco or New York or Providence, Rhode Island. There are places where Italian food is...This is the wrong way to use the word....Where it&#039 ; s more, indigenous, the development. But here in Dallas, you have a lot of variety, a few gaps. And there&#039 ; s, I mean, I could take you to...I could take you somewhere like. Oh, and I&#039 ; m I just had that memory thing happen. I&#039 ; ll think of it. The young female chef who has the little place down east of Dallas, it&#039 ; s very quirky. Oh, why can&#039 ; t I think of it? I know it, I know it will, but I can&#039 ; t remember... |00:50:47| BRODY Not York Street? |00:50:48| PIERCE What? |00:50:48| BRODY York Street that closed a while back, but |00:50:51| PIERCE No...this is the little...She&#039 ; s a young chef. She puts crazy things together and they&#039 ; re so good. But it&#039 ; s a, it&#039 ; s very...I know we&#039 ; ll think of it. In fact, I should look it up on my phone right now. But from something like that experience to the fine dining, super fine dining for something like Monarch to the exciting, the one that&#039 ; s the Brazilian chef. I can where does my mind go? There&#039 ; s just a lot there&#039 ; s a lot of places to go and enjoy good food. Yeah. |00:51:39| BRODY So just going back to the restaurant reviewing. |00:51:43| PIERCE Yes. |00:51:43| BRODY I don&#039 ; t know if this was as big of a factor at the point that you&#039 ; re retired, but with the internet and a lot of these crowd sourcing and, you know, customer created review sites like Yelp and so on, did those have an impact on your work? |00:52:01| PIERCE Hate them. |00:52:04| BRODY Tell me about your feelings there. |00:52:08| PIERCE Yeah, I hate them because they have cheapened the value. My...You know, the review by my next-door neighbor does not have the weight of experience and understanding that a professional restaurant reviewer has. And I&#039 ; m sorry that those (professional)reviews have become harder to find, even though they&#039 ; re probably going to be a lot more accurate, detailed, written. They&#039 ; re not going to just be, &quot ; Wow, this was so good.&quot ; And it&#039 ; s like, that doesn&#039 ; t really tell anybody what they&#039 ; re about to eat. So I think it&#039 ; s really cheapened and made it harder to get, and that&#039 ; s true. It&#039 ; s not just true of restaurant reviews. It&#039 ; s true of photography. For example, it&#039 ; s you know, &quot ; Oh, look, I can do this with my, my phone. Look what a good picture I took?&quot ; And it&#039 ; s like, it&#039 ; s not nearly as good as what a professional would have done. And you can see the difference if they&#039 ; re side by side. And I think you get that same thing with the restaurant review as I am just now. I am obsessed with figuring out what this restaurant is. OK, so I&#039 ; m going to do East Dallas. Restaurant. I do like that I can look things up on my phone like this... Petra and the Beast! That&#039 ; s the one I was thinking of. Super quirky, super quirky place, super quirky food. You could go all the way from that to something very formal. I. OK. In defense of the internet, now that I&#039 ; ve slammed the reviews, I love that I can walk into an Asian restaurant where I don&#039 ; t know the food, where the menu descriptions are usually not...They don&#039 ; t really tell you a lot like, you know, green curry, bell pepper dot dot dot dot dot. Just like doesn&#039 ; t tell me a lot so I can go up and I can look at my phone and I can very quickly access a recipe and see, &quot ; OK, here&#039 ; s what this dish has in it.&quot ; And I can surmise from that how it&#039 ; ll probably taste. So kind of a good news, bad news tool. |00:54:44| BRODY The internet, anyway empowers all of us customers and reviewers alike. But yes, those the reviews themselves sound like they are, in your view... |00:54:54| PIERCE Dumbed down. |00:54:55| BRODY Yeah. And kind of take away the role of expertise. Because when you were describing your early, you know, the early days of the, the star reviews in the Dallas Morning News, I mean, it sounded like you all underwent a certain amount of training to sort of create a benchmark of, you know, what are you expecting, what you know, what is a good restaurant, what makes a good experience and so on. |00:55:23| PIERCE At that period of time, I also I traveled to New York and New Orleans to go to key restaurants again just to have the perspective. |00:55:33| BRODY Was that part of the onboarding in the Food Section? |00:55:37| PIERCE Definitely. |00:55:39| BRODY And what restaurants in New York do you remember? |00:55:43| PIERCE I knew you would (ask me that). It&#039 ; s not. It&#039 ; s OK. It&#039 ; s not open anymore. But of course, Commander&#039 ; s Palace in New Orleans and in the, you know, the mind goes, I can&#039 ; t remember the...Lutece was one of the important ones in New York. We went to one of the Italians in New York that wasn&#039 ; t that great. Maybe the original El Molino and...Oh, I just I can&#039 ; t quite remember the others in New Orleans. I just remember, though, one of the things I had for the very first time and this was probably 20 years ago, 30 years ago, it was a salad made with tomato and watermelon, which we see on menus today. But at the time, it was like, &quot ; How can you put these things together?&quot ; And it was fabulous. |00:56:41| BRODY Bottom line. It tasted good. |00:56:43| PIERCE Yes. Yes. |00:56:45| BRODY Interesting. Well. Just kind of thinking about specifically, Dallas has now after, you know, after the immigration law changed in 1965, after the so many Vietnamese refugees resettled in Dallas, after the Vietnam War, a very large Asian population and that, you know, population is reflected, as we talked about earlier in a lot of the stores, grocery stores, markets as well as restaurants, both, you know, &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; and, and more, you know, mid-market and then even some high-end or upscale Asian dining. Right? What role do you see those types of businesses playing in communicating culture to, you know, not just sort of native Texans, but all of us who now live here in the Metroplex? |00:57:54| PIERCE That&#039 ; s a good question, and I&#039 ; m not sure. I&#039 ; m not sure I know the answer. Other than, you almost have to rely on people&#039 ; s natural curiosity because you can&#039 ; t really take the culture to them. They&#039 ; ve got to be adventurous enough. What popped in my brain was the outdoor food fair every Sunday at the Buddhist temple, which is all...Is it all Thai street food? |00:58:33| BRODY I think it&#039 ; s all Thai. |00:58:34| PIERCE Yeah, that&#039 ; s...Which is just a fabulous way to sort of eat your way through the cuisine in a very friendly way. You know, I can take the stick and I can chew the meat off of it. But you have to be willing. You have to know about it. You have to get up and you have to go to the Buddhist temple. You have to be open to the to the different experience. The same thing is true with Kalachandji, which I don&#039 ; t...Have you been to Kalachandji? |00:59:09| BRODY Long time ago? Yes. |00:59:10| PIERCE If I don&#039 ; t, if you go back, you&#039 ; ll find at least I think it&#039 ; s still there. But they&#039 ; ve got a whole wall of all the reviews that have ever been done. So you sort of see this history of Dallas dining, but they, they would have been there since 1984, but you had to be willing to go to the temple and you know, &quot ; Who knows, who knows what these people really do?&quot ; And there&#039 ; s a certain little bit of fear level there. But once you get over that, well, because people are thinking of, &quot ; Oh my god, am I going to have Hare Krishnas dancing at my table?&quot ; Well, no, you&#039 ; re not. That&#039 ; s only at the airport. But I, you know, I think there has to be that natural curiosity, which I think a lot of people do have. And then you have to have venues where they can shop, where they can learn. You know, it&#039 ; s what&#039 ; s been interesting with COVID is that we&#039 ; ve lost a lot of the cooking classes, which I think were an important bridge. I went to so many cooking classes of every stripe. I&#039 ; ll never forget one at The Mansion on Turtle Creek, which was Jacques Pepin who I loved. And it was where he went through and deboned an entire chicken without ever, you know, cutting it apart. And you watch him do it and you think, &quot ; Well, that looks easy!&quot ; And then you go home and it&#039 ; s like, all you have are thumbs and you can&#039 ; t do it. But then I&#039 ; ve seen other chefs like the woman that has Asian Mint, Nikky, whose name I can&#039 ; t pronounce. I went to one of her classes and learned how to make Vietnamese fried rice. And it&#039 ; s different from Chinese fried rice, what we&#039 ; re so used to. So the classes, I think, are a really important link. I think Central Market still has some classes, but boy, you don&#039 ; t have the number of venues that you used to have. I hope someone will fill in that gap eventually, because I guess in some ways you&#039 ; ve got videos which people go to. You&#039 ; ve got the TV shows, which are great. I mean, they really are a good distillation of techniques and how you make all this work. Everything that we&#039 ; ve made from the TV recipes has turned out like... Because we&#039 ; ve watched it. So maybe that&#039 ; s what&#039 ; s taking the place. |01:02:07| BRODY Do you think there&#039 ; s something lost in not being physically together and seeing it in person? The hands-on piece? |01:02:16| PIERCE There is, there absolutely is, because usually you get... I mean, you still get story, but yeah, you don&#039 ; t have the communal aspect, which maybe that will come back to us in some way. I&#039 ; m not sure what that&#039 ; s going to be. |01:02:35| BRODY Yeah. Yeah. Speaking of COVID. Here in Dallas, restaurants have been hit especially hard by COVID, obviously the labor issues that happened after and a lot of them by the tornado that came just before COVID. Do you have any, any stories or any observations or reflections on those challenges to the restaurants? |01:03:06| PIERCE My partner, Alfonso Cevola, I&#039 ; ll give him credit for this. He was retired from the wine industry and he said, and I think he&#039 ; s right, &quot ; I think we&#039 ; re going to see a lot more fast casual dining where you have where you order at the counter and the food is brought out to you.&quot ; I think we&#039 ; re going to see fewer full-service restaurants because. It&#039 ; s a, it&#039 ; s a, the confluence is not only with the help, but for so long, restaurant workers have been underpaid. Without question, you know, a tip can only go so far when you&#039 ; re making $2.25 an hour, which is what some servers make, which is crazy. So you had this burst of paying. All of a sudden there were, the help needed... The &quot ; help&quot ; that&#039 ; s a terrible way to say it. But servers, cooks, people on the line were demanding more money and should be making more money. So there was that increase in costs. There&#039 ; s the supply-chain issues in agriculture. I don&#039 ; t know if you saw the news in the paper this morning, but Jon Alexis, who owns TJ&#039 ; s Seafood, says the price of lobster right now has just doubled and it&#039 ; s, it&#039 ; s because of a series of problems in that supply chain, unique to that supply chain. I remember not so long ago for weeks he couldn&#039 ; t, you know, I love his crabcakes because he really uses...It&#039 ; s almost all crab meat. Jumbo crab meat, which is a specific high end type. And he had to stop selling those because the price of crab was just off the charts and people finally convinced him and said, &quot ; Look, we&#039 ; ll pay that.&quot ; And, and, and we do- raising my hand- because when I want a crabcake, I want the very best crabcake money can buy. And that tends to be one of his. But there&#039 ; s, so there&#039 ; s been an uptick in the price of the commodities. Part of that is a labor issue. Part of that is a climate issue. And it all has sort of dovetailed around, but people still want...There&#039 ; s that, definitely that pent up demand of people wanting to go to restaurants. So, I suppose what I see is that there&#039 ; s going to be a gradual division where you sort of hollow out the middle and you have the, the higher, not very high end, but even medium high end like TJ&#039 ; s. That&#039 ; s a medium, high end restaurant as far as dining there. It&#039 ; s, you know, it&#039 ; s not unusual to spend $100 for two for just a modest meal. And then there&#039 ; s the fast casual where you can get pretty darn good food, but then you get the, the a little what am I trying...Not... |01:06:38| BRODY Different service. |01:06:40| PIERCE Well, no, no, almost no service and less ambiance. I&#039 ; m trying to think...To me a perfect example of that is Wu Wei Din. I don&#039 ; t know. That&#039 ; s a Chinese restaurant. I think it&#039 ; s Taiwanese- that they- street food they specialize in. You know, God, strike me if I got that wrong. But, but Wu Wei Din is. They even though it is a full service restaurant, it&#039 ; s...Not it is, it is not mid-range, it&#039 ; s not fine dining. But I but I think there&#039 ; s going to be this hollowing out in the middle. There will be the Wu Wei Dins and then there will be the TJ&#039 ; s. There&#039 ; s a lot of others in there. |01:07:38| BRODY And do you think there&#039 ; s still a persistent role for the very high end in Dallas? |01:07:48| PIERCE Only for expense account dining. There&#039 ; s a portion of a one, 0.1 percent who... And the thing is, those very high-end restaurants are all competing for that diner&#039 ; s dollar. And there&#039 ; s a limit to how many of those restaurants can be supported. They&#039 ; re just, you know, somebody that has a 200-page wine list and the cheapest wine is 50 bucks. It&#039 ; s like, give me a break. And I&#039 ; ve been on the expense account. I totally get that. But for most of us, I know where to get just as good of food and very good wine, maybe even bring my own, and I can still have a great experience. Do I need to go to those places? I really don&#039 ; t. Which is a terrible thing to say, but I think we&#039 ; re going to see fewer and fewer of those places. We had a couple of new ones open. I give them a year at the most. And then there&#039 ; s those crazy people who come down from New York and think they&#039 ; re going to show us how to do it. And I tell you, this is a, this is a trap. It&#039 ; s got a body count from here to the end of your patio of New York restaurateurs who were going to show us how to do it. And they got surprised. |01:09:24| BRODY Yeah. Tell me about that. In going through the archives of the Food Section there, there&#039 ; s definitely evidence of, you know, of some, I don&#039 ; t know, if hard feelings is the right word, but just sort of |01:09:39| PIERCE You mean the lawsuit? |01:09:41| BRODY Yeah. Well, I wasn&#039 ; t thinking of that. But the, you know, just some articles that refer to, you know, and also in D Magazine of especially in the mid &#039 ; 80s, sort of the influx of people who came from up north and, you know, had ideas. Yeah. Had ideas about what Dallas would be like, what food would be like. |01:10:04| PIERCE &quot ; We&#039 ; re going to show you how to do it.&quot ; |01:10:06| BRODY Yeah. So tell me about that time and sort of the what were some of the tensions that were happening in real time? |01:10:14| PIERCE Well, The Mansion on Turtle Creek, when it first opened, the restaurant was managed by the...And I don&#039 ; t know quite the inner workings, but it was the 21 Club in New York that came down and, you know, did the menu and managed it. And boy. Very quickly, that that did not go over, there&#039 ; s a certain, you know, Dallasites at that time might have been ignorant and I&#039 ; m using my little air quotes, but don&#039 ; t you dare tell them they are? That&#039 ; s the easiest way to lose a customer is to kind of lord over them at the table and talk down to them about what they want. It doesn&#039 ; t work. And like I said, there&#039 ; s a trail of bodies. I was thinking of not, like there&#039 ; s a building on the tollway that was Smith and Wollensky&#039 ; s, which remains shuttered to this day. What a decade more? Il Molino was another one who came down and was going to show us how to do Italian, and it just, it doesn&#039 ; t work. |01:11:39| BRODY Do you think that it came from a sense of sort of that Texas or Dallas in particular might have been too provincial or inexperienced? Where was that coming from? |01:11:54| PIERCE Inexperienced? Yes, the, the way you deal with that as a restaurateur is with velvet gloves. Not the...I am so reminded. Let&#039 ; s see, where does the story begin? This is a story of The Mansion on Turtle Creek and Michael Flynn, who was at one time the sommelier from there, and he had come from Washington, D.C.. Michael is a is a very, very humble guy. He&#039 ; s not a snooty wine steward. He really is a people pleaser. And the locals would come in to The Mansion and the guy, the big man at the table would be, &quot ; Uh, Screaming Eagle all around.&quot ; Well, if you&#039 ; re- that&#039 ; s a wine. And if you&#039 ; re composing a meal and matching it to wines, you don&#039 ; t start with the Screaming Eagle. You, you start with something a lot softer and you work up to that with the with the entree, which he knew. But you could never, you would never say that. You would never want to embarrass your, your customer. And so what Michael would do, would be to very, it would be to talk. I can&#039 ; t remember the approach he said he took, but it was to say, &quot ; Well, maybe we would...How would you like to start with a celebratory champagne?&quot ; And he would sort of gently move to a little lighter side and then gradually he would build trust and build up to where the Screaming Eagle matched the food? I&#039 ; m not saying....Whoever starts a restaurant here, you&#039 ; ve got to be sensitive to what we&#039 ; ll call some of the eccentricities of the people who live here and dine here, and some of them are quite ignorant. |01:14:07| BRODY What do you think those eccentricities are? |01:14:10| PIERCE Well, this belief that big red, you know, big red wine. A big red wine is not the be all end all, but it&#039 ; s, some people feel like they have to order that to impress. How you know, how big can the steak get, how big can the Tomahawk get? It&#039 ; s...But you do that if you&#039 ; re really going to do that and be successful, you understand the sensibility of the audience. And oh, I&#039 ; ve got to look up because I just lost another name on who does this well. There&#039 ; s a restaurant called Town Hearth. Are you familiar with that? It&#039 ; s a steak house, and I&#039 ; ve tried to remember the name of, I&#039 ; m so sorry, I forgot your name, the guy who started it. Help me out here, help me out here. Oh, come on. I don&#039 ; t want, you know, I don&#039 ; t want Yelp. I want to know. Let&#039 ; s, let&#039 ; s let me go here, to &quot ; About&quot ; for just one moment. Nick Badovinus, Nick Badovinus is a chef who understands his audience and Town Hearth is so much fun. Have you been? |01:15:30| BRODY No, I have not. |01:15:30| PIERCE It is. It&#039 ; s like he&#039 ; s got an aquarium with a Yellow Submarine in it, and he&#039 ; s got really wild, funky chandeliers. And there&#039 ; s a sports car over here,(French) and it&#039 ; s just it&#039 ; s like, it&#039 ; s fun. And then he&#039 ; s got really good food. And some of it is big and outlandish, but it matches the market. He didn&#039 ; t. I mean, he understands who his diner is, and I know that&#039 ; s a long way from your question. But I do think that&#039 ; s what&#039 ; s made it so hard for these out-of-towners. These carpetbaggers, restaurant carpetbaggers, they do not know better. If, if you don&#039 ; t understand this market, you&#039 ; re not going to succeed in this market. |01:16:23| BRODY Do you think the since you know, those times in the mid 80s or so, do you think that the people of Dallas and the eaters of Dallas have changed? |01:16:35| PIERCE Yes. |01:16:36| BRODY And how so? |01:16:41| PIERCE Well, they&#039 ; ve become more sophisticated. You know, the other thing I wanted to add, because this is an important part of the history. Two things back in the 80s. One is, at that time, the best fine dining restaurants in Dallas were usually part of hotels, which was quite unusual in this country. I mean, the whole country. But you had Cafe Royal at...Oh, I can&#039 ; t remember the name of the hotel now, but it was it was our first really good nouvelle (French) cuisine restaurant and it was part of a hotel. The Mansion on Turtle Creek, part of a hotel, the restaurants of the Anatole, all part of a hotel. This was, this was true that that was where you found some of the best fine dining in the 80s. The other thing was once the celebrity chef craze hit, people really followed the chefs. They loved the chefs. You know, Dean Fearing could do no wrong. Stephan Pyles could do no wrong. I mean, he could, but that there was always looking for that, that personality, because usually even today with Dean&#039 ; s restaurant at the Ritz Carlton, the Ritz Carlton, you know, you walk in there and you sit down to eat and chances are good, Dean&#039 ; s going to make the rounds and you&#039 ; re going to get to say &quot ; hi&quot ; to the chef. That&#039 ; s who- I think that touchy-feely experience really started with the 80s and people, people loved it. |01:18:32| PIERCE Yeah. So I mean, that, kind of a lot of what we&#039 ; ve been talking about revolves around sort of really the idea of hospitality. And early on, when you were talking about the ambiance at Routh Street, it was the warmth, that really sounds like it struck you initially. |01:18:46| PIERCE Yes. |01:18:47| PIERCE Is that unique to Dallas or is it a development that you know, that sort of nationwide that you know that, that people are seeking that sort of hospitality? |01:19:00| PIERCE I think you can find that anywhere. And in fact, depending here, if I were to go to San Francisco, we could find restaurants like that or if I were to go to Seattle, we could find them. I thought immediately when you said that of Chez Panisse. It very much is reflective. And I don&#039 ; t know, we should ask Stephen some time...He would sit down and talk with you, by the way. |01:19:23| BRODY That would be lovely. |01:19:25| PIERCE But he could tell you whether or not he was influenced by Chez Panisse. He might have been. But it definitely had that cozy, warm feeling. And yet you never felt the service lag. All the elements of the best fine dining service were there. But without the stuffiness. |01:19:50| BRODY Do you think the stuffiness is, was tied to sort of the rigidity of the French, you know, the French tradition? |01:19:59| PIERCE What we imported? Yeah, I think you&#039 ; re right. Absolutely, that...because that was the definition of fine dining: French, French and continental. And I, you know, I also brought you something which you can keep for a while and look at which gives you...This is another snapshot in time in Dallas of...Let me get you a...Oh, and then there&#039 ; s the Pyramid Room at the Fairmont. Oh my gosh, that was again a hotel restaurant. That was absolutely the pinnacle of fine dining in its day. This book is from 1979. It&#039 ; s called &quot ; Dining in Dallas.&quot ; And you know, it&#039 ; s one of those things where you paid to be a part of it. Nevertheless, there was there were a lot of people that paid to be a part of it and some of the ones, to some of the fine dining ones. We had the Pyramid Room. Then over at the Anatole, we had the Plum Blossom. That was a very upscale Asian Chinese restaurant. Chinese. You had L&#039 ; Entrecote, which was also in the Anatole. You had Jean Claude. That was one of the early earliest French restaurants in Dallas. And he did classes. He did classes like a mad man. In fact, I&#039 ; ve still got one of his recipe books. And then you have it, you have a few more. But this, this will give you an interesting snapshot of, of what people were eating. There&#039 ; s not much left. |01:21:40| BRODY Thank you. Thank you. |01:21:42| PIERCE You know, and the other person that you might enjoy talking to is Gus Katsigris. Do you know Gus? Go talk to him soon, because he&#039 ; s an old guy, but he&#039 ; s hanging on. Gus started the hospitality program at El Centro and this was back in the late &#039 ; 60s when I actually when I was working there. He has many, many stories and a great perspective on everything in the scene. Now, he may not be able to add as much light on Asian. Again, that&#039 ; s that was such...I&#039 ; m going to use that word. That was so organic. And arose out of the populations that moved here versus being here and the scene sort of developing. |01:22:38| BRODY Right. Absolutely. And continues to grow so that. |01:22:44| PIERCE It does so. |01:22:45| BRODY And I mean, it is interesting and I don&#039 ; t know if you have any observations on this that, that first generation of Asian restaurants. You know, we had the few Chinese restaurants that you mentioned, the ones that came after then, you know, a handful of Indian restaurants and then since then the rapid growth northward and, you know, just booming. |01:23:09| PIERCE Plano and Frisco. |01:23:11| BRODY Yeah. So I mean, the even the idea of Dallas has spread so much further. What are your, you know, your observations of that in terms of the restaurant scene that there&#039 ; s you know, that small square footage, you know, that was considered Dallas, you know, downtown or even uptown, you know, back then where now you might need to drive 30, 40 minutes to find the restaurant that&#039 ; s being written about in the in the Morning News? |01:23:42| PIERCE Well, it&#039 ; s like it&#039 ; s like we drive from Lake Highlands to Wu Wei Din for the dandan noodles. And for us, that&#039 ; s about it. That&#039 ; s about a 15- mile drive. |01:23:55| BRODY It must be good. |01:23:56| PIERCE Oh my God, they&#039 ; re good. But. It is hard to know. It is hard to predict where things are going to go, because I don&#039 ; t know how, again, because of the whole economic shift. I don&#039 ; t know how, excuse me, how far fine dining can push. Again, you have to be. We have some friends who eat out fairly often, and they just they went out for dinner the other night and it was 650 bucks. And you know, they can afford that. But we don&#039 ; t go out and spend, and most of us don&#039 ; t go out and spend that much for a meal. So there&#039 ; s a very limited strata that that serves. Then you have people like the Petra and the Beast, where she&#039 ; s doing really innovative stuff, but you know you&#039 ; re eating it out of a little paper plates. You&#039 ; re not...you&#039 ; re not getting the fine dining experience. The thing that I would like to see, and I think it&#039 ; s starting to happen with Mexican, but I would like to see a more of a gradual specialization, if you will, for instance, either. I&#039 ; m thinking of Indian, you know, southern Indian, northern Indian. Very, very different. OK, that&#039 ; s about my extent of understanding. What happens if you start getting people who could talk more about the cuisines that have the Portuguese influence and specializing in that? Getting down to some of the finer divisions. Just like we talk about African cuisine. You know, Africa&#039 ; s big continent. I know we get Ethiopian. I occasion...I don&#039 ; t know whether I&#039 ; ve seen a Nigerian restaurant or not. But I would I would think that we would begin to get more specialization, as Brian pointed out with the Mexican. Well, or even the latest issue of D Magazine, which talks about the different ways that quote authentic Mexican is being expressed here in Dallas. It seems like that&#039 ; s the way to go, because otherwise you have people sort of up here treading water at a...Without much true immersion in the cuisine. |01:26:51| BRODY So more depth and more education? |01:26:55| PIERCE Yes. |01:26:58| BRODY That&#039 ; s really, really interesting. |01:26:59| PIERCE And I could be 100% wrong. I mean, that might not be what happens at all. |01:27:05| BRODY Well, we&#039 ; ll wait and see. Well, this has been really, really interesting. Is there anything that I didn&#039 ; t ask you or a story that you&#039 ; d like to share as we finish up? |01:27:18| PIERCE I think you have covered most of it. I got in my &quot ; Big Night&quot ; story. There&#039 ; s also...The one thing I would like to point out is that we had a pretty darn authentic Italian restaurant in this city for years and years with Il Sorrento, which opened in 1950. And I, I will confess that we missed it on our radar at the Dallas Morning News. |01:27:54| BRODY Why do you think? |01:27:55| PIERCE Because we were ignorant. It&#039 ; s...We just were. Mario Messina who owned that was doing his own, he was making his own pasta from the beginning. And it&#039 ; s like all, &quot ; we&quot ; in our little restaurant review group were seeing was a festive, celebratory, you know, entertaining night out. But, but in reality, he was doing the real food. It took the city a long time to catch up to him. Is there anything else? I don&#039 ; t know. I don&#039 ; t know, I guess it&#039 ; s amazing we&#039 ; ve covered an amazing territory. |01:28:48| BRODY Well, it&#039 ; s been really interesting to learn about your life and your work and also hear from someone that&#039 ; s been really paying attention to what&#039 ; s been happening in the food scene in Dallas for a long time. So I appreciate you taking the time and and sharing these amazing artifacts as well. So thanks. Thank you very much. |01:29:10| PIERCE You&#039 ; re welcome. It&#039 ; s a pleasure. All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. audio Interviews may be reproduced with permission from the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. 0

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“Interview with Kim Pierce, April 5, 2022,” Digging In Dallas, accessed July 12, 2024, https://diggingindallas.org/items/show/24.