Our hard working editorial intern, Kellyn Curtis, spent last Saturday at the Dallas Farmers Market with the new chef of Trader Vic’s, Michael Owens. She files this report with pictures:
Shopping for fresh produce at the Dallas Farmer’s Market is the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning. Last weekend I was lucky enough to tag along with Trader Vic’s new executive chef Michael Owens to shop for fresh ingredients and get the scoop on what he’s been up to since he took over the Polynesian-themed tiki lounge five weeks ago. Items on the grocery list: tomatoes and watermelon for a salad to be served at the restaurant that night.
Chef Owens has trained under some of the nation’s most renowned chefs including Stephan Pyles at the award winning Star Canyon Restaurant. He’s also worked at the Oceanaire Seafood Room and the world-famous steakhouse, Morton’s of Chicago. His impressive background made him the perfect choice to revamp Trader Vic’s menu. “It’s a great opportunity for a chef to entirely rework a menu,” Owens said. “We’ve made leaps and bounds since I first got here.”
As he went from booth to booth taste-testing local fruits and veggies, Chef Owens filled me in on the plan to make Trader Vic’s a more fun destination with higher quality food. He’s created the base menu and once these new items are perfected, he’ll move forward by adding more seafood and different cuts of meat. “I’m a fish guy,” Owens said, “You can expect to see a lot more fresh fish on the menu.” So far, the new and improved menu seems to be a hit. “We’ve had amazing response from the dining room,” Owens said.
While the menu is undergoing some major changes, two of Trader Vic’s staples will remain the same: the wood-fired ovens and the drink menu. “The ovens are a mainstay here,” Owens said. “We’ll keep using them to prepare meat and fish.” And since the potent, tropical drinks are the restaurant’s claim to fame, Owens isn’t going to touch that menu (thank goodness). To step it up a notch, they are going to pair cocktails with dishes and add new food items to the bar menu.
Luckily, higher quality food doesn’t mean higher prices – the prices will remain about the same as they were before. “We want to put the price point in line with the quality of the food,” Owens said. “I want to put my mark on Dallas with this restaurant.”