NN: Are you coming back to Dallas?
JT: I am coming back to Dallas. Currently I have 2 options. They are two separate entities. I have signed a letter of intent with both. I am leaving tomorrow [today] for a short vacation and family business. I will make my decision in five or six days.
NN: Any hint on what you will be doing?
JT: I’m not coming back as the 5 start chef of the Mansion, I’m coming back to enjoy cooking here in Dallas. I will put my head down and cook. Like I said, I have two options. One is quite elaborate with many concepts. The other one is built around me. Whoever I go with, they will make the announcement. Not me.
NN: So were you fired from Tesar’s in Woodlands?
JT: I voluntarily decided to walk away from Tesar’s. I was not fired; I walked away. It’s not going to effect my future.
NN: Is Tesar’s going to continue to use your name?
JT: My only involvement [with Tesar’s] now is whether or not they use the name. I’m not totally against it but it is difficult for me since my name is up there and I can’t be in control of quality. My partners and I split with irreconcilable differences. The restaurant is doing well—just not well enough to pay a John Tesar-style chef. I gave them back my 20 percent and we are still wrangling over things like money the and name. It’s a good restaurant.
NN: So give me the short version of what happened?
JT: I do not wish ill on my ex-partners. They enticed me to leave New York when I was with David Burke [at Fish]. I went into the business with good will. I realized that the project was opening in the middle of a recession and was undercapitalized. We started out with three partners and the 2 majority partners [Bill and Hilary Burke] pushed out my main contact. But we built this thing [restaurant] and got good reviews. But they had no experience in the restaurant business and we knew it wasn’t going to make enough to pay me, especially since I have a family. [Tesar’s wife is 4 ½ months pregnant with their first child.]
NN: Why do you think so many people get so emotional when your name shows up on SideDish?
JT: I’m flattered by the emotions good and bad because I never figured people cared so much. I let my body of work speak for me. People get so emotionally involved. And many have turned on their mentor and then partners starting turning everyone against each other. My biggest mistakes were that I didn’t take 51 percent and shouldn’t have named it after me.
NN: Well, you certainly have had a controversial career.
JT: I’ve had an up and down career and I haven’t lived up to my potential. I have learned a lot from my mistakes. I guess there is something good about people not liking you. It builds character.