Find a back issue

Making Dallas Even Better

Badovinus Tussles With Tesar at The Commissary

I so wasn’t going to write this story, but I have now been contacted by five people in or around the restaurant business. I feel that if I don’t step in and attempt to clear the air, the tale will grow longer and more sordid with each telling. I have heard multiple versions of the heated exchange between chefs John Tesar and Nick Badovinus at The Commissary late Wednesday night.

Round One: I received the following text from John Tesar at 11:20 p.m. Wednesday night: “Nick from Neighborhood [Services] just assaulted two of my staff and created a violent scene in my restaurant…Crazy drug drunk chef stuff. I was calm but he has lost his mind. Sorry for the bad news just wanted you to hear the real story.” I didn’t see the text until the next morning. I texted back: “Huh? Just got this. Call me when you get a chance.” A little after noon yesterday, Tesar texted back: “It’s just best to let this one go :) thank you.”

Oh, but we didn’t let it go. Jump.

UPDATE: Saturday, May 28, 2011. I have just had a long conversation with chef John Tesar. The bottom line is he is reversing the story he told me yesterday. Here is his statement. “I was wrong. It was an error in judgment. I did it to cover up the event. The only reason I did that is that I tried to protect everybody who was involved, not only myself. I had a selfish motivation. I didn’t want to draw attention to a brand new restaurant. At the same time I wasn’t going to throw another member [Badovinus] of my profession under the bus.”

Round Two: I let it go. Then came the first hey-did-you-hear email. Then another, and another, and another. At 6:30 p.m. yesterday, I received a phone call from a reputable person in the restaurant business. I have known this person for many years. He is a straight shooter. He told me he had just left The Commissary, where he’d had a conversation with John Tesar. According to my acquaintance, Tesar said Badovinus had been in the night before, and Tesar was pressing charges because Badovinus had created a scene. Tesar also said, “Boy, I would sure hate for Nancy Nichols to get ahold of this.”

Round Three: What? At that point, Tesar and I had already discussed the event. Even though I was skeptical of Tesar’s late Wednesday night text, followed by my friend’s Thursday afternoon report, I slept on it.

Round Four: This morning, I called Badovinus. He told me he and one of his chefs were out on town, celebrating the Mavs victory. They ended up at The Commissary. “I’ve never met John Tesar,” Badovinus said, “but the guy kept coming by the table and talking crap about my restaurants in front of my chef. My people work hard for me, and I will defend my business in order to keep them employed. But when a guy attacks my hard work, I’m gonna stand up.” Badovinus, who admits he’d been drinking, claims Tesar tossed several derogatory statements like “gotta get rid of those sweaters” his way. Badovinus got up and went over to Tesar. “I told him to meet me outside,” Badovinus said. “We went outside of the restaurant, and I told him to quit talking bad about my restaurant in front of my people.” Badovinus said he went back to the table, tried to pay the bill, and, when it was comp’d, he handed the waitress a hundred dollars. On his way out, Badovinus, accompanied by two Commissary staffers, says Tesar passed by him and provoked him by calling him a “pussy.” Before Badovinus could make a move, the two Commissary employees restrained him.

Round Five: No punches were thrown, but security was called. Badovinus talked to them briefly on the way to his car. Game off. Right?

Round Six: I called John Tesar around 2 p.m. today to tell him I was writing an account of what went down Wednesday night and to clarify some of the facts. “Nothing happened,” Tesar said. “I would tell you if it did. These kind of rumors are just being spread around about me by the guys at Smoke and Bolsa and Marquee. They are all just jealous.” I asked him about the text he sent me. “Somebody picked up my cell phone and was messing with you,” Tesar said. “I didn’t write it. I keep my phone at the end of the counter. It could have been anyone.”

Round Seven: Now I’m totally confused. I said, “So, Nick never said, ‘Let’s go outside?’ He didn’t tell you to quit talking trash about his restaurant?” “Nope. Never happened,” Tesar said. “I walked up to his table and talked about sous-vide burgers, and I may have said I wouldn’t work at his restaurant because of the white sweaters, but I walked away. That was the end of the story.” I asked him if he told anyone the next day that he’d filed charges and he said no. I asked him if he called Badovinus a “pussy” on the way out. “I was in the back,” Tesar said. “I didn’t know anything happened until the next morning.”

Round Eight: I just spoke with Michael Flynn, the sommelier at the Mansion, who was in the Commissary on Wednesday night. “I can’t tell you details because I didn’t see anything,” Flynn said. “But I did see the staff running out the front door, and I did see security taking statements from the staff in front of the restaurant.”

Decision: I’ve called security at One Arts Plaza and can’t get an answer. The PR rep did not answer her phone. Much ado about nothing? Probably. Chefs get into it all the time. However, it seems like when one of the chefs is John Tesar, the mess is always bigger.

  • Claire

    You guys seriously just like to trash Tesar. Why don’t you all go sit around and talk about your own shortcomings for a while.

  • gia

    Honesty – right on.

    Perkins – I’d pay the equivalent of 50 overpriced Commissary burgers to see the fight that would ensue should your wish come true.

  • Gail

    Go Nick!!!! I love Nick and think the Neighborhood Services’ restaurants are some offer some of the most flawless service and consistenly excellent food in the city. John Tesar, on the other hand, is a pompous jerk who is no balls and all talk. I’m on team Nick.

  • Claire

    See, this is when it is so obvious that you are just talking out of your, ahem, posterior region. Gia, overpriced? That’s just a crock of BS. And Gail. Seriously. Flawless service? That’s overstated for pretty much any restaurant. And read the police report. Nick was the raging ass here. But no one seems to care about that. Seriously. You guys need to get a life.

  • Claro Que Si

    Claire, I’m glad Tesar has a friend.

  • gia


    Tesar sends inflammatory text to Nichols. Tesar then states “would hate for Nichols to hear this”. Look up “conniving”, mmkay.

    Regardless of how things went down, Tesar’s subversive handling of the situation reveals a truly nasty character. I love it when people become a success doing what they do well, and I’ll go out of my way to support that. When people are as rotten as Tesar has revealed himself to be – no thanks.

    Will be hitting Nick’s NS pronto, the one that serves a wedge of iceberg lettuce for $9. You bet your posterior that’s overpriced; even grossly so. But you know what? I want NB to succeed, especially after hearing this whole story, so I don’t mind it one bit, and will continue to be a patron at his establishments.

    PS – Nancy, thanks for posting this story to your blog.

  • Freeman Davis
  • Allison

    There is no way the guys at Bolsa or Smoke are jealous of Tesar and the Commissary. The COmmissary isn’t even at that level of good food! I love Bolsa, it is one of a kind and The Commissary doesn’t compare.

  • honesty

    Freeman. Your an idiot. Your just some poor guy or gal that Tesar got to know and then used all of your shortcomings to really do a number on your head! THAT IS HIS TALENT! The fact that you went to look for that means that you were DEEPLY hurt by him. He’s a man that believes his own lies. He always thinks he’s in the right, NO MATTER WHAT! Nothing you or I write here will change anything about him.

  • Freeman Davis

    Honesty (or lack thereof) –

    Actually, I’ve never met Tesar. I just like to stir it up. But nice try.

  • AJB

    Thanks Nancy for the Dallas Chef’s report. It might be of interest or even funny to your readers but this type of incident is NOT a good thing for all the Chefs out there. As Chefs(I have been one for many years) some of us have fought for a long time to change the image of the Chef as this authoritative and verbally abusive tyran that the general public has come to hear about and compare us to.I am saddened by the lack of professionalism from these two. Drunk or not, famous or not it is still unexcusable. Real leaders lead by example. Nick should have walked the minute he felt JT was abusive and John for sure should know better than being involved in stuff like that in his OWN place.Our business is tough enough as it is and it is just too bad that Chef’s egos and arrogance have ,once again reared their ugly heads.
    What’s done is done.So these two need to get together ASAP,tell each other whatever and move on.(free beer ONLY if they apologize to each other) If they have too much energy to spend they need to get out in the real world and make a difference where it count the most and the causes to choose from are plentiful. So there ! Also, when you guys decide to apologize,please include your known and unknown fellow Chefs who actually are still fighting every day to keep the reputation and image of the Chef a positive one.
    As I always say: WE ALL CAN LOOK STUPID ON OUR OWN, WE DO NOT NEED ANY HELP ! By acting the way these two did they just proved my point. I am not particularly happy about that but for me I am still and always will be proud to be A CHEF !

  • CPDallasFoodie

    I think we’re all making a bigger deal of this than it is. Surely both of these talented chefs feel bad about something that happened in the heat of the moment & got out of hand. We’ve all been in situations we regret – even the most self-righteous of us.
    It doesn’t help that a food editorial has now become a gossip column. The sheer number of comments (including mine…guilty!) are just proving that this type of gossip sells. I love that there is so much passion for both sides & for food in general in Dallas, but…..time for us all to move on.

  • David

    Been twice–good food (which is why we went back), horrible service (which is why we’ll try somewhere else next time).

    Not sure how this place survives in its current incarnation more than 6 months.

  • Reid

    Honesty, your last post says a lot more about you than it does John Tesar (or Freeman).

  • mmmmmm…..

    I so agree with Reid and with CPDallasFoodie…..what happened to a food blog being about food?!?? I mean, come on. Say whatever you want, but Tesar is an amazing chef. And judging from the comments, everyone semi-disregards anything good and pounces on anything bad. Talk about confirmation bias! Maybe we should just do what The Brad suggested….Eat. Drink. Love. (And move on.)

  • Claro Que Si


  • Tater

    It’s best to support decent business owners who treat their employees and customers with respect. That’s why I pay attention to articles like this one. Keep em’ coming Nancy!

  • Hospitality Instructor

    I concur that The Commissary does have great food and some serious service problems. BUT…what is more alarming is when there are some serious, glaring service issues and no “management” or even worse “ownership”, seems to notice or give a rat’s patoot. I’ve been several times because they are open late. But when you can’t get service right after a month with a half empty dining room, you are pretty much ensuring that is all you will ever have.

    Forget about reality television and get a restaurant right. Your NY equity was massive but after the past few years, the tank is nearing E.

    Bottom line: less drinking on the job, more attention to how your guests are walking out the door feeling.

  • 4xTex

    “Are you ready to rumble?”
    How do I get tickets to fight night?

  • Pingback: Lettuce Wrap Up: Of Miami BBQ Sucks, Douche-bars, and Magnums | Miami Local