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Interview with Lark on the Park Chefs, Melody Bishop and Dennis Kelley


melodyanddennis
Shannon Wynne is busy, busy, busy these days. The restaurateur says that one of his current projects, baby Lark, should be open the first week of March. Pretty soon the good visitors of Klyde Warren Park will have a new place to eat right across the street. And Wynne has picked the best-looking couple, Melody Bishop and Dennis Kelley, to be his executive chefs. These two lovebirds moved to Dallas from Los Angeles, where they both met each other as sous chefs working at the Tavern. Now they’ve got a baby named Oscar and a whole restaurant to help open. I met with them at KWP, and we dove straight into their love story.

Carol: Was it love at first sight?

Melody: Drinking lots of martinis.

Carol: Wait, what?!?

Melody: You know, being a sous at Tavern was rough; we were just always on the same schedule, so we would always go and have martinis after work and go and talk about the day.

Carol: Is there a rule against dating in the kitchen?

Melody: A little bit, even though it happens a lot. We kept it under wraps… and then I got pregnant.

Dennis: Then it couldn’t be kept under wraps anymore!

Carol: How did Shannon Wynne lure you to Dallas?

Melody: He’s actually a family friend of mine. I’ve been talking to him throughout the years about his different projects. When we talked about the Lark – you know, now we have a 1.5-year-old, and it’s nice that he can be with his cousins.

Dennis: It’s one of those things where everything started to fall into place, and I was like, “I don’t think we can walk away from this.” Not that we wanted to, it just seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Carol: What was your first impression of Shannon?

Dennis: He’s tall. [Shannon is 6'2, 6'3'', and Dennis is 5'7"] He was very nice. I also got the impression that he is very straightforward. There isn’t a lot of BS with him. If he likes something, he’ll tell you. If he doesn’t like something, he would tell you about it. There’s not going to be a lot of drama about it, which is nice. It’s nice not to have to deal with drama.

Carol: What is the vision for Lark?

Melody: Coming from California and also the style of restaurant where we worked, it’s very much about having fresh, local, seasonal produce.

Carol: Could you give us a quick preview of your menu?

Melody: We have a smoker that we’re going to be putting in, so we’re going to have a few smoked items. We’re going to do a smoked duck breast, which is going to be on our dinner menu. It’ll have persimmons and pomegranate, and it’s going to be really pretty. We’re trying to do food that’s clean and also delicious…it’s going to have flavors from everywhere we have been. I’ve worked in Thailand for awhile, so we’ll have some dishes with Thai flavors. When I interview cooks, I keep telling them, “We’re not going to do sushi and tacos.” It’s still going to be New American or California-style cuisine.

Dennis: My one major restaurant where I worked in was Italian, so that’s where my base comes from. But working in Cali for so long, it’s California-Italian. We just want everything to make sense. We’re not tied to any rule, so we’re just making it taste good.

Melody: …. in Mediterranean food and Asian food, both use basil and both use fish sauce.

Dennis: They both taste different, but the idea is still the same.

Carol: Did you just say “ideer”?

Melody: [laughs] Boston accent.

Carol: So what else are y’all going to have on the menu?

Melody: Coming from his [Dennis'] Italian background, we’re also going to make our own pasta. We’re always going to have one or two pasta dishes around.

Dennis: We’re doing a wild mushroom pasta with pappardelle with fat noodles, a little wilted spinach, and a touch of cream and parmesan cheese. It’ll be little creamy, but not a thick, reduced cream like you might see at other places.

Melody: Nothing too heavy. We’ll always have a steak of some sort. Probably a ribeye with a winter greens gratin.

Carol: Do you know what the interior is going to look like?

Melody: It’s a little under wraps. We’ve been involved in how the kitchen’s laid out, and it will be a fairly open kitchen. A long bar similar to the Moth where they’re going to have quite a few beer selections. Also, a nice wine selection, as well, so it’s not going to be so beer-driven. We’re going to try and bring some of those boutique wines that are so accessible in California, Los Angeles, here. But also boutique vineyards all over the world.

Carol: Is there any food that you’ve discovered Shannon Wynne doesn’t like?

Dennis: He doesn’t like radishes.

Melody: I don’t know if he doesn’t like radishes. Not really. You know, he has a very good, educated palate, and he’s very open. He has been very open with us and very happy to try anything. The only thing he doesn’t want: there are certain things that you see on everyone’s menu, and we’re trying not to do that.

Carol: Like what?

Melody: Like lobster mac ‘n’ cheese. We’re not really a mac ‘n’ cheese restaurant anyway, but we’re definitely not a lobster mac ‘n’ cheese place.