Chef Jon Stevens, who has dabbled in the kitchen of The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton and now the popular Dallas bistro, NOSH, has a resume that would make any person drool. Tack on a “Hottest Chef in Dallas” nomination from Eater Dallas to that resume, and now you might need a napkin for the drool rolling dangerously down your chin.
As native of San Francisco, Stevens understands the farm-to-table movement and brings this concept to the European-inspired dishes at NOSH. I met with him at the restaurant to discuss his hottest chef nod, fires in the kitchen, and other goodies over a serving of tempura-fried Brussels sprout leaves and rich banana bread pudding.
Jacie Scott: So, let’s get to the good stuff. You were selected as one of the hottest chefs in Dallas!
Jon Stevens: Well, there were a lot of people selected for that.
Scott: How many? How did it come about?
Stevens: Eh. I don’t know. A lot. A lot that shouldn’t have been, we’ll put it that way. [Laughs] There were some not-so-hot chefs that were selected for that. I don’t know that we have enough hot chefs in Dallas. That’s as far as I’ll go. I was just selected along with several others. It was a lot of chefs that I know. It was fun, you know, you’re trying to get all your friends to vote for you without cheating, of course. I don’t know actually who won it, but I think I made it to the second round. I wasn’t really trying to push it too much. I mean, it’s fun, but at the end of the day, it was kind of gimmicky. I do realize that I’m not the hottest chef in Dallas. [Laughs]
Scott: Ha! Did business pick up after that?
Stevens: Because of that? I don’t know. I mean, everywhere in town would have had to pick up for that, it seemed like! I don’t know how many chefs were there, probably maybe 15 or so.
Scott: Ok. On to the food. What was your first experience in the kitchen like?
Stevens: Uh, I think the second day I cut the tip of my finger off. I had to go to the hospital and get skin grafts. It was pretty brutal.
Scott: Yikes. Any other crazy or awkward moments in your career that you can recall?
Stevens: Hm. Those questions are always hard. I’m sure there’s a million, and I just can’t think of any. I will say this: one of our line cooks was on Hell’s Kitchen a few seasons ago. We threw a debut party once it had already aired, and she was back. So, we let everyone know about it and we had a full house. The show is on, she’s working the room a little bit talking to everyone, and we’re pumping out food to everyone. Out of nowhere a fire breaks out in the kitchen. We lost one of the valves on our stove, and it’s shooting a flame probably about three feet out. So, we’re scrambling around, the flame is melting down the nobs on everything, and it’s clearly an issue. So, this goes on for about 30 minutes before the fire department shut it off, or what seemed like 30 minutes. It felt like an eternity because I felt helpless. But the entire room was outside in the parking lot drinking their drinks, fire department’s out there, and Carrie (Keep) of the show was taking pictures with the fire department. Look it up! We actually got written up about it. Something about things heat up in Hell’s Kitchen, or something like that.
Scott: What’s been the most difficult thing for you in your career?
Stevens: Probably transitioning from a chef to a chef-owner. Balancing the business aspects, dealing with your employees on a different level other than just being a chef. For me, the food and the hours come with the business. Food comes pretty easy for me. I feel like I’m very creative, and I’ve constantly got that juice going through me. I don’t struggle with that. I don’t struggle with clientele. We have an open kitchen and people love to sit there. It’s fun for me to engage with the guests when their interested in what we’re doing.
Scott: Is there a dish you’d recommend for a first timer at NOSH?
Stevens: I really like the roasted bone marrow. It’s a split beef bone marrow that’s oven roasted. We do a pickled red onion and huckleberry marmalade with it and a little toasted baguette. It’s really good. Also, I like the braised beef short ribs. We braise them with Dr. Pepper and red wine. Very tender.
Scott: Any hobbies outside of food?
Stevens: I like to exercise. I like mountain biking or snowboarding in the winter when I can get away. Which is usually about once a year, if that. I have a five-year-old little boy that I spend most of my free time with. So, we do a lot of Legos and things like that. Or, I do a lot of Legos and he watches me. Kind of cracks the whip, making sure I’m keeping up production.
Scott: Final, random question. If you could be any animal, what would you be?
Stevens: That’s a good question. Hm. I’ve always liked wild dogs and wolves. So, I think I’d be a wolf. Just because of the way they stick together as a pack. I’m kind of like that. I’m not really a loner. So, I think that’s a good one.
Jacie Scott is a D Magazine intern from Monroe, La. The 21-year-old attended Louisiana State University and graduated in Mass Communication with a concentration in print journalism last May. She’s a lover of all things sports and LSU related, and in her spare time she dances in stars and rhinestones.