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Chef Najat Kaanache is Staying at Private Social

Najat Kaanache and Stephan Pyles at Perini Ranch in Buffalo Gap.
Chefs Consulting: Najat Kaanache and Stephan Pyles at Perini Ranch in Buffalo Gap. (photo courtesy of  Najat Kaanache.)

Feisty executive chef Najat Kaanache is digging in her heels and staying in the kitchen of Private Social. Kaanache is in the process of putting together a new Awesome Texas Food menu which she will debut next week. I reached Kaanache this morning and we chatted about some of her ideas.

This gal, who writes a blog called The Pilgrim Chef,  has some serious credentials. Her parents are Moroccan but she grew up in Spain where her passions for cooking and science collided. She has worked with modernist chefs such as Ferran Adria, Thomas Keller, and Grant Achatz. When I learned of the changes going on at Private Social, I wrote: “I can’t imagine she will stick around to do awesome things with Texas food. Somebody needs to back her in a Moroccan restaurant.”

Color me wrong. Kaanache is turning Texan. She learned a lot about Texas food when she consulted on Stampede 66, Stephan Pyles’ salute to his fifth-generation-awesome-Texas cooking. Pyles is a huge fan of Spanish modernist cooking (miss you, Fuego!) and he has been injecting modernist techniques into his cooking for some time. His Stampede 66 combines the right blend of Texas and weird science.

“I spent several months living in Dallas working as consultant to Stephan Pyles creating his whole menu concept, recipes, and hands-on training his staff for Stampede 66,” Kaanache says. “I even designed a menu with him that we executed together for the Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit last year at the Perini Ranch.”

I had to ask: Does Pyles view Kaanache’s Awesome Texas Food as competition?

“I believe he thinks there is competition but there is not competition,” Kaanache says. “He uses more modern techniques than me.”

Pyles sees it differently. “The only competition I’ve seen came when she opened Private Social and she tried to hire away some of my staff,” Pyles says. “My question is why isn’t she doing Moroccan or Spanish. I wouldn’t open a tapas place in San Sebastián or a sushi joint in Tokyo.”

Kaanache is sending details on the new menu and other changes to the restaurant. Whatever they decide to do, Private Social has a big battle ahead of them. I checked the TABC’s Mixed Beverage Tax Receipts for the month of March 2013 which was posted on April 22.  The list, which is public information, shows the tax remittances of restaurants with liquor licenses. The amount of the tax paid represents 14 percent of total liquor sales price. (To figure total sales, you divide the amount of the tax by .14.) Private Social paid $3,205.75 which translates into approximately $22,898 total liquor sales. Their next door neighbor, Del Frisco’s Grille, paid $34,303.50 which translates into approximately $245,025 total liquor sales.

Fasten your seatbelts, Dishers. It’s going to be a bumpy road to recovery. (I really wish she would open a Moroccan restaurant.)

UPDATE: Kaanache’s details below. The menu…

NN: What are some items you plan for Private Social?

NK: PB & J” Chicken Wings, Texas Tuna” Tartare, Fried Green Tomato “Caprese, Sliced Meatball Hero, Jake’s Steak

NN: I would like to know if there will be changes in the interior.

NK: Yes, Many more Guests.  And a few small additions inside my kitchen.

NN:  I would like to know if Stephan Pyles is upset with you.

NK: No comment.