Last week, Chef John Tesar opened his renowned steakhouse, Knife, in The District at Willow Bend at The Shops at Willow Bend. Having been in the restaurant game for nearly 40 years, appeared on Bravo’s hit reality competition “Top Chef,” and recently published a critically acclaimed cookbook, Tesar is a household name in the realm of steak. Upon the opening of its first location in the Highland Dallas Hotel in 2014, Knife was named one of Esquire Magazine’s Best New Restaurants. With the new Knife location in The District at Willow Bend, Tesar will have total control of the restaurant, as well as his two other concepts.
How old were you when you realized that you wanted to be a chef and own a restaurant?
“Probably when I came back from Paris at 24 years old and bought a restaurant in The Hamptons. I’ll be 61 next month. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. This is my life and my profession.”
What are some of your signature plates?
“We’re notable for our dry-aged meat. We use only Texas beef from 44 Farms. That’s what we’re known for. We are a true Texas steakhouse and we’ve reinvented the experience of a steakhouse by making it more affordable and more for everyone. I also think we’re more contemporary. It’s just a newer vibe than everything else.”
And all of your pastas are made in-house, correct?
“Yes. That is really a chef-driven part of the restaurant. Everything is made from scratch. We do our sauces like we’re in a French restaurant. We go to great lengths to be creative.”
What would you say is the best part of working in this industry?
“There are always opportunities to re-invent yourself. You can impress and win over people with your products and your thought process, and that’s what we do. It’s not all about making money.”
What did you learn after having appeared on such a huge platform, like Bravo?
“It does become very personal. It’s a medium where you are being watched by millions of people. We live in this culture where people think that if you’ve been on-screen, that you’re famous. It’s kind of weird.”
Do you feel famous?
“I have no idea what that is. I’m me, you know? After all these years, that’s what I’ve learned. It’s my life. I’m the architect of it. If you don’t speak up, and if you don’t have some type of individuality, you kind of get lost in the crowd. That may be abrasive to some people, but I don’t care about people’s perception of me anymore. I’ve been through the wringer and I know who I am, and I’ve been consistent with who I am.”
After your run on “Top Chef”, how did you adjust returning to normal life?
“The first time was very stressful. I had PTSD. It is kind of like prison because you’re sequestered. There are people whose personalities clash with mine, and it makes for unease day after day after day. The second time, we were on the beach in Idle Palms, in Charleston, SC. I had some returning friends join me the second time around, so this last time was a lot easier because I had some familiarity and the environment was completely different.”
You’re opening two other concepts within the new Knife location. What exactly are they?
“We have Knife Burger, Knife Butcher Shop, and Knife the restaurant. Three different concepts. We have a lot of space here, but I didn’t want to build an expansive restaurant like a lot of other places in Plano. I wanted to keep it very controllable. We created the butcher shop because we have a lot of people asking where they can get the meats. They can get it here, put it in a Yeti, and have it shipped anywhere in the country. Knife Burger, is basically an extension of what we’ve done at Legacy Hall.”
What do you hope to accomplish with Knife’s new Willow Bend location?
“We actually own this location, whereas the one in the Highland Hotel is a licensing of Knife. I created this restaurant and I control it. We actually partnered with Starwood Retail, so number one, it’ll be more financially advantageous. Plus, without all of the licensing agreements and the hierarchy of the hotel, I’m the boss. I really get to take control.”
Knife is now open for dinner at The District at Willow Bend at The Shops at Willow Bend
6121 W. Park Blvd, Plano | knifeplano.com