The Dish: Chef John Tesar

The Dish: Chef John Tesar

Chef John Tesar got his start in the restaurant business as a teen, working at night and surfing all day. 

He went on to work at some of the trendiest restaurants in New York and Las Vegas, earning notice for his skills in the kitchen--and for his outsized personality.

In 2014, he opened Knife in Dallas. The steakhouse re-invention made Esquire's list of "Best New Restaurants." "Knife" is also the title of his new book. 

Here are some of Tesar's signature recipes: 

Ribeye - back to the pan


Any cut and size that can be cooked on a grill or in a broiler can be cooked back to the pan


1. Pull the steak from the refrigerator

2. Dry the steak completely until the surface doesn't glisten with moisture

3. Heat the pan use a carbon steel or cast-iron pan over high heat

4. Generously coat the meat on all sides with kosher salt and black pepper immediately before cooking

5. Add fat. Use just a little neutral oil such as canola, peanut, grape seed. Don't use butter or olive oil. 

7. Throw on the steak. Allow steak to sizzle and brown for a few minutes. 

8. When the first side has developed a nice crust and the meat has turned a rich shade of reddish brow, showing visible dryness- flip the steak. 

9. Gauge the doneness.

10. Rest the steak, but not too much. Thin steaks need just a minute or two and thicker steaks a few minutes. 

Avocado fries

Tempura batter ingredients

4 cups cake flour

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

3 tablespoons kosher salt

2 ¾ cups sparkling water


1. Sift or whisk together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt.

2. In a large bowl, whisk 1 ½ dry mix with the sparkling water. The batter should have the consistency of a crepe batter or vegetable oil.

Avocado fries ingredients

1 cup buttermilk

1 ripe avocado

Vegetable or peanut oil, for deep frying

2 cups rice flour

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus additional for sprinkling


1. Pour the buttermilk into a bowl. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Peel the avocado and cut each half into four pieces.  If they break, don't sweat it. 

2. Soak the avocado pieces in the buttermilk for 30 minutes.

3. Fill a deep fryer or deep, heavy-bottomed pot halfway with oil. Heat the oil to 375. 

4. On a rimmed baking sheet, mix the rice flour with the kosher salt. Lift the avocado pieces from the buttermilk, letting the excess drain, and coat the pieces in the rice flour.

5.  Place the avocado pieces into the tempura batter and bring the bowl to the deep fryer or pot. Carefully place the pieces, one at a time, into the hot oil.

6. Fry until the fries are a deep golden brown, turning them once or twice so they cook evenly. Remove the pieces to a pan lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Heirloom tomato salad


1 small seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into small chunks

2 heirloom tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges and or slices

12 mint, leaves 3 per salad 

1 tablespoon dill sprigs  a few scattered over each salad  

12 small basil leaves 3 per salad 

12 parsley leaves 3 per salad 

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 table spoon seasoned rice wine vinegar 

1/4 cup feta cheese crumbled 

Maldon salt to finish     


1. Compose each salad evenly with all ingredients and season with olive oil rice wine vinegar and finish with fresh herb garnishes 

Johnny mac and cheese


4 slices of bread, crusts removed

1 tablespoon plus ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

? Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 pound (4 cups) elbow macaroni

3 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

8 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

5 dashes green tabasco 

1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons shredded vermont white cheddar

1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons shredded new york sharp cheddar

2 tablespoons 75/25 canola/olive oil blend 

Crumbled cooked bacon, optional


1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until light golden brown. Let cool and then place in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to make bread crumbs. Add ¼ teaspoon of the salt, teaspoon of the pepper, and the parsley and pulse once or twice to combine. parsley. Raise oven temperature to 350 degrees. 

2. Cook macaroni according to the package directions until tender. Drain and keep warm. 

3. Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan over medium heat. Heat just until you see bubbles forming around the edge of the pan; do not let mixture boil. Keep warm. 

4. Place the butter in a saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and melt the butter, stirring constantly. Don't let it brown. As it melts, the fat and milk solids will separate and the water in the butter will start to boil. Now add the flour and stir until you have a smooth paste, or roux. Add the milk and cream stirring constantly, until you have a velvety smooth mixture (a roux) with no lumps. 

5. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon salt, the nutmeg, and the green Tabasco. Stir, turn down the heat to low and add the cheeses. Add the elbow macaroni and gently stir until all the pasta is covered with sauce.

6. Spoon the mixture into individual serving dishes or 3-quart casserole put the casserole(s) into the oven for 2-3 minutes until you see the cheese darken. 

7. Remove the mac and cheese. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the mac and cheese and drizzle with oil. If you want to add some crumbled bacon, do it now. Put the casserole(s) back in the oven for another 2-3 minutes. 

Sriracha pork belly in the style of peking duck 


2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

1 cup sriracha 

¾ teaspoon finely grated lime zest

½ cup fish sauce

3-4 pounds fresh pork belly


1. In a bowl, combine the salt, sugar, sriracha, lime zest, and fish sauce.

2. Place the pork belly in a non-reactive container, pour the mixture over, and rub it in. Cover and refrigerate the pork belly for 36-72 hours. Remove pork belly from the marinade and cut it in half. Place each piece of the pork belly into a Ziploc plastic bag, squeeze out all the air, and seal the bag.

3. Fill a pot or container large enough to hold both bags of pork belly three-quarters full of warm water. Attach a sous vide circulator, plug it in, set it to 140 degrees f. Immerse the pork belly and cook for 18-24 hours. 

4. Use immediately in a sriracha pork belly sandwich, or store for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Try it instead of bacon for breakfast or in a BLT. 

Recipes excerpted from the book knife by John Tesar and Jordan Mackay. Copyright © 2017 by John Tesar. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved.