Best Chef 2011 – Dean Fearing
Dean Fearing has been the — so sorry — dean of Dallas chefs for north of 20 years, but this isn’t a nostalgia award. Fearing deserves renewed recognition because he truly is the city’s once and future best chef. Fearing is consistency personified, as he delivers some of the nation’s, let alone Big D’s, most palate-popping cooking. And the thing of it is, he doesn’t have to. After he cooked his last lobster taco at the Mansion, Fearing could have moseyed off in his Lucchese boots, secure in his place in the firmament of great Dallas chefs. Instead, he rose up like a fire-roasted phoenix four years ago with his eponymous restaurant, Fearing’s. Since then, his has become, according to no less a snooty authority than The New York Times, one of the “top 10” tables in the entire country, which, Governor Rick Perry’s secessionist dreams aside, still includes Dallas. Fearing deserves this crown because instead of resting on his considerable laurels (“Table of the Year” per Esquire, Zagat’s No. 1 hotel dining spot in all of United States) his restaurant produces some of the city’s few truly destination dishes: Buffalo tenderloin, marinated longer than most marriages, or a Gulf shrimp taco doing a tangy tango with pickled onion and mango. It’s all enough to reaffirm Fearing’s place as the country’s preeminent avatar (sorry Bobby Flay) for Southwestern cuisine at its most haute.