Known for his southern recipes with a modern approach, Chef Fitzgerald Dodd is no stranger to exploring and pushing the boundaries of his culinary repertoire. An accomplished chef for the last twenty years, he began his career at the iconic Brennan’s in Houston and later went on to work with some of Dallas’ most well known restaurants including; Stephan Pyles, Ferre, Abacus, Star Canyon, Voltaire, Hotel Zaza, Hotel Crescent Court and Screen Door. With a cooking style that he likes to define as simple, yet defined with bold flavors that provide a “down-home” punch, Chef Fitzgerald drew his inspiration from his upbringing in East Texas. He credits his love and passion for the culinary arts to the countless hours he spent as a youth in his grandmothers’ kitchens and his early appreciation for locally grown produce, game and fish. This monumental foundation complimented by the invaluable instruction and mentorship he would receive from some of the world’s most remarkable chefs became instrumental in helping him elevate his cooking and to develop his own genre of cuisine called, “Elevated Southern Cuisine.”
As a respected advisor Chef Fitzgerald has successfully collaborated in setting the overall culinary direction of emerging restaurants in Dallas and as a result has been recognized by receiving numerous awards. While at Screen Door he was recognized for his menu inspired by a colorful mixture of classical southern recipes with a modern approach and achieved the title of “Best New Restaurant 2009” in D Magazine and “Best Southern Restaurant” in the Dallas Observer. His accolades did not end there, last year when he was recruited to head the kitchen of Ida Claire restaurant in North Dallas, it was recognized as one of “Top Ten Best New Restaurants of 2015” by D Magazine.
In 2010, Chef Fitzgerald decided to explore the many opportunities that his expertise presented and accepted the task of becoming the personal chef to Miami Heat’s “Big Three,” NBA star, Chris Bosh. Over the next four years, he would be personally responsible for every aspect of culinary requirements for the Bosh household ranging from the athlete’s training-nutritional program to the cuisine for numerous charitable and social functions hosted by the family.
From Chef of Cuisine to being a valuable advisor, Chef Fitzgerald’s career is consistently evolving. Featured in countless articles and TV programs, he has gained national recognition and press as a notable personality in the culinary world. Haute Living had the pleasure of sitting down with him to learn more about his thoughts on Texas Cuisine and what’s next on the horizon for a talented chef in a constant state of metamorphosis.
Where are you originally from and how long have you been in Dallas?
I am from a little town in East Texas called Domino. It’s 35 miles from Texarkana. My family moved to Dallas when I was 3 or so.
What inspired you to become a chef?
I love exploring food and flavors. It was a hobby in college that became my career as an adult.
What do you think has influenced your cuisine the most?
My cuisine has been influenced by my Grandmothers’ kitchen, my PawPaw’s BBQ pit, and my time living in New Orleans.
How would you classify the cuisine?
Texas-Inspired Creole Cooking
What do you think your biggest challenge has been in your culinary career?
Searching for opportunities that will allow me to freely express my culinary beliefs and style. I believe this is one of the big reasons so many young chefs have started their own businesses (restaurant, food trucks, etc.)
How do you think Dallas’ culinary scene is different from other places?
At one time, DFW was all about steaks and tacos. Though we still love both, we have grown significantly as a food town with all of the chefs that have relocated here from other cities and all of us who have branched out from our mentors/chefs (Pyles, Fearing, Rathbun) and have introduced our food philosophies to D/FW foodies.
How would you classify Texas Cuisine?
One word…BOLD. It’s combination of Southern and Latin flavors
Do you have any mentors and if so; who are they and what did you take away from them?
Chef Jeff Moschetti mainly because he is always ready to give me good advice about running a kitchen. In addition, though I haven’t talked to him in a long while, I would say that every time that I have worked under Stephen Pyles, I have grown significantly. I remember years ago asking him to give me advice on what I should focus on as a young chef. He told me to ‘stay aware’ of what’s going on in our industry and evolve and grow accordingly without losing who you are as a chef in the process.
If you were not a chef what would you be doing?
I always thought that it would be interesting to be a Behavioral Analyst because I love to observe people and read the way they will act or what they do in various situations.
Last day on Earth what city would you be in?
I would probably be in New Orleans eating myself into oblivion!
What would be your last meal?
Honestly, I would have to draw straws between BBQ, Gumbo or Cochon de Lait (I love Hog)
Sommelier or Mixologist?
Sommelier (I don’t drink liquor or beer)
Ha! I have no favorite. See previous question.
What’s your signature dish? Or is there one dish that sums up your culinary career?
While I don’t necessarily have a “signature” dish, I would say my slow cooked pork shoulder with praline lacquered yams would sum me up. My career has been simple but spicy; sweet at times and salty at others; but most of all, it has been a slow process of development and growth.
What ingredient do you most dislike cooking with?
Broccoli-it is the only green vegetable that I REALLY dislike!
How do you think the glamorization of chefs have changed the industry?
It has been both positive and negative. The positive is that it has given us a creative platform. The negative is that young people are less willing to pay their dues and work on their craft. They are so desperate to be “celebrity chefs” instead of great cooks first.
What is food art to you? Where does your inspiration come from?
It is an expression of a chef’s culinary voice. The way we combine flavors, textures and colors say a lot about our personality.
Working on any new projects? Future plans?
In addition to developing a restaurant concept of my own that I hope to open next year, I am working as a private chef focusing primarily on dinner parties for those who want to bring an elevate brand of Southern cooking home. I am also about to launch my underground dinner series “Sunday Supper with Chef Fitzgerald” in early June.
What patron would be on your bucket list to experience your cuisine?
Do you work with any non-profits or benefits?
Although I participate regularly and love doing fundraisers, I am not tied to one in particular at this time. When I open my restaurant, I would love to partner with Mentoring Brother 2 Brother. An organization that focuses on boys whose fathers are not in their homes.
What’s a kitchen gadget/tool that you couldn’t live without?
I couldn’t live without my cast iron skillets, of course. (I’m a country boy!)
What are your thoughts on food critics?
Nowadays, with social media, everyone has become a critic. As it relates to those who do it for a living, there are some good and some not so good. When good, solid constructive criticism is given, whether they enjoyed their experience or not, we as chefs appreciate it tremendously. It helps us improve. However, when you make a habit of tearing someone’s art and hard work apart with malicious verbage, then we don’t appreciate it. It comes across disrespectful, and it is not necessary to give a good critique.
Your favorite comfort food?
My favorite comfort is smothered pork chops. (Again, I’m a country boy). Farm to table or burger joint? I am definitely a Farm to Table chef who will definitely have a darn good house-ground, hand-crafted burger on the menu.