10 Questions for Bolsa's Andrew Bell
Bolsa’s new executive chef Andrew Bell took the Oak Cliff kitchen’s reins when Jeff Harris left several weeks ago - not that it was a huge adjustment. Bell had been most recently running the catering and daily menu at Bolsa Mercado, the restaurant’s offshoot a few doors down. He’s also done stints at Austin’s uber-popular Uchi and at Aurora (since closed) and Nosh in Dallas. We picked his brain about moving a few doors down and Big D dining coming into its own.
Zagat: How involved, if at all, had you been in operations at Bolsa when you were at Mercado?
Andrew Bell: Not much at all. Jeff Harris and Matt Balke had Bolsa under control and were putting out very nice food.
Zagat: What’s it like moving from down the street at Mercado to Bolsa. How’s the transition been?
AB: The move has been great. It is a very different kitchen with its own set of challenges, but the opportunity I have wanted for a long time. The staff seems to have embraced the change in a very positive manner. I think the timing could not have been better.
Zagat: You’ve flitted quite a bit around Dallas. Based on your view from the kitchen and with different concepts over the years, how would you say the dining scene has evolved here?
AB: I think that the young chefs that are opening restaurants in Dallas deserve a lot of credit for elevating the dining scene. We have a level of dining that, in the past, would have required a trip to DFW first. Now we truly have world-class cuisine in Dallas. That makes me very happy.
Zagat: You’re coming into the Bolsa kitchen after some pretty big characters, in Jeff Harris and Graham Dodds. What will you bring to the table that’s different?
AB: I don’t know that the core philosophy will be that different. I will focus on seasonal, local and the freshest ingredients that I can find. What I want to bring to the table is more frequent change. Menu items will have a shorter life span.
Zagat: Speaking of tables, what menu items have you debuted or are you looking to add to the menu?
AB: We have started making the bacon that we use in some of the dishes. It adds a personal touch. I want to develop that program where more is made in-house and use less offsite processed foods. It gives us a bit more control of quality and flavor.
Zagat: It’s fall: what are some of your favorite autumn ingredients to play with, and your favorite purveyors for them?
AB: All of the gourds and tubers. They are very versatile and seek so much of this season. There is a group of small farms around Dallas that are bringing an awesome product to us to put on the plate. Some of the farms we use are Barking Cat Farms, TGH, Windy Meadows chicken, Eden’s Garden and Caprion Royal.
Zagat: Do you have/aim to have any influence over the quite popular cocktail program at Bolsa? What’s your interest level in cocktails?
AB: I do love a good cocktail, but Kyle has that under control, and my plate is a bit full right now.
Zagat: Are you one of those chefs who doesn't cook at home? If not, what do you like to whip up in your kitchen?
AB: I do cook a lot at home. My girlfriend and I have a baby due in December, so right now I cook a lot of food to put in the freezer so we don’t have to eat take-out. On one of my days off, we go out to eat, and on the other, I cook a nice meal. It’s always a good time cooking and eating at home with family and friends.
Zagat: Where in Dallas do you like to hang out and grab a bite, besides, of course, Bolsa and Bolsa Mercado?
AB: I am always looking for any place that has good tacos. I love what FT33 is doing, Yutaka’s Sushi Bistro, Tei-An and Driftwood.
Zagat: Unlike a lot of initially popular restaurants in Dallas that eventually flame out, Bolsa has kept its sizzling quality for years. What’s the reason, in your opinion?
AB: The Bolsa owners have kept close their core philosophy since they opened and not compromised that. They hire the right people and let them do the job without micro-managing them. It’s a very creative and refreshing work environment.