Restaurant Rumblings

John Tesar lands in another kitchen after big switch-up at Design District restaurant

John Tesar lands in another kitchen after Design District switch-up

Design District restaurant Oak has undergone a chef switch-up, with one chef making a hasty exit and another colorful chef entering with a partnership stake.

Chef Brian Zenner, who has been with the restaurant for more than three years, is leaving to work with a team known for its presence in the club scene. He's being replaced by chef John Tesar, who joins in the role of chef-partner, wherein he will oversee the kitchen while leading and training the culinary team.

"We are confident that this partnership will bring to Oak the experience we have always wanted to offer," says Richard Ellman, who owns Oak with his wife, Tiffanee.

Tesar, who is currently chef at Knife at the Highland Dallas hotel, says his role there will not alter in any way.

"You'll continue to still see me there plenty, and Knife will continue doing the incredible business that it has been doing, ensuring every customer has a great experience," he says. "We love being at the Highland and nothing about that will be any different."

Tesar will unroll new menu items by mid-February.

Zenner is going to work with Chris Beardon and Adam Salazar, who own the quirky candy-shop-fronted Truth & Alibi bar in Deep Ellum and The Mitchell in downtown Dallas. They also plan to open a bar-restaurant in Deep Ellum called On Premise.

Zenner met Beardon and Salazar after they hired his friend Rudy Mendoza to chef at The Mitchell, their bar that opened in a space on Main Street that has seen the comings and goings of Prohibition and the Chesterfield.

Zenner says he was starting to feel burned out on fine dining. "Oak has been a good spot, but once Belly & Trumpet closed, I suppose I lost steam," he says.

"On Premise is in the old Lemongrass spot, and it's really neat inside. It has a great patio in the back and a really big kitchen with big wok burners. So I'll probably do some wok dishes, some street vendor food, for the late-night drinking crowd.

"Right now I want to stay away from formal fine dining and go where it's more relaxed."

Dallas chef John Tesar of Spoon restaurant
Chef John Tesar is adding Oak to his restaurant plate. Photo courtesy of John Tesar
Executive Chef Brian Zenner and Sous Chef Rudy Mendoza of Belly & Trumpet restaurant in Dallas
Chefs Brian Zenner (left) and Rudy Mendoza worked together at Belly & Trumpet. Photo by Joy Zhang