Chefs Deconstructed: Stefon Rishel and Blaine Staniford

Menu Madness is Central Market Fort Worth’s version of March Madness, minus the basketball, plus a lot of good food. The series of dinners pairs up two chefs who compete over four courses. Diners have the privilege of watching the chefs at work and the responsibility of selecting the best chef of the evening. The winners of each night will advance through a bracket system and continue competition until a Menu Madness winner is determined. So far, Chefs Andrew Dilda (Independent Bar & Kitchen) and Jason Harper (Trio), have advanced to Round 2.

Chefs Blaine Staniford and Stefon Rishel are going head to head this Thursday, February 16th. Their dinner is sold out, but look ahead to purchase your “cuisine-side” seats here to see chefs Juan Rodriguez and Aaron Austin go head to head on March 2nd.

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 9.17.12 PMStefon Rishel has been the Chef at Texas Bleu in Keller since Fall 2016, following his launch of 51fifteen in Houston. You may remember him from his 2015 victory in Fort Worth, Texas magazine’s Top Chef competition, or from his superb brunch at Max’s Wine Dive.

Can you give us a preview of what’s next at Texas Bleu?

The goal at Texas Bleu is to push the envelope on what is considered “Steakhouse Fare.”  I think we fill a niche in the North Fort Worth area that allows us to be adventurous without being kitchy, and educate the dining public about Farm to Table cuisine.

You’re self-taught, but do you have a kitchen or chef that you consider to be your foundation?

Chris Carroll, a genius who has done it all, has given me a lot of direction on the business side of restaurants. A few years ago, I ran into Jon Bonnell and asked for advice. He told me: never settle for sub-par, always work harder than the guy next to you, and find balance between the industry and home. That 2-minute conversation really set a standard for me.

Also, I grew up in the business. My first memory in the kitchen was mixing coleslaw for my Dad thinking, “DO NOT LOSE THIS GLOVE IN THE COLESLAW!” I still have fantastic conversations with my dad about industry swings and the work/home life balance. He worked 70+ hours a week with two kids and a wife of now 42 years. That says something about doing it right.

What’s the story behind the mohawks?

Nekesa Mohler, my “Hairchitect”, and her Esoterica Studios team were brunch regulars at Max’s Wine Dive. When I competed for Fort Worth Magazine’s Top Chef in 2015, she joked that I should let her do something with my hair. We played with the fauxhawk and mini-hawk, and now she is the only person to touch it. I don’t even pick the color anymore. I respect stylists and colorists the same as chefs, because if I tried to do her job someone would probably end up bald.

What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?

I am a Taco Casa junkie. There is something about a super taco and a sweet tea right before work that just sets the day right sometimes.

What does your work with high school students look like?

I had a fantastic relationship with David Roberson at O.D. Wyatt High School and still keep in touch with many of the students we mentored. Currently, I am working with the Keller ISD as we prepare for the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival and next year’s ProStart Competition.

How did you end up in Fort Worth?

I was born in Jackson, Michigan but we moved here when I was eight. I consider myself a Texan—I married a Texas girl and Briana is my biggest cheerleader, supporter, and ego-check when I need it. We were blessed with a beautiful baby girl in October after thinking that we were unable to have children. I really do have to pinch myself to realize that this a real thing every day. God is good and is a huge part of our life and our careers.

If a movie was made about your life, what actor would play you? 

Louis C.K. I look like him a bit, and we have the same sense of humor and impatience for people with no common sense.

 

 

 

 

blaine grace head shotBlaine Staniford is a fixture in the Fort Worth food scene. He has been the executive chef at Grace since it opened in 2008, and opened its sister restaurant, Little Red Wasp, in 2013. He won the distinction of Top Chef, Fort Worth in 2012 and was also one of the youngest graduates of New York’s Culinary Institute of America.

What are you working on now at Grace that you’re excited about?

We are working on new Spring menus and updating our current seven course Chefs Tasting menu. Lots of new products are coming into season. Spring is one of my favorite times of the year.

Since your wife is the chef at Daireds, does it get competitive in the kitchen at home? Any pop-ups we can look forward to?

Dawn and I are currently looking for locations to do our next pop-up dinner. We had a really good turnout for our first pop up at Daireds this past fall, and we are looking forward to the next one.

 

How did you land in Fort Worth? 

My boss, Adam Jones, was looking for a chef for opening Grace in 2007. He hired a head hunter, and Adam and I just really connected. My initial interview ended up being over two hours long.

If a movie was made about your life, what actor would play you? Samuel-L-Jackson

Ha! Maybe Samuel L Jackson because he’s one bad mother@uc&er!

You’ve been recognized for your innovative menus. Is there a particular food that you are excited about right now?

I don’t think it would be a specific food item. I think what I’m super passionate about right now is open flame or fire pit cooking. Anything that has to do with cooking something on a wood fire. Kind of back to the roots of cooking.

What’s your most requested recipe?

Chorizo Stuffed Dates. They have been on the bar menu since day one at Grace.