Hip chef Todd Erickson proves he’s not just a flash in the pan

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DALLAS – A tryst is loosely defined as an agreement between lovers to meet at an appointed time and place. And that’s exactly what lovers of edgy, imaginative cuisine may feel they’re having when making reservations at chef Todd Erickson’s new Dallas culinary playground, Tryst Restaurant & Bar.

“This place is young, sexy and fun – with a great view,” says the 27-year-old chef, still tanned and toned from a recent trip to Hawaii. He is sporting a Puma jacket and sneakers (which he favors in the kitchen, too), and admits he’s “emotionally attached” to his Paper, Denim & Cloth jeans. On his wrist is a chunky zinc bracelet, a gift from a friend.

Erickson has long been getting attention for his personal style, which is matched by his bravado in the kitchen. His creations for Tryst only enhance the mystique: Chicken Fried Oysters Rockefeller, Lamb Chop Lollipops, Burnt Honey Creme Brulee. You get the idea.

Erickson’s interest in food eventually propelled him to New York’s Culinary Institute of America. He got his first real break in 2004, when Dallas restaurateur Hector Garcia asked him to serve as executive chef of his debut restaurant, Hector’s on Henderson. The New American eatery drew critical acclaim for its talented young chef.

“I love to work and be in the kitchen,” says Erickson. “But suddenly getting all of that attention was unexpected. It was a lot of pressure to have all eyes on me.”

More important, he gained experience. When the owners of Tryst came to him early this year and asked him to open their kitchen, he was ready.

Erickson works hard, but also makes time to relax. A lazy day includes a little E! Entertainment network: “I can watch the Top 100 of just about anything.”

On Sundays, he keeps things old-fashioned and enjoys dinners with friends. Of course, Erickson still does most of the cooking.

LISTED

GREATEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT CHEFS:

“That all of us are so serious”

DINNER AT HOME:

Grilled steak with blue cheese and tomatoes

STRESS RELEASE:

Running

CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT:

Puma shoes

MORNING ROUTINE:

“Snooze button, Today show, jog, shower, work”

THE KNIFE:

8-inch Wusthof – “They have a great grip and can hold a sharp edge for quite a while.”

THE POTS AND PANS:

All-Clad – “They’re built for durability and style, and they last forever.”

THE DRINK:

Red Bull

LAST MEAL:

Mom’s lasagna

COLLECTS:

Kitchenware

FAVE FOODIE SUPPLY SHOP:

Sur La Table

IN THE FRIDGE:

Bottled water and apples

GUILTY PLEASURE:

Ben and Jerry’s “Chunky Monkey”

PETS:

Daisy, my beagle

MOST FAMOUS FRIEND:

“Queer Eye” food guru Ted Allen

POSSESSION THAT BEST DEFINES YOU:

My photo albums

FAVE CD:

Joss Stone – “That girl has barefoot soul.”

RECENT SPLURGE:

Ticket to Hawaii

FAVE INGREDIENT TO COOK WITH:

White truffle oil

FICTIONAL CHARACTER YOU MOST IDENTIFY WITH:

Curious George

FURNITURE OBSESSION:

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s 1929 “Barcelona” couch



TODD ERICKSON’S “BEST DIP EVER’

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

1/2 pound baby spinach

2 (4.5-ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt to taste

Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add garlic and shallots. Saute to a light golden brown. Add the baby spinach and artichoke hearts, continue to saute until the spinach is wilted. Add the cream cheese gradually, then the Tabasco, Parmesan and white vinegar. Stir to make the mixture creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with toasted pita wedges, lavash crackers or tortilla chips. Makes about 6 servings.

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