Interview: Chef David Scalise of Dallas’ Hilton Anatole

The farm-to-fork chef runs the kitchen at one of Dallas’ finest hotels

David Scalise began cooking at age 15.

This chef lives for local, and he is all about farm-to-fork. He was only 15 when all things culinary stole his heart, and he’s now been in the restaurant world for more than thirty years. He’s a member of the Chaine des Rotisseurs and Societe Mondiale du Vin, Scalise and has lead the culinary charge at a variety of impressive properties from the four-diamond Laguna Cliffs Resort and Spa in California, The Lodge of The Four Seasons Resort and Spa in Missouri, and Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa in Florida.

His name is David Scalise, and now he is the Executive Chef responsible for overseeing operations for all of the Dallas Hilton Anatole Hotel’s restaurants, banquet offerings, and pastry shop.

The Anatole is home to many a star-studded event in the Dallas social scene. The property’s fans include locals looking for the perfect staycation, complete with high-end fitness center, spa, and – new this summer a resort pool with a lazy river, swim-up bar, and two water slides. And out-of-towners find the central location and conference facilities suit their travel needs from pleasure to business to a tee.

But one of the biggest draws of the Anatole is their food, from the casual offerings at the Media Bar and Grill to their outstanding steaks and seafood at SER. Scalise wields his magic wherever food is concerned at the Anatole, and Daily Meal had the chance to discover more about what gets his culinary creative juices flowing directly from the chef himself.

The Daily Meal: From where did your love of all things culinary develop?
Chef David Scalise:
I guess you could say it’s in my blood. Growing up in an Italian family, a love of food was part of our tradition. My grandmother was an amazing cook and I spent many hours in the kitchen with her.

What would you say is your overarching food philosophy?  
My philosophy is simple. Don’t overthink food.

Start with an exceptional ingredient and let it speak for itself. For me, that means eating seasonally and locally whenever possible. For example, don’t use tomatoes in winter, use them when they are at the peak of their natural growing season in your region.  Vine ripe is always best!

Can you tell readers a bit about the inspiration behind your menus and what you are hoping to achieve with their offerings? 
As a hotel, our menus are designed to accommodate a very wide range of needs. We need to cater to the many different demographics and tastes that come through the Anatole each and every day and, ultimately, provide a memorable dining experience no matter your personal taste. We have travelers from all over the world in our building and we try to ensure that we have something for everyone.

Despite that challenge, we do try to provide a sense of place by utilizing fresh, local ingredients and offering Texas-inspired menu items wherever possible.

What do guests tell you they love the most about the restaurant, the menu, and the food? 
I think guests appreciate the opportunity to sample the regional flavors of Texas. We have amazing, flavorful fish tacos in our Media Bar & Grille which are a crowd favorite. And of course, we attract locals and visitor alike for our Prime steaks at our 27th floor steakhouse, SER Steak + Spirits. At SER, we pay homage to classic steakhouse favorite but with an innovative, modern twist.

What are some of your personal favorite menu items?
Our prime New York strip up in SER is hard to beat; I think it is the best steak in Dallas.  Being a huge supporter of local farmers personally, I also love that we offer an amazing cheese selection featuring Texas cheeses like those from Brazos Valley Cheesery in Waco, Texas.

What are some of your favorite ingredients and/or cooking styles to experiment with right now?
Currently we are working with local Urban Farm Company in Dallas. They are a small start-up suburban farm organization and we’ve partnered with them to install a garden here at the Anatole that now produces some amazing local heirloom vegetables. It’s exciting for me when we can serve those ingredients that are truly farm-to-table. For me it is all about fresh, local homegrown products.

Why do you think the food offered at a hotel is so important for visitors?
First and foremost it is important because we become a second home for our guests. Whether they are here for one night, a week, or are return guests, we want them to feel at home. We want to have cuisine available to fulfill their needs, whether it’s a great burger or a prime steak. If it’s not on our menu and we have product available, we will be happy to make anything that our guests desire.

Secondly, I think that food has become a huge part of the travel experience. Tasting what a hotel or city has to offer provides a window in to the culture of that destination, similarly to art or music.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers about all things culinary at the Anatole?
There have been many exciting additions to our culinary team in the last six months. We have added a new executive pastry chef, SER Executive chef, SER executive sous chef, and a main kitchen executive chef. It’s wonderful to welcome this new talent to the Anatole family and we look forward to highlighting the unique strengths they each bring to our team. In addition, we are now in a strong partnership with several local culinary schools and have about 25 culinary students training on property.