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Chris Ward
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How much of your Louisianan roots makes its way into your food style? Not too much at all. That part of Louisiana is not really influenced by the Creole style of food.

How do you juggle your time between three operations?
I set my schedule so I work at each restaurant three days in a row, that way every one knows when to expect me. With another two restaurants soon to open, this will become somewhat more of a challenge.
When I am at the operation I spend my time solely in the kitchen. I use the time to work with the chefs on my ideas for specials and new menu items. I am always open to their input, it is important however that each restaurant produces food in line with its concept.

Dallas......Land of Rib Eye Steak, or have things changed?
The tastes of the people of Dallas and the surrounding areas has changed, we still have a great number of guests that are meat eaters. At Citizen for example we see a little more of a younger "hip" kind of crowd, they love the Asian style of food but we still have one beef entree.

We all seem to be struggling for covers right now with the down turn in the economy..... How about you?
We are still seeing good business here, we were more effected by spring break than the "recession". There is a lot of construction taking place here, so hopefully this current period of recession hype will continue to have only a minimal effect upon our restaurants.

What is your food cost?
Between the three restaurants we run a 36% food cost.

Who are your customers?
It is quite broad, which is a great thing. At Chop House, our prime steak house in Fort Worth we see a more mature clientele and at Citizen we feed a younger set. The Mercury however sees dinners from both ends of the spectrum.

What makes a great menu?
Diversity - Consistency - Quality...

What drives you / makes you get out of bed to work?
A mix of enjoying what I do with never knowing what tomorrow will bring and a fear of failing!

What inspires you?
Seasonality for sure, it is fantastic when the season brings new product. Ramps, purple asparagus morels plus the classics like foie gras and caviar. These are that kind of products that just make you want to cook!

Writing a cook book, is that as easy as we would all like to think?
With out doubt one of the hardest things I have ever taken on. For every finished dish there are several recipes that are part of it. It takes a lot of time to get those things done properly. The photography is also very time consuming, it takes about eight hours to photograph four dishes. What has made it easier though is the help of Christine Carbone. She has been testing all the recipes in a domestic kitchen, she has been putting a lot of hard work in to it too.

Tell us about the book.......
It is called Restaurant Life, a varied selection of my signature dishes from my restaurants over the years
(including some childhood favorites). It will contain over eighty recipes from simple to sophisticated with plenty of pictures. Restaurant Life will be published in Fall 2001.

If you are not a chef what would you be doing?
An airline pilot with out a doubt.... Boeing 747.

A word of advice for the cooks of tomorrow...
In this business what you do has to come from the heart. Do not get in to it if your social life is more important, and find a tolerant spouse that understands the business, it is a killer on relationships! (more)

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