Six Degrees of Separation: The Culinary Version

Ellie’s Texas Pea Hummus

If you lived here in 2002 and were old enough to drink, chances are you found yourself at Hotel Zaza, head swiveling, looking for Kato Kaelin or your future ex-spouse. 

It’s been almost 20 years since Zaza and Dragonfly, its in-house restaurant, opened, and it amazes me that they are both still relevant. 

Dragonfly’s been led by well-respected chefs including Marc Cassell, Dan Landsberg, and now, Daniel Hatcher. Hatcher’s menu has something for everyone, from a succulent prime filet to a mind-blowing pan roasted redfish with shitakes and rock star starters including masa-battered jalapeño calamari and tender lamb lollipops. 

Hatcher’s predecessor, Chef Dan Landsberg, started his career as a dishwasher, worked his way up the ladder, graduated from culinary school at the top of his class, and ended up executive chef of Stephen Pyles. He went on to lead Zaza’s Dragonfly restaurant to accolades for 11 years. Today, Chef Dan Landsberg is the executive chef of Ellie’s the art museum/restaurant in the HALL Arts Hotel, just around the corner from the very same Stephen Pyles restaurant which closed in 2015.

If you haven’t noticed by now, the restaurant business is one big game of “Six Degrees of Separation.”

Ellie’s opened in December 2019 with Chef Eric Dreyer in charge. Dreyer was the executive chef at Fearing’s for more than 10 years before pulling a stint as Oprah’s personal chef. Sadly, we didn’t get to enjoy much of his beautifully fresh, California-vibe menu because of the *P* word.

Dreyer left Ellie’s in January 2021 and Zaza’s Landsberg came to Ellie’s in March, putting his own spin on the menu with dishes like ancho chile coconut palm chicken breast and Texas shell pea hummus with local produce and pita. Ellie’s menu is filled with produce and products from local farms and small purveyors, a signature of Landsberg’s menus.

So, where’s Chef Dryer? He moved to Monarch, the high-above-the-clouds restaurant in The National downtown, home of The Thompson Hotel. Monarch is buzzy right now for its exceptional view from 49 floors up, the beautiful-people crowd, and for its outstanding food. Dreyer’s oven roasted prawns, sea scallops, and pastas command a high price, and they should. 

Hall Arts Hotel. COURTESY PHOTO

Local chatter included some criticism of Monarch’s prices, such as $18 cocktails and $12 sides, and cancellation policy that charges $25 per person for late cancellations or no-shows. Restaurants that serve best-in-class proteins, house-made pastas, and a live Alaskan king crab for $1,000 demonstrate a value proposition that isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Eric Dreyer is one of the best chefs in North Texas right now, and Monarch fills a desire to be spoiled, entertained, wowed, wined, and dined. 

If you haven’t noticed by now, the restaurant business is one big game of “Six Degrees of Separation.” Sometimes in the kitchens and sometimes out. To wit, Dragonfly’s Chef Hatcher is from a little town in Louisiana called Zachary where my people, the Rettigs, settled after immigrating from Alsace. Chef Hatcher went to middle school with my cousin, which delights me almost as much as Dragonfly’s key lime pie made by his sous chef’s own recipe.


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Kersten Rettig

Kersten Rettig has represented some of world's best known brands in her 30+ years in marketing and PR, including Montblanc, Rosewood Hotels, Highland Park Village and Taco Bell. As a former restaurant owner, she knows the business and has a deep affection for the hospitality industry. She is a Park Cities resident and a happy wife, mom of three and dogmother. Follow her @KerstenEats.

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