Q&A With Texas Celebrity Chef Tim Love

By Natasha Garber | Make Favorite

If you’ve caught him on CNBC’s “Restaurant Startup,” the Food Network’s “Top Chef: The Cruise,” or in any of his many appearances on national shows including NBC’s “Today Show” and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” you know that chef Tim Love is a consummate entertainer and a master with a slab of good meat. But the owner of acclaimed Texas restaurants Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Queenie’s Steakhouse, Love Shack and the famed White Elephant Saloon, is also a connoisseur of cuisine that transforms special events into unforgettable occasions. Elk-sausage sliders with foie gras and blueberry jam? Yeah, that’s Love’s specialty. Mini smoked-chocolate pie bites? He loves to serve ’em up on reception dessert displays. Read more in our exclusive Q&A!

Weddings in Houston: How did you get your start in cooking? 
Tim Love: I’ve been cooking since I was a kid. My dad lived on a 26-acre farm and I was an avid hunter, so cooking always seemed like a natural progression in understanding food. I got my first job in a kitchen when I was a student at the University of Tennessee and immediately knew that it was where I belonged. I’ve been working in restaurants ever since. 

WIH: When did you open your first restaurant?
TL: I opened my flagship restaurant, Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, in Fort Worth’s historic Stockyards in 2000. 

WIH: How has your Texas heritage influenced your cooking?
TL: How hasn’t Texas influenced my cooking?! I am constantly inspired by our state’s bold flavors, culinary traditions and local ingredients. 

WIH: How about drink pairings for these kicky cocktail-reception bites?
TL: The cucumber-jalapeño margarita is always a home run. In the summertime, “adult” slushies are fun. And a hot toddy in the winter hits the spot. 

WIH: What are some of your favorite hors d’oeuvre and small-bite options for the Houston bride who wants to bring a taste of Texas to her cocktail reception?
TL: Passed hors d’oeuvre can have a bad reputation for being dull, so I like to spice things up with a variety of unique items such as prosciutto-wrapped chicharrón with crème fraîche and caviar, and my signature rabbit-and-rattlesnake sausage with pickled vegetables. A personal favorite is my elk-sausage sliders topped with foie gras and blueberry jam. Exciting food is such a great conversation starter—so it’s key to make sure hors d’oeuvre have a kick!

WIH: For the bride who wants to treat her guests to Texas flavor, but avoid a basic meat-and-potatoes meal, what are your suggestions for plated entrees and sides?
TL: One of the most popular dishes at Lonesome Dove Western Bistro is our roasted-garlic-stuffed beef tenderloin, which we serve with Western “plaid hash,” grilled asparagus and Syrah demi-glace. This is a decadent, creative spin on the classic “meat and potatoes.” For more adventurous guests, we have a goat crépinette with white beans and sorrel, or black-trumpet-crusted elk loin with grilled ramps and spicy garlic gremolata. 

WIH: Houston brides love their bling, their football, and a whole lot of ACTION. What are some fantastic action stations for Texas wedding celebrations?
TL: There are tons of fun options—cooking whole animals, sushi made to order with all wild fish, or cooking paella over open flames. In fact, anything cooked family style over open flames is always fun! I think weddings should be fun, celebratory and not stuffy at all. My goal is to keep people eating, drinking and having a great time.

WIH: What are your favorite ways to transform down-home Texas desserts into special-occasion treats?
TL: Pie bites are a great option—they are playful, easy to eat and everyone can find a flavor they like. A few of my favorites are smoked-chocolate pie, white-chocolate-mousse-banana-cream pie and blueberry-cumin pie. They provide the comfort of classic, home-town treats while still allowing for creative twists. 

WIH: Last but not least, what’s your favorite late-night snack to soak up those celebratory libations and send guests home satisfied?
TL: My all-time favorite late-night bite is our mini crispy chicken sandy. We add all the classic toppings, bread-and-butter pickles, Hellmann’s mayo and slaw—you just can’t go wrong!

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