Named one of Zagat’s “30 Under 30” and Culture Map Dallas’ “Rising Star Chefs for 2016,” Taylor Kearney’s passion for food began during his childhood. He has kept his passion going in the Dallas area by taking on the role of Executive Chef at both Cedar Grove and Front Room Tavern in Hotel Lumen.
He learned how to grow a garden, preserve foods and raise livestock from his grandparents in East Texas, and he also learned a little about holiday tradition, too.
In fact, Kearney’s go-to traditional holiday dishes that he grew up with during this time of the year include all the southern staples.
“My family was very traditional,” Kearney said. “We had most of the staples that any southern family would have, like fried turkey, ham, green bean casserole, whipped sweet potatoes, cheese-wiz stuffed celery, dressing, the ever-amazing jellied cranberry sauce and a plethora of desserts — most importantly of which was my grandmothers chocolate pie.”
Throughout high school Kearney worked in barbecue restaurants, where he developed a passion for smoked foods and southern cuisine. After graduating, Kearney attended the Art Institute of Dallas’ culinary program, then worked for Hilton Hotels in fine dining.
He even landed at three-Michelin starred restaurant, PIC, in Valence, France, for a time. He was named sous chef for Chef Scott Romano at The Joule Hotel’s Charlie Palmer and was responsible for the restaurant’s charcuterie and dry-aging programs, as well as banquet and seasonal menu development.
He has been with Front Room Tavern since 2015 and was the founding Executive Chef at Cedar Grove when it opened in June 2016. Of the Dallas holiday menu traditions, he said, “This is a beef town; if we don’t offer prime rib it would be an injustice to the people. We do offer some traditional sides and mains, but this time of the year it seems that prime rib rules all. It’s on all of my holiday menus.”
Of course, there is also that Black Eye Pea tradition that folks in the south can’t get enough of on New Year’s Day.
“It’s a southern thing,” Kearney said. “I don’t recall my family ever following this tradition, but in my early years in the kitchen, I found out how important it is to some patrons. Every year, black eyed peas and cornbread make a visit. Especially in this weather, there’s nothing wrong with a big pot of beans.”
The tradition regarding black eyed peas on New Year’s Day goes back to the Civil War. It is said to be the first food a person should eat on New Year’s Day in order to gain luck and prosperity throughout the year. The peas can be served with greens, in which the peas represent coin money and the greens paper money, or served with cornbread, which represents gold.
Another notable tradition — eat 365 black eyed peas on New Year’s day to ensure good luck every day of the year.
As for Kearney’s own personal New Year's Eve traditions, he said he is not a superstitious person, so he does not have any personal traditions.
He did add, “Just find a way to celebrate another year on this earth in whatever way you see fit. Enjoy a glass of bourbon, hug your family, be thankful for all that you have, and strive to make this year better than the last.”
Both Front Room Tavern and Cedar Grove will be open on New Year's Day. Kearney recommended the Hangover Brunch.
“We will have amazing food specials and offer buckets of bubbly for $20.17.”
Have a happy and safe New Year!