Chef Jeff Harris Keeps
Culinary pro maintains modern farm-to-table stylings at Oak Cliff restaurant … and beyond
It’s a rare feat for a Dallas restaurant to not only stay on the radar of ever-fickle diners, but keep them packing the house for more than six months or a year after opening. But Bolsa, Oak Cliff’s plucky farm-to-table eatery with the casual yet elegant mien, has managed that and beyond. After opening chef Graham Dodds moved on to the green pastures of Central 214, Jeff Harris came into the executive chef role with aplomb, continuing the emphasis on a fresh, rotating menu that relies on uber-seasonal, often local ingredients. Under his helm, Bolsa launched an exclusive catering partnership with the Trinity Audubon Center, a gorgeous, nature preserve/venue in South Dallas that matches the restaurant’s earthy sensibility. Here, we talk to the East Texas-bred chef – who trained under Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio during his time in New York City – about his favorite food sources, summer ingredient goodness and the enduring character of the Dallas restaurant industry. | Read on
It’s summer – what are the vegetables you’re most excited to show off?
I love tomatoes, peaches, corn, squash, fresh peas – creamer, crowder, purple hulls – purslane, cucumbers, okra, melons and peppers.
Who are some of your favorite vendors and sources for ingredients?
Tassionne Farms for vegetables, greens and herbs; Tom Spicer for vegetables, herbs, greens, mushrooms and petite greens; Comeback Creek for vegetables; Eden's Organics for vegetables, greens and herbs; TGH Farms for greens; Barking Cat Farms for vegetables; and Eat the Yard for vegetables and herbs. [For] cheese: Caprino Royale, Veldhuizen, Eagle Mountain Cheese Co. and Mozzarella Co.
How did the Trinity Audubon Center opportunity come up?
The Trinity Audubon Center was looking for an exclusive caterer to take over to handle the in-house catering for them. We were one of the caterers they brought in to talk to. It was a very natural fit. They are a bird sanctuary, and the building and their land is very green and sustainable, so it fits in with our beliefs.
What, if anything, would you say is the biggest threat to the Dallas restaurant industry?
The food truck thing … definitely Dallas is a little behind, and coming up, I think the city made it a little difficult, but … I don’t know, the thing about this industry is when the economy’s terrible, you actually see alcohol sales and people still go out to eat. … Everybody’s gonna go out and eat, because everybody’s gotta still eat three times a day!
What kind of cuisine would you cook if you couldn’t do farm-to-table?
I love Italian food, to be honest with you, and it’s really the same concept we use – they eat the local cheese and drink the local wine and eat local ingredients. That’s why you see the food in Florence is different from the food in the south of Italy. Also, Asian – I haven’t done a lot of it. I love Japanese culture and the focus on freshness.
What would you do if you weren’t a chef at all?
I don’t know. I did real estate for a while. I worked at a bank for, like, three years. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, to be honest with you.