Celebrity Chef News
Celeb chef Graham Elliot digs into barbecue in his new hometown Fort Worth
It’s been exactly one year since culinary TV celeb and two-time Michelin star recipient Graham Elliot made a permanent move to Fort Worth, and the self-proclaimed Navy brat (who’s traveled through all 50 states) has no plans to leave.
He left Chicago last year to link up with tenured Fort Worth chef and restaurateur Felipe Armenta and his Far Out Hospitality Group, a gig he found through a headhunting search initiated to help plan the next stage of his career, he says.
“I really wanted to get back into the kitchen,” says Elliot, who was named to Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs” list in 2004. “Felipe was looking for somebody to partner up with on some new concepts and have a hand in the design of the menus, website – all of those things I love to do.”
The duo hit it off immediately and has since launched a slew of new restaurants at breakneck speed. The first was Cowboy Prime, a high-end steakhouse in Midland opened last December that will debut a second location in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Next came Le Margot, a splashy French fine dining destination (think oysters, escargot, and caviar) that harkens Moulin Rouge in design and atmosphere. It opened this summer in the Trinity Commons shopping center on Hulen St.
Most recently in September the pair opened F1 Smokehouse (517 University Dr.), an upscale spinoff of the barbecue food truck that’s been parked outside Armenta’s Press Café. (Speaking of Press, Aledo gets its own location by year’s end, says Elliot.)
While Cowtown is no stranger to barbecue, F1 is far from the typical joint.
“F1 is more of a refined experience that’s built around the idea of a great smoker,” says Elliot. “It’s not coming in and getting plastic silverware and a big tray. We’re using China and glassware and have great service – an experience that’s kind of in line with what we do with the other places, but smoke-inspired.”
Tempting barbecue from F1 SmokehouseFacebook
Among the unique touches include $8 sides like white truffle potato salad, celery root coleslaw, and charred broccolini, the latter of which accompanies a Korean-style double cut pork chop ($27) – a favorite entrée of Elliot’s. He also recommends the whole smoked prime rib ($35), which comes with garlicky fingerling potatoes, and the jalapeno Wagyu sausage ($8).
“We thought, ‘How do we redefine the barbecue experience?’” says Elliot. “Because there’s no shortage of incredible barbecue places that we love to go and eat. We’re really trying to make sure people know how to align their expectations. We’re not a place where you go in and order 50 pounds of sausage to-go. You come in knowing that it’s a Felipe property experience.”
Like Armenta’s other concepts - which in Fort Worth include Maria’s Mexican Kitchen, Pacific Table, The Tavern, and Towne Grill in Alliance - F1 Smokehouse makes a statement in design. A large black-and-white houndstooth pattern is featured in the outdoor signage. Inside consists of blue-and-yellow seating along with a thick, black-and-white marbled bar with black-and-white checkered barstools. There’s also a shady patio hidden by greenery and adorned with string lights.
Now that Elliot is a fixture in Fort Worth, spotting him and his signature white-rimmed glasses around town has become more common. (Central Market is a frequent stop, and he and Armenta are teaming up for a special Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival dinner on November 8.) But the former cooking show judge, who built a national following on MasterChef, MasterChef Junior, and Top Chef, isn’t a complete stranger to DFW.
After attending culinary school at Johnson & Wales University, Elliot’s first internship was working for Dean Fearing at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. He says folks are still surprised to learn he now lives in Fort Worth full-time.
“People ask ‘How often do you come down here? Are you filming a TV show or something?’ I’m like, ‘I live downtown,’” Elliot says. “You used to have to go to the big city to open a restaurant, like Chicago or New York, but don’t have to do that anymore if you’re in Fort Worth. And when you’ve got like four projects that you can express yourself in different ways, it’s really exciting.”