Chef Roe DiLeo has this amazing talent for not only cooking, but making her patrons extremely happy. This is what she is doing as not only the chef at the new Henry’s Majestic in Uptown Dallas, but also as the general manager. This melding of front and back of the house is not entirely common, but DiLeo seems to manage with grace. It is the same grace we witnessed on her recent television gig when she appeared on the current season of Hell’s Kitchen (season 13) where she made it to the top five of all the chefs.
While filming Hell’s Kitchen there was a particular task of making a steak dish, which was judged by Chef Ramsay, along with guests Bruce Simon and Todd Simon, the owners of Omaha Steaks. Each dish would be judged by its appearance, and eaten only if they felt the dish looked favorable. DiLeo’s dish passed the appearance test, and eventually she won the contest with not one, but two steaks she had plated. Never challenge a chef from Dallas when it comes to beef.
As part of her prize, she was whisked away to pose for a billboard, given a shopping spree at a kitchen supply store, and more recently asked to participate in a special chef program now instituted by Omaha Steaks featuring their private reserve steaks, which exceed the quality of their already high standards for beef. She was tasked with creating special recipes for the steaks and was sent samples to work with. This is when we received a call to be special taste testers for DiLeo’s new recipes.
We happily tasted several dishes she created for Omaha Steaks, and afterwards sat with her for chat. This is one very happy chef, and she is a perfect fit for her restaurant, Henry’s Majestic. Today she talks about Hell’s Kitchen, how to prepare a steak, and where to find her favorite burger in Dallas.
We were happy to see you win this steak challenge on Hell’s Kitchen. Tell us how that went down.
The day before we did a challenge they would build it up. Before the steak challenge they only said that it was something big, and something meaty And I was like “oh god, I hope it’s steak”. The next day they tell us that not only is it a steak challenge, but an Omaha Steak challenge. I immediately had this huge grin on my face because I use Omaha for gifts. I am a super procrastinator, and it is easy to send my parents who live in New Jersey steaks as gifts. But basically the challenge was to make the steak the enter of the plate, sides were great and all, but you wanted the meat to shine.
One thing I learned from Hell’s Kitchen was that you always want to have an ace up your sleeve in case something goes wrong. So I cooked up both a filet and a ribeye, and they both worked out perfectly, because frankly I know how to make a damned good steak. So I decided to do a his and hers take on this.
Tell us what winning the steak challenge actually meant to you.
Bruce Simon and Todd Simon, the owners of Omaha Steaks. picked my plate as the best so this means I will be part of a program that will go on for years to come. They want to gather this group of chefs to put out new ideas and ways to use their steaks. They want to build this chef army, and I happen to be the first. They are really aiming to put out what you will need to put out that meal from start to finish.
This is prime beef?
Yes, and the steaks come with a certificate that traces the beef But this is grass-fed beef, aged and really well marbled. I will be going to their plant next month, but they are really legit with their steaks.
You serve a really good steak at Henry’s Majestic, tell us a little bout that one.
We serve a Beeman Ranch Akaushi NY Strip with a chimichurri sauce. This is the third grade out of five in the wagyu line of beef. It is a really good cut of meat that is well marbled, but we do not have to push that $50-60 price. We are not trying to be that restaurant with high price points. It doesn’t work in this space.
How do you prepare a steak?
I like to use a grill. The only cut I would use in saute pan is a filet. But just simple salt and pepper. You know, people play around with rubs, but it simply is not my style. I am a fan of allowing the natural flavor of the meat shine. Eight minutes on each side is good. I am a girl who likes between that rare and medium rare on a steak. I always finish off in the oven to make sure that chill from the middle is gone. If I am going to eat cold meat, I am goin to have a tartare.
And one thing a lot of people forget to do is temper you beef before cooking. Allow the beef to come close to room temperature before cooking.
Tell us about what we sampled tonight.
The first thing you had was a filet mignon tartare. It is the only beef that should have a little bit of chill on it. It was finely diced with a little bit of dijon, capers, a little bit of our house aioli and fresh herbs. I like topping this with the egg yolk, it is like its own little sauce. I do a finish of fresh olive oil. It might have something to do with that when I was younger I sunbathed in olive oil, but it does give this really fresh taste. And traditionally we might use crackers or bread, but that can be boring. I use a fried wonton; it is light, not greasy, and it holds up to the meat. I like that crunchy contrast.
The next course had a big Asian influence.
Yea, I wanted to do something outside the box. The marinade really nailed the ribeye cap The cap is similar to flank steak, where if it goes over the point of medium it will get chewy. But I went a bit rarer on that one, marinating it in everything Asian. It was served with rice, and something a home cook could really do well. I also finished it with a kimchee compound butter. People think when I make that I literally use kimchee, but it is just the flavors like fish sauce, sambol, ginger and chive, all sauteed and cool, then whipped into butter and frozen. It is a beautiful little medallion.
Butter is really good with a nice steak.
I agree, but the butter needs to have flavor. Anyone can slap a pat of butter onto a steak, but it should bring something to the dish.
The next course was our hands down favorite.
Mine too. It was the bone-in ribeye. It was thick and had all that great marbling. I almost don’t want to have a steak like that on the menu because it can take so long to cook, but with all that fat it sort of cooks itself. I just did salt and pepper grilled, then a flash in the oven. We did some grilled kale, because I really like that charred taste. I also had the big potato wedges, which we do here, and Omaha done really well. I can’t stand places that do fries out of the bag. You know how cheap potatoes are? You know how long it takes to cook potatoes? Like ten minutes. Come on, forget the floppy fries.
I also went back to our bone marrow butter with this one I just wanted to leave that steak alone. If it was up to me I would just serve that steak alone on the plate. Just steak and steak. And butter.
You are the Bone Marrow Queen. It is just meaty butter. I love what you do with it at Henry’s, especially that damned bone marrow burger you make. Thank you for that. So the next course…
The last one we did another bone-in with a BBQ sauce brush. It goes against that simplistic thing I like about steaks, but you tell me, was it good, did it work? then I made these duck fat fried purple potatoes. They just look s pretty to me. Every time I slice one I just smile. But added some shallots, some charred onion to get that char in there again, duck fat, then I looked around and hmmm, bacon. When you do a steak like that I hate when people over pair it. Meat and two sides, it doesn’t always have to be that way.
What cocktail would you serve with this? I am thinking a Pisco Sour because of the purple potatoes.
I think that would work, or actually I would bring out the smokiness with our Campfire Bourbon we have in our Prescription Bar, and that would really set it off. That on the rocks. I had a glass last week and it was like I was drinking a campfire in a glass. Mescal would work, too.
What do you have planned in the near future at Henry’s?
Well, my love of love in the kitchen are my cocktail or beer dinners. We will be starting in February. I love those because it is set. You know the numbers, you know what you will be cooking. You know when I am 90 I would love to be a catering chef. I like that aspect of serving exactly the same to an exact amount of people. No tickets, no surprises. It is actually the ultimate thing with the beer dinner. You know who is coming and what you are cooking. If it doesn’t work, you only have yourself to blame.
What are your favorite beers?
Ooh, I am a huge Boulevard Tank 7 peson. It is that all around big girl beer. I do drink me a Miller Light once in a while. If I have a beer after work I worry about driving home, and the big beers can be dangerous. You have this big beer that is 11 ABV, then next thing you know you can’t drive home. I am also a big sour fan, we had Monk’s Cafe on tap here for a while and it wasn’t as popular as we hoped it would be., I feel like I drank most of that keg. I am big Belgium fan, and I also love Michael Peticolas. Big fan. I call him on the phone to order a keg and we are on the phone for like 45 minutes. Anything Peticolas puts out I want.
You make my favorite chef burger in Dallas, where do you go for a good burger?
I love the burger at Boulevardier. I know because I worked there and made thousands of them. It is the same burger and same grill we had at Restaurant Ava. But that burger is on my way home in Oak Cliff. It is a friendly burger with friendly faces. The mix they do is incredible. It is a burger that only bone marrow can challenge. [laughs] I would love to do a hybrid burger with their meat, my marrow cooked on their grill, with that bread.