The Great UnKnowns

isplaying Reunion at Reunion v3.docx.
Photo by Debbie Knowlton and D-Magazine
D-Magazine Article by Nancy Nichols 

  Among us are keepers of the flame!  Who truly understands the spark that ignited that inner fire? That spark which gave way to a young vulnerable flame. The flame that, when properly fostered, ignited into a raging inferno of desire capable of driving a person to a lifetime of the extraordinary?
  Who among us is equipped to predict when that passion, born of a creative young mind growing up in Germany, Austria, Switzerland or France, ultimately decides to settle in the most unlikely place a world away?
  That is exactly what happened in the span of several years stretching from the mid-70s to the mid-80s when a disparate group of chefs, each trained in the art of European cuisine and fine dining inexplicably relocated to Dallas, where they spawned a culinary revolution that reshaped and molded the Dallas food world.

Grant Kauffman is the author of two novels, including Project 14: The Legend of Beelzebub’s Bluff, book one of his middle grade adventure/fantasy series. He is owner of 12 Rounds Media, a video production company.        
Grant can be reached at

“They came into Dallas at a time when fine dining was a big ol’ T-bone, a loaded baked potato and an iceberg lettuce salad,” says Dotty Griffith, former food editor for the Dallas Morning News.
 “I became food editor in 1978 and that was when Dallas was really starting to enter a new age of cuisine. I can’t imagine the culture shock they must have experienced, most of them having come from Germany, Austria, Switzerland or France, and many of them had traveled much of the world in their training."

More than thirty years later, many of those pioneers of the culinary world whose talents helped transform Dallas into one of the best dining-out cities in America, were brought together for a truly magical reunion. Dubbed the Reunion at Reunion due to its location—on the terrace of the Hyatt Reunion in the shadows of Reunion Tower—the event brought together the influencers, the men and women who shaped Dallas into the top dining-out city in America.

“We look at Dallas now, and it’s the Number One eating out city in America. It’s all due to the quality of chefs and the food and the wine and the support of all these people,” adds Lucian M. LaBarba, whose family business, FreshPoint Dallas (originally American Food Service), has been one of the more influential players in the growth of the Dallas food industry. “Eating out has become a sport in Dallas, Texas. And we’re very proud to have been a part of that.”

Organized by James “JB” Blocker, known as the Caffeine Cowboy, Reunion at Reunion was an intimate event, more private than the exclusive clubs included on the collective resumes of the chefs in attendance. Twenty chefs, along with three others donning the title of honorary chef—nearly one thousand years of collective experience—finally gathered at one location for photo ops, a retelling of their life journeys, and to engage in the sort of fellowship that only they can understand, all while being served extraordinary fare put together by Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion Executive Chef Hermann Hiemeyer.

 “Seeing all these guys here is simply amazing,” Blocker said. “It truly is. I mean, these are the guys who helped shape this town. People don’t know that but Dallas is what it is due to these guys. You  have no idea how much they influenced the local culture we have today.”

It’s hard to argue with the Caffeine Cowboy on this point. These chefs arrived at a time when Dallas was changing, attempting to brand itself as a true world-class city .

“In the early 80s if you weren’t European and you weren’t classically trained, you weren’t going to be a chef in Dallas,” said Robert Bifulco, Executive Chef and Program Chair of the Culinary Arts curriculum at Remington College in Garland, one of the honored attendees.

The lineup of chefs in attendance, those who are credited with the transformation of the Dallas fine dining scene includes:  

·         Chef Randy Gehman (Irving), Amfac, EPC Four Seasons ’85

·         Chef Peter Curley (Garland), Executive chef Prestonwood CC ’88-’14, Dallas Hilton

·         Chef Klaus Mittlehauser (Dallas), Fairmont, Hyatt Washington, Atl. Fairmont

·         Chef Bernard Muller (Grapevine), Four Seasons ’87 Los Colinas, Ivy Hotel, Bernard’s

·         Chef Ewald Scholtz (Dallas), Stoneleigh the Grape Room, Ewald’s, Winn Meat

·         Gus Katsigris (Dallas), El Centro’s Apprentice Program

·         Chef Andre Bedouret (Dallas), Renaissance, Milestone Culinary

·         Chef Karl Haas (Garland), Adolphus, Royal Oak, Swiss Chalet, EWMCS

·         Chef Ernst Gruch (Irving), Dallas Country Club

·         Chef Rene Weibel (Irving), Opened Four Season Mandalay, American Airlines Center, The Ball Park

·         Chef Klaus Baumbach (Plano), ’72 Twin Sixty, Hiltons, Royal Oaks, Frontier Hotel Las Vegas ‘69

·         Honorary Chef J.D. Woerhle (Dallas), Ben E. Keith

·         Chef John Blaze (Plano), Senior living chef, age 92, prominent in Chicago, Hartford Bldg. and McCormick Place, Food service supply and support in Dallas since ‘64

·         Honorary Chef Gay Prewitt (Dallas), Chefs support and food supplier, Circle of Honor

·         Karl Kuby (Dallas), Kuby’s Sausage House since 1961

·         Chef Joseph Bucher (Dallas), Corporate Chef for Marriott’s ‘60’s, Albert Uster Imports, Ben E. Keith. 
In Memory
            Chef James Deibel remembered the great Chef Jean LaFont. Jim began at OZ at age 17 as the only American among a kitchen full of French chefs. He carries on the great chefs legacy as he left the mixer to prepare a purely classic LaFont menu at one of Dallas great mansions for a private diner.

Each guest of honor was given an opportunity to stand before the audience and recount his or her culinary journey.



By J.B. Blocker
On Monday October 20th this illustrious group of very special people gathered at the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion to share a classic European menu, recall the development of the Dallas culinary culture, and to be memorialized in photos and on film.
D-Magazine, Ms. Nancy Nichols
Rosiggnol Production, Ms. Isabell Rosiggnol
EWMCS, Chef David Sokol
 Dallas Chefs Assoc., Chef Pat Mitchell
Hosted by Hyatt Regency
 Executive Chef Hermann Hiemeyer
Co-Host Caffeine Cowboy, J.B. Blocker
EMCEE, Honorary Chef Dotty Griffith
Chef John Blaze, Chef Karl Haas, Chef Ernst Gruch
 Chef Klaus Mittlehauser, Chef Bernard Muller
 Chef Josef Bucher, Chef Rene Weibel, Chef Andre Bedouret
  Chef Klaus Baumbach, Chef Karl Kuby, Chef Ewald Scholtz
   Chef Peter Curley, Chef Randy Gehman, Chef Robert Bilfulco
       Gus Katsigris, El Centro, Lucian LaBarba, Ben E. Keith 
Chef James Deibel (For Chef Jean LaFont)
  Honorary Chef (JD) Werle, Honorary Chef Gay Prewitt
On the personal invitations, the following was included.

You have been responsible for great Dallas venues.

You have mentored many current and future great chefs.

You have been instrumental in apprenticeship and education.

You have promoted and supported the dining industry.

You have elevated the dining industry with your talent and skill.

You are highly regarded by your peers.

This list would not be complete without you!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  On behalf of the staff of the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion it is my honor to welcome each of you to a memorable afternoon to share and create memories. You will honor us with your presence.

  Please accept our invitation to join us for a historic gathering of exceptional professional. Our guest list of 21 very special people includes senior Chef John Blaze (age 93) and remembers the late great Chefs John LaFont and Werner Vogeli.

Executive Chef Hermann Hiemeyer

Honorary Chef Ms. Dotty Griffith will begin with a nostalgic view of this illustrious group.
Ms. Nancy Nichols of D-Magazine will record this event for posterity.
Ms. Isabell Rossignol will video record for the Dallas Historic Society.
The Caffeine Cowboy, J.B. Blocker will provide the World’s Rarest Coffee (Kopi Luwak).

  If you see the Eiffel Tower in a photo, you know you are looking at Paris. If you see the Sky Needle, you know it is Seattle.  When the Twin Towers were lost, a skyline photo of New York was not the same!
  As long as the great mirrored multi-leveled building with the great ball in the sky is in a photo, you know you are looking at downtown Dallas. If the photo doesn’t include the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion most people wouldn’t know you were looking at the Dallas Skyline.
  Fifty Stories in the air, Wolfgang Puck’s 560 now occupies the Reunion Tower (the rotating ball in the sky). It is a must experience if you are visiting Dallas to view the city in all its glory at the Cloud 9 Cafe.
  The Hyatt Regency is perfectly suited to host conventions and perfectly located to easily access everything Dallas. When it opened in 1978, the city of Dallas became recognizable worldwide.
  Hundreds of thousands of guest each year take advantage of the 1120 rooms, 42 suites, 160,000 square feet of convention area, stunning views, and dining experiences to satisfy every whim.
  Just 10 minutes from Dallas Love Field and 15 miles from DFW Airport!
  This AAA Four-Diamond rated luxury hotel has an underground access to Union Station. From there, all the magical places you want to visit in Dallas radiates from this historic central transportation hub built in 1916. The 23 million dollar restoration can take you back in time and into the future.
  Amtrak can bring you directly to the Hyatt from all over America if you have the time to read or write a good book.
  From there you can ride the DART commuter transport system to Plano or Garland. The Cotton Bowl at Fair Park, the Dallas Zoo, the 6th Floor Museum, Gilley’s, the Dallas Convention Center, the West End Entertainment District, the American Airlines Arena and all parts in and around the Dallas Metropolitan Area are on the routes.
  You can take the Trinity Railway Express to DFW or on to Ft.Worth without getting wet!
Featuring Executive Chef Hermann Hiemeyer