Chef Dean Fearing’s one-of-a-kind laugh reverberates through the north Dallas mansion where he has gathered friends and family together for Thanksgiving dinner. Part Woody Woodpecker cackle, part good ol’ boy guffaw, the sound bounces off the domed rotunda in the two-story library.
This Thanksgiving season is a heady time for Fearing. After more than two decades as chef at one of Dallas’s most notable restaurants in one of its most luxurious hotels, the Mansion on Turtle Creek, he has just opened his own place, Fearing’s, in the city’s new Ritz-Carlton. The fiercely ambitious project brings together a fistful of concepts: an elegant dining room; a casual, glassed-in garden pavilion; and indoor and outdoor bars. There’s even a raucous space called Dean’s Kitchen with an open cooking area, decked out with rough oak paneling and glowing rawhide chandeliers.
A lanky eastern-Kentucky boy with a playful drawl, Fearing arrived in Dallas in 1979 as a cook at the Fairmont hotel’s Pyramid Room, then the city’s most celebrated restaurant. He’d been headed there, in fits and starts, since junior high school, when his father, Tom, a Holiday Inn executive, pressed him and his older brother into service as kitchen jacks-of-all-trades. The family hopscotched all over the Midwest, wherever their dad’s job took them. "We would fill in if the dishwasher got sick or the banquet chef got thrown in jail," Fearing recalls.