Since its opening in 1993, Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House has received much acclaim from food critics and connoisseurs alike. It has been hailed as Dallas’s Best Steakhouse by various publications, including Texas Monthly, D Magazine, and Trip Advisor. Richard Chamberlain, a native Texan, has undeniably earned such accolades, and even after 25 years in business, he remains humble.
“I like to say that every part of your career that helps you build and learn is a very important part of your career,” Chamberlain says.
Like Chris Vogeli, the executive chef at III Forks, Chamberlain studied at El Centro College in their Culinary Arts department.
“El Centro was great,” Chamberlain says. “I learned a lot about the restaurant business, like food costs and labor costs. Gus Katsigris, the person in charge of the culinary department would say ‘this is how a Greek god runs a restaurant’ and he taught us really efficient cooking techniques.”
Chamberlain cites his experience studying at El Centro as a key factor that helped him get a job as a grillier at The Mansion on Turtle Creek.
“One day, during my apprenticeship at The Mansion, the sous chef comes in with a giant bowl of garlic,” Chamberlain says, “and he tells me ‘I need you to chop this.’ And then, I’m thinking, ‘well okay, this is going to take a while.’ As they taught me in culinary school, I pull out a piece of garlic and I smash it with the side of my knife and then I dice it.”
Chamberlain then quickly learned that working in a high-end restaurant would require that he pick up on modern, more efficient techniques.
“A short while later, Chef comes back and yells ‘What are you doing?!’” Chamberlain says. “Regarding my technique, he says ‘that’s how we did it 40 years ago,’ then he throws the rest of the bowl into a big food processor and he chops the garlic in about five seconds. Of course, I was embarrassed. There were about 20 other chefs in the kitchen. But this was just one of the parts of learning efficient and very high standards of cooking in French kitchens like The Mansion.”
Before his apprenticeship at The Mansion, Chamberlain worked at Dallas’s Trail Dust Steakhouse, where he was one of three grill cooks in a nearly 400-seat restaurant. Prior to opening Chamberlain’s, he held many other restaurant jobs in various parts of the country. During that time, Chamberlain pioneered a form of culinary arts called American Alpine Cooking.
“American Alpine Cooking is a cuisine I created while I was a chef in Aspen at a hotel called The Little Nell Hotel,” Chamberlain says, “The alpine cooking was me taking the best that the mountainous regions had to offer and putting them into creative dishes.”
Chamberlain spent three years working in Aspen, then another two working in Los Angeles’s Bel Air Hotel, until he eventually decided to return home to Dallas.
“I came back here with the intention of opening a restaurant,” Chamberlain says. “I’m a fifth-generation Texan. I come from a family of cattle ranchers. Opening a steakhouse came naturally to me.”
In 1993, Chamberlain opened Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House. Since then, it has been hailed as one of Dallas’s best steakhouses. But with owning a great restaurant comes the great obligation of providing the best service.
“We have to hire the very best we can find,” Chamberlain says, “not just experience-wise, but we largely hire based on attitude and personality.”
Chamberlain is also very selective in the ways he and his team source ingredients for his dishes.
“In all the regions I’ve cooked in, including Dallas, I’ve always tried to focus on local ingredients,” Chamberlain says. “But for Dallas, it’s a little more challenging, since Texas has very short seasons.”
Despite Texas’s short seasons, Chamberlain still tries to source as locally as possible. For example, the wagyu beef he uses comes from Oklahoma A Bar N Ranch, which is about an hour north of Dallas. Although Chamberlain sources his fish from all over the United States, the redfish he uses is raised on the Texas Coast.
Apart from owning one of Dallas’s best restaurants, Chamberlain is also involved in various local charities.
“My primary charity is the American Heart Association,” Chamberlain says. “I’ve been involved with them for a little over 20 years. Our annual event is Cote du Coeur, and this year, we raised a record of $4.8 million this year. All of it goes to heart research and education.”
Before concluding our interview and getting ready for a dinner shift, Chamberlain notes that anyone wanting to open their own restaurant be up to the challenge, and not to let any challenge defeat them.
“Anything that’ll help you build your resume is something you should consider, no matter how difficult it may seem,” Chamberlain says. “I don’t know of any failures I encountered, but there were many challenges along my way here.”