If you want to meet a guy who combines knockout cooking skills, a strong entrepreneurial streak and an admirable sense of fun, head to Fort Worth, TX, and catch up with chef Tim Love. That's where the self-taught Denton, TX, native rides herd on a trio of operations that includes his flagship restaurant, Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, the White Elephant Saloon and the one-year-old Love Shack, an outdoor burger joint. He's made headlines nationally for his ingredient-gathering trail drives to the Beard House in New York and Spoons Across America in Los Angeles. Love and his wife Emilie live in Forth Worth with their son Tannahill and twin daughters Ella and Anna.
Boy, three operations, three young kid at home. Are you able to squeeze in much family time?
Mornings are good. My wife or I make them breakfast. There's time to play catch with my son before he goes to school. Sunday, my day off, I hang with the family.
What's a normal day like for you?
The business I'm in, I never know what's going on. I'll go in about nine, check with my assistant, look over the produce and make menu changes with my chef, then start making my rounds.
Our complex takes up an entire corner, so I like to check the outside and keep a handle on its curb appeal. From there, real estate is movin' and shakin' right now, so we look at properties that have the opportunity to become restaurants. We prefer to own.
When's the cooking come in?
I'm expediting at Lonesome Dove every night I'm in town, although I try to break away for an hour or so for the kids' games, especially now that the girls have started playing baseball. And I like to work the line Saturday nights-the protein station.
Still doing the frozen Tuaca shots with your cooks?
Absolutely. One at the start of service and one at the end. I'm hard to work for, so it helps. Guests will come back and want to do a shot with the chef, too. We abide by their wishes.
Tell us about Z Market and Gourmet to Go.
It's a convenience food store that opened at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport just yesterday. We're still working out the kinks, but we're aiming to do chef-driven food out of it. HMSHost is a partner in it.
Sounds like a big opportunity…and a big challenge.
It's coming along. The airport employees are making the food the correct way. We want people to say, “Wow, this is Tim Love food, this is pretty dang good airport food.” We're using great ingredients, but introducing restaurant elements into a c-store setting is tough. We'll go to other airports if it works as planned.
Plan to do any more trail drives?
We're hoping to do one to Chicago in September. All my guys want to go again. The horses are ready.
Do you ride horses the whole way?
No. We drive until we reach a town with cool food ingredients, then mount up and ride in from the outskirts of these towns. When we get to the end of the trail, we make a big meal using what we've gathered.
Hey, saddle up. Chicago's waiting for you now.