For the last 10 years, Chef Mansour Gorji has been an edifying force in the fine dining of Dallas. Seasoned with a dash of genius and a bit of saint, he has applied his philosophy of harmonic balance to his cooking and community.
For example, his signature dish, pan-seared catfish, has been plucked from its pedestrian origins and dressed, Cinderella-like, with chilled-grilled avocado on a cold artichoke salad and served with the finest French wine. It is a representation of his heart-healthy, “New Mediterranean” cuisine – robust yet responsible: the perfect balance.
His restaurant is a destination, yet intimate: With 10 tables, it achieves the proper levels of privacy and interaction. The atmosphere is conducive to business, but not too much so. Such is the yin and yang of Gorji’s excellence.
Gorji shared with us a bit of his “philosophy of balance” as it relates to cooking and life. His mantra? A great meal is both spontaneous and planned. “I begin with, ‘What is in the market, what is in a season?’ and work from this,” he told us. “Nothing comes to you within a second. It is a process. You know the expectations of your guests; you have basic ideas and marry your ingredients to the best of your abilities while asking ‘How do I want to balance the meal?’ ”
When considering this balance, Gorji is consumed with the search for the absolute freshest ingredients. Food for a day’s meal is purchased or picked that day – no exceptions. “I think if the ingredients are purchased daily, they are so fresh; not the next day. Because my dishes are made per order, to the true word: It is really per order that is the freshest and as great-tasting as possible.”
When Gorji felt he could not find olives quite to his liking, he planted a variety specifically to his taste so that he could pick from the tree and use the fruit in his dishes. The same is true of his private garden of spices such as sage and rosemary: “To me, fresh comes off the branches of the plant. It tastes much better!”
Gorji’s philosophy has proven to be consuming on many levels. Enthusiastic guests begged for more access to his spices and preparations, so much so that he began selling his creations through the Whole Foods Market in Dallas.
When their requests for recipes became relentless, Gorji decided to share them in a cookbook dedicated to his patrons and to Dallas.
“Folks have been asking for so long for recipes. They are so dedicated. A couple has been coming in for 9 1/2 years: Their next dining experience is their 100th time. This book is in total response to what my people want.”
He applies the same principles of balance and passion for his charitable work. In addition to cooking every night at his restaurant, Gorji holds cooking classes and wine dinners to help raise funds for breast cancer research and mammograms for those without health care.
When asked what private wisdom he could share with readers, Gorji compared fine dining to writing. Chefs should choose and use their ingredients as a writer chooses words: with enthusiasm in their acquisition and quality – but restraint in their use.” “Simple is the most complicated thing; trying to hold-off in adding so many ingredients in a dish. This is true art. Have passion but restraint …” He revealed: “Less is more.”