Word of Mouth

NO BULL Food & Wine recently named David Bull, the 28-year-old executive chef at Austin's Driskill Hotel, one of its ten best new American chefs of 2003. (Next month we'll talk to Scott Tycer, of Aries in Houston, the other Texas chef to make the list.)

Was there ever a moment when you thought, "This is what I want to do for the rest of my life"?

For me, there never really was a question, because my grandparents owned a small Italian restaurant in Newark Valley, New York, and I started working there when I was about ten. So when the guidance counselor said, "What do you want to do with your life?" I said, "I want to cook."

Have you cooked for any famous people?

Yes, I especially remember meeting Oprah. She was staying at the Mansion on Turtle Creek when I was the executive sous-chef at the dining room, and I went out to say hello. She held my hand for at least ten minutes while I was talking to her and wouldn't let go. It's nice to call your mother and say, "Hey, Ma. I just met Oprah."

What do you cook at home?

Well, I've got three boys, so that's my biggest challenge. I thought that I could train their palates along the way, but that's just not working. I remember the first Thanksgiving I cooked for them; they didn't eat anything. Once they saw the turkey in a raw state, it was all over.

Would you like to reopen your grandparents' restaurant?

I've definitely thought about it. But the only kind of restaurant that would survive in that small town is a casual-dining one, and the stuff I love to cook is totally high-end, totally fine dining. But, then, what they had there was something special—I mean, my uncles were the bartenders and the cooks, and my aunts and my mom were the waitresses, and my grandmother was the baker. If I could have it all like that again, I'd love to reopen it.

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