Chef Tim Love joined WBIR's Beth Haynes for a #10Chat at the chef's table of his restaurant the Lonesome Dove in Knoxville's Old City to talk about his life inside and outside of the kitchen.
Love opened the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in the old Patrick Sullivan's building in the heart of the Old City in June 2016. It's the third Lonesome Dove location - the other two are in Austin and Fort Worth, in Love's home state of Texas.
Viewer questions led their conversation from the celebrity chef's beginnings in Knoxville kitchens, to his current culinary style and more.
1. His restaurant is named after a book.
"The name Lonesome Dove comes from what you might think, the book, or the movie. Larry McMurtry is a friend, and it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s one of the few books I’ve actually read cover to cover more than once.
I think the spirit of that book really kind of is the same spirit that I have, which is really pioneering, always wanting to do something adventurous, doing things different ways … it’s this constant battle of chasing new horizons."
2. He knows people might be skeptical of his exotic menu, with items like rabbit-rattlesnake sausage, kangaroo carpaccio nachos and wild boar ribs, just to name a few.
"Clearly, people get nervous about things that they’re not comfortable with, or that they’ve never experienced. We like to say that we provide one of the best dining experiences in the country. But we also have things that if you’re just a little bit nervous, you can come here and watch it all happen around you and still have steak and potatoes if you like.
But we also have things that you can get adventurous with. I always encourage people to just come in, check out the menu. If you’re still a little bit nervous, the great thing about it is we have 12 appetizers you can order by the bite. So you can try something without being fully committed to it, and see what you like. We’ll find something you like, I promise."
3. He spent a lot of time in Tennessee as a kid.
“When I was young, my father moved to Tennessee. He lived up here since I was 11 years old, and I used to come up here and spend my summers in Cookeville, Tennessee. So I ran my dad’s farm for him. He had about 50 acres in Cookeville, so when I applied to college, I applied to two colleges, UT and UT. So I decided to come to Tennessee, and I’m glad I did.”
4. He started cooking in Knoxville.
"I really started cooking right here in Knoxville. ... I’ve done a lot of cooking in Knoxville and I’ve seen this city grow from having just a ton of restaurants to having a ton of very quality restaurants. It’s impressive to see, and I’m excited to be a part of it."
5. He's teaching Tennessee about real breakfast tacos.
"I will say this, and I don’t want anyone to take offense to this, but in Tennessee, you can’t really find a breakfast taco, people have breakfast burritos. ... This is one of the few things that I will say, once people try the breakfast taco, it’s a game-changer."
The good news is Love has just started serving breakfast tacos at Back Dough - the late night donut shop on the back side of Lonesome Dove - and at Remedy Coffee.
"We’re only going to make 100 and when they’re gone, they’re gone, but they’re really, really good. And they're only $1.99."
6. He can't pick a favorite menu item.
"I mean, I’ve got three kids, and I can’t tell you which the favorite one of those is either. It’s more about a mood for me, sometimes I’m in the mood for seafood … sometimes it’s a New York strip. It’s about a mood thing for me."
7. He wants dining at his restaurant to be an experience.
"I want people to have fun. Get out of your comfort zone. Enjoy yourself and create a story for yourself. It’s easy to sit around eating the same old thing over and over again, but come in and let us prepare something great for you and talk about it, make it a conversation, talk about it at work, have fun."
8. He's won Iron Chef, but he isn't a stranger to menu flops.
"Is there any item that I love that didn't take off for the public? Yes, about 1,000 of them. I’m very adventurous, and I’ll get hooked on some things, and I’ll put something on the menu sometimes and people just aren't biting on it. It’s nuts, but that’s life. I did a chicken liver moose when we first opened up, and it’s really delicious, but I couldn't sell it. I couldn't give it away."
9. He credits his success to hard work, and a little luck.
"If I was to describe it in one word, I would say fortunate and lucky. But I think it comes from a lot of hard work. You can ask anybody on the team, we’re a really hard working team. I’ve been in business on my own now for almost 18 years. I opened up my first restaurant in June of 2000 when I was 28 years old."
10. He has some radio play-by-play experience!
"This past fall I did all the play-by-play call on the radio for my son’s football games in high school, and that’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done." Chef Tim also has two daughters who are competitive cheerleaders, and he loves to cook for his wife.