Transcribed by James Creange.
Photos by Kelcey Harris.
Chef Jon Bonnell answered this month’s reader questions. To submit your questions for February, leave a comment on this post or send an email to [email protected].
Reader Question: New year, new me. How can I keep up with my goal of running every day in 2020? I know that was a passion of yours pre-injury.
Jon Bonnell: You just have to build it into your schedule. I found the perfect time for me was in the morning. I would wake up, take my kids to school, and then go for a run. That was exactly where I could work it in. I would come back, shower, and go to work. Running can’t be one of those things where you just try to do it here or there. Figure out a time of day that works for you, put it on your iCalendar, and jump in. You’ll feel better once you start seeing results. The first run is terrible, and the second run is even worse because you’re already sore. But after a week or two, you figure out your breathing patterns, and it becomes one of those kinds of addicting deals. It’s one of the parts of the day I really look forward to.
It took me three or four months to feel like I was actually doing it pretty fast, but I was doing it five days a week. Once I started losing weight, that got really addictive. One pound falls off and you’re kind of skeptical, but after the second and third pound you realize it’s working. And when it’s working, it’s easy to keep it up. I also found it addicting to sign up for every 5K. You know that when you sign up for one, and it’s on the calendar, and you’ve told people about it – it’s easier to hold yourself accountable. It’s fun to run in a huge crowd with thousands of people. Go to the Cowtown; that’s really fun.
RQ: If it ever does get cold in Fort Worth, do you have a favorite dish that you like to make at home?
JB: When it’s cold, there’s two things that I always want to do. I want to fire up the smoker and do some carnitas or a brisket, and I also want to make chili. That is absolutely my Texas go-to. It’s just in my blood. The brisket on the smoker, with that smell going in the neighborhood, warms me up just thinking about it. And you can do anything with a pot of chili.
RQ: What are some of the food trends that you’re seeing for 2020?
JB: I’m seeing a lot of the meat substitutes right now. I’m hoping that’s one of those trends that goes away because it’s a lot of highly processed foods that are really unhealthy. I’m also seeing a lot of new food delivery options. Everyone’s trying to come up with a better and faster way to connect with all of the customers without just a traditional restaurant role. Oh, there’s a new chokeberry that’s out that is going to be the next big thing. First it was blueberries and açai berries, but the chokeberry is a really big one right now.
One of the things with owning a restaurant is that you always have to keep up with these trends. We always offer vegan and vegetarian options on all of our menus. That’s always been there. And we can always cook from scratch if someone has special dietary restrictions or anything like that. We want to be as accommodating as we can. We don’t want somebody to get a dish that’s just a few vegetables thrown on a plate. At Bonnell’s, we have a poblano that’s stuffed as a chile relleno with a green chile ratatouille inside. It’s stuffed with local goat cheese (without for vegan) and charred tomato and eggplant sauce. So, we’re not going to try to expand our vegetarian options for this year because we have a number already, but we do always try to be as accommodating as we can since we do make everything from scratch.
RQ: Do you have any big events coming up at any of your restaurants that we should be looking out for in the next couple of months?
JB: Winter Restaurant Week is a big one (available through January 26). The money made from that week goes towards the Tarrant Area Food Bank. There are 32 restaurants participating. Bonnell’s and Water’s will both be participating. The Cowtown Marathon is coming up pretty soon at the end of February. So, anyone who has that New Year’s running resolution, jump into one of those races. You can even do a relay this year for the full marathon. Four people can do six miles each. I’ll be the one on the finish line calling you in on the microphone. I’ve still got a bit of a hurt knee here, so I can’t participate unfortunately. That should be fun. Of course, The Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival is just around the corner, so we’re making plans for that too.
RQ: Jon, we saw that you will be on TV this month. What’s it like working in front of all of those cameras?
JB: I really like doing TV work. It’s completely different. It’s not at all like cooking in a kitchen. You have to figure out what you’re going to make and what it’s going to look like. I could make a pot of chili on camera, and it just doesn’t look good. It’s a pot of brown. You have to think about color and texture and especially time. The segment I did on FOX 4 most recently should have been a four-minute segment, but it was a bad weather day, so they cut my time by about a minute. They did that on the fly, so you have to be flexible, and you have to figure out which camera to look into. You have to make something that looks good. Even if you don’t have time to finish it, it has to look good. I love doing TV work, but it is a completely different animal. Nobody cooks anything in three minutes, but you have to make it look good. You have to figure it out. It’s a challenge that I really enjoy.