Fort Worth museum’s Cafe Modern lands a Wolfgang Puck chef

Smoked salmon pizza from Wolfgang Puck Catering.

Smoked salmon pizza from Wolfgang Puck Catering.

Handout photo

The new team and chef at Café Modern bring Hollywood style to the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art.

The catering company named after Oscar boss Wolfgang Puck was officially named the new modern operator on Tuesday, with Puck veteran Jett Mora becoming the new chef of the modern age.

The quaint restaurant at contemporary art landmark 3200 Darnell St. will reopen on the same schedule as before – daily lunch, Friday night, and one of the city’s most popular weekend brunch.

“We want to give everything that is great about modernity a Wolfgang Puck touch,” said Mora, referring to the 80-year-old celebrity chef who is known for Spago in Hollywood.

The menu will have a lot of local and Texan ingredients, Mora said, and he wants to include some dishes with Tex-Mex flavors.

Mora, a former commercial banker, has been with the Puck catering company in California for 10 years, including the Red | Seven restaurant in the Pacific Design Center and corporate complex in the Hollywood & Highland Center.

The Puck company operates restaurants in the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Perot Museum in Dallas and until last year operated Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck in the Reunion Tower.

IMG-8864 (1) .jpg Chef Jett Mora will oversee the Cafe Modern for the new operator Wolfgang Puck Catering. Handout photo

But Mora has never worked in Texas, even though he knew the chefs at Five Sixty.

“This is an experience to see all this enormous art for the first time,” he said on Monday during his first visit to the museum as a café chef.

“This is a beautiful setting. And the nighttime mood is so different. We want to bring people here for dinner to see how nice it is here at night. “

IMG-8872.jpg Taro tacos from Wolfgang Puck Catering Handout photo

Work on the modern menu has just started, he said.

(Several restaurants have postponed their spring or summer menus as the February frost and COVID-19 pandemic restricted the availability of vegetables, fruits, and some beef from Texas.)

Growing up with his father in Southern California, Mora remembers the region’s tradition of roadside Americana restaurants and home cooking.

When the Great Recession hit, he quit banking for cooking school.

IMG-8863 (2) .jpg Cafe Modern continues to serve dinner on Friday evenings. Handout photo

“The recession has really opened my eyes to what makes me happy and what drives my passions,” he said. “At the dinner table, I think I can get people to talk and make a contribution.”

He is only the third chef at Modern, the successor to the founding chef Dena Peterson Shaskan and the “Chopped” winner Denise Shavandy. (Both worked for a different management company.)

“I want to honor those who came before and I know they will be a great resource,” said Mora. “The great thing about Fort Worth is that it is very supportive, I hear, and that the industry is very connected.”

The Modern will also resume its weddings, special events and catering schedule under General Manager Roxanne McLarry, a 17-year-old Modern employee.

No reopening date has been announced. 817-840-2157, themodern.org.

Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth man who covered high school soccer at age 16 and attended two Super Bowls, seven political conventions, and 15 legislative sessions in Texas. Since 1985, he has also written more than 2,000 “Eats Beat” columns on restaurants, dining and eating in Texas.

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