Ji Kang dishes on Dallas food scene

Ji Kang is the corporate chef over Dakota’s Steakhouse in Dallas.(Rebecca Slezak / Staff Photographer)

Weather extremes, an industry-crushing pandemic and political hullabaloo may have obscured the return of a top-notch chef to Dallas. As the recently named corporate chef for hospitality management company NL Group, Ji Kang is the mastermind behind the historic Dakota’s Steakhouse, the sleek-casual downtown cafe Sloane’s Corner, and Pizza Leila, a ghost kitchen making Sicilian-style pies.

This isn’t Kang’s first foray in a city known for its market competitiveness. In 2009, he worked at the original Dish on Oak Lawn and then went to Samar by Stephen Pyles, where he was executive chef. He later left for New York, where he worked at restaurants owned by Danny Meyer, Tom Colicchio and Scott Conant for the next two years.

Kang was born in Daegu, South Korea, but he identifies as a Texan. He grew up in Austin and attended culinary school at the Art Institute of Dallas.

After his New York stint, he returned to Dallas in 2019 for a couple of concepts that didn’t pan out. Then Tim and Meredith McEneny finally “poached him” for their restaurants, he says. He started as executive chef at Sloane’s Corner that year and was soon promoted to corporate chef, where he oversees multiple kitchens.

This year, Kang was voted by a group of peers and food writers as chef of the year by CultureMap Dallas. One of his most notable achievements is revamping Dakota’s menu when it reopened one year ago under Meredith McEneny’s leadership. Based on the planning required to score a Saturday night reservation, Dallas diners, an arguably fair-weather group, are taking notice of the changes and new chef.

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