The chef closed Divine Swine — a celebrated culinary endeavor in Nichols Hills that centered around bacon — and headed out for the bright lights of reality television.
He moved to Seattle to be a contestant on the 10th season of Bravo’s popular Top Chef. Afterward, the Del City native went to Dallas to work at FT33, a highly modern concept centering on local markets and artisans.
“The whole reason I did [Top Chef] was to, you know, obviously further my career and try to make a better life for my family and me,” he said.
Now Valentine is poised to be at the top of his career, quite literally. He has accepted the position of head chef of The George, a Prime Steakhouse. It will be on the 20th floor of the landmark Founders Tower at 5900 Mosteller Drive.
“I’m back, back,” Valentine said. “I always had plans in my mind of coming back home.”
What’s at steak
Construction began last week on the restaurant, which is slated to open in the fall, just before the holidays.
“When I found out about this opportunity here, I was really excited. This is going to be a really great restaurant for me to showcase my ability,” said Valentine, renowned for his talent in creative, meat-based cuisine.
“Everything is going to have that really intense, shift-driven focus. I feel like a lot of steakhouses kind of just negate [the sides],” he said. “They stick to the standard sides and the standard things. It’s all about the steak for them. For me, I want it to be all about everything. I want people that don’t eat steak to come in and get duck or fish or pork and just be blown away like they would if they’d have gotten a steak.”
Valentine admitted it’s taken him a while to come around to the kind of people who don’t eat meat (aka vegetarians), but he said he’s grown as a chef and looks forward to the challenge of making delicious food for everyone.
“I’m probably going to have a couple of vegetarian items. I think that’s important as well,” he said. “For me, this restaurant is going to be about an experience. It’s going to be the happening place.”
What’s in a name?
The George is named after its owner, restauranteur Kevin George.
Valentine said the name is a happy coincidence since his own father — who taught Valentine how to cook — was also named George.
While the restaurant won’t be revolving like its Founders Tower predecessors — including The Eagle’s Nest and Nikz at the Top — Valentine noted that spinning isn’t necessary for top-notch cuisine.
Besides, he added, the revolving factor gave the tower the feel of an amusement-park ride. Valentine said he wants The George to be more than a once- or twice-a-year destination.
“It’s going to be a total experience. [I’m going to] make the food match the view,” he said. “The steaks are going to speak for themselves. We’re using all prime beef.”
It’s not just the fantastic opportunity as head chef of a new restaurant that attracted Valentine to the metro.
“For me, it’s just being home. I love Oklahoma City so much. I want to see the city do well,” he said. “I really like the direction as far as the city and the food scene and the art scene go. Just the culture, in general, in Oklahoma City is really on the right track.”
The burgeoning food scene is growing beyond that of just chefs. With the influx of new restaurants and concepts, Valentine said, he’s excited to be part of a dynamic time for Oklahoma City’s culinary world.
“Just get ready,” he said. “Be ready to eat great food.”