Stephan Pyles

A native Texan who's famed for transforming the Lone Star State's cooking scene, Pyles is considered a founding father of Southwestern cuisine. Pyles is fascinated by global fare, especially the food of Spain and the New World, and his menu offerings (most recently at Stephan Pyles in Dallas) are influenced by his world travels and avid interest in other cultures.

What snack would you leave on a plate for Santa Claus, to really tempt him?

Something to help him keep his weight up, like my Heaven and Hell Cake, with layers of angel food cake, devil's food cake, peanut butter mousse, and milk-chocolate ganache.

Describe a holiday food memory from your childhood.

I remember the time and effort my mother went to at Christmastime to make candies like divinity and chocolate-covered cherries. In the earlier years, the whole production was lost on me because I didn't understand why we didn't just buy the candies. Let's just say I figured it out.

What one dish is always on your holiday table?

Cranberry-chipotle relish.

What is your best cooking tip for the holidays?

Place your order for the honey-glazed ham early.

What chef from the present or past would you choose as your personal chef?

Ferran Adrià.

What is your advice to future chefs?

Make sure that you can't imagine being in any other profession - that the passion to cook is pervasive.

What ingredients can you not live without?

Chiles, olive oil, Spanish sherry vinegar, and salt.

What do you prepare at home for yourself and for your family?

Caffe latte.