Executive Chef Preston Paine is intentional and thoughtful about his craft, and it shows. 

Earlier this year, it was announced that Paine, a Fort Worth native and star of Food Network competition show, “Ciao House,” would helm The Crescent Hotel’s Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, Emilia’s — slated to open in mid-September at 3300 Camp Bowie Blvd. 

Paine’s professional background as executive chef, co-founder and consultant to some of Dallas’s most popular restaurant groups has prepared him for the debut of the highly-anticipated dining concept opening soon at the 200-room luxury hotel. 

Chef Preston Paine
Chef Preston Paine

Even as a youth, Paine had a special relationship with food. During his college years he cooked in restaurants, so that he could learn the various facets of the industry while also playing football for the Green Wave. 

The 2015 Tulane alum says that his decision to attend college in the Big Easy was a deliberate one, as the city of New Orleans is steeped in delicious food culture, and his school allowed him a first-rate education in business development and management. 

After graduating, Paine eagerly began his career in restaurant management with a Dallas-based development company, before deciding to make a leap that would further expand his culinary repertoire, including one transformative year spent traveling and eating his way around some amazing locations mostly concentrated in the Mediterranean.

His time spent traveling and submersing himself into various cultures — including cooking on a yacht in Croatia — allowed him to learn about the food traditions and culinary ways from locals.

After his return to America, he worked for three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park in New York City before returning home to Dallas-Fort Worth in 2020. 

It was while traveling, an experience that allows many of us to grow and evolve, that the Dallas Jesuit graduate realized that the more culture and people he familiarized himself with, the greater his understanding of how sheltered he had been for much of his existence. 

From that pivotal moment of introspection, he gained some key takeaways, many of which lessons apply to his work today. For example, Paine attributes his dedication to using only the best of local, seasonal foods in his kitchen to his cultural growth. As a result, he recognizes the value in building and cultivating strong relationships with area farmers who, the chef says, he will be working with to supply Emilia’s with its dairy and other products. 

Chef Paine continued with what diners can look forward to at Emilia’s: “Beef from local ranchers, dairy farms, other people who supply products and take pride in what they’re growing and raising. Our soil here is wonderful for luscious wines for example and flavorful peppers, and other quality produce that grows native to north Texas.”

The impending development will include an impressive 168,000 square feet of office space that will be home to Crescent Real Estate, Crescent Energy, Goff Capital, and a luxury resort and wellness brand founded by Mel Zuckerman, Canyon Ranch. 

Immediately after Paine’s “Ciao House” appearance aired, he began receiving multiple offers to join exciting restaurant ventures, but he was genuinely happy with his career in Dallas, where he had a major role in opening restaurants at the Thompson Hotel — a luxury hotel in the former First National Bank Tower — including Catbird and Nine at The National. 

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“I wasn’t interested in leaving,” the chef said of his initial offer to join The Crescent, “but after doing my due diligence, once the offer was presented to me the second time, I accepted.” 

What makes this role different from before? At Emilia’s he will have complete oversight of the project. In his own words, “everything from choosing plateware, the soundtrack, and the ability to be as detailed as possible …”.

Every hue in the decor and finishes will be meticulously chosen and crafted to reflect his culinary inspirations from the Mediterranean coast — specifically, the countries of Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Spain and France will each play a role in the curation of seasonal menu items. 

Paine not only has placed a considerable amount of thought into the design aesthetic of Emelia’s but other sensory experiences that diners will appreciate. 

Although his work in some of the most respected restaurants in New York City allowed him to carve out a name for himself, Paine is excited that the opportunity at the Crescent Hotel will hold space for differents sorts of inspired dining experiences such as an unusual restaurant-within-a-restaurant concept, The Blue Room. The fine dining menu served there will allow Paine to focus on the more intricate dishes that he’s learned to cook and expertly refined over the years. 

The hotel will also feature two bars, one in the lobby and one on the rooftop. The lobby’s The Circle Bar, will amplify the Mediterranean tone of Emelia’s, while the rooftop bar will showcase craft cocktails and stunning panoramic views of Fort Worth’s Cultural District.

What else can diners expect from Paine’s labor of love? 

“An elevated dining experience that’s approachable. I’ll continue to add fuel to fire by adding things like a dry aging chamber onsite.” 

Reservations for The Crescent Hotel are now available for stays beginning in September. Visit thecrescenthotelfortworth.com for more information on the opening dates of bars and restaurants.

Deah Mitchell writes about more than just food reviews for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at deah.mitchell@fortworthreport.org

The Lobby Bar at Emilia’s restaurant. (Courtesy photo | Emilia’s)

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Deah Berry Mitchell is the founder and CEO of Nostalgia Black Group, a multimedia company whose core business is preserving Black cultural history through writing, public speaking, tourism and technology....