From the time Shannon Wynne and Keith Schlabs opened Lark on the Park four years ago, I have considered the modern American place across from Klyde Warren Park to be far-and-away their restaurant group's best. (Moth Management Inc. also owns the Meddlesome Moth, Bird Cafe, Rodeo Goat, Mudhen Meat and Greens and other restaurants.) That is largely thanks to the talents of its husband-wife executive chef team, Dennis Kelley and Melody Bishop.
In a 2015 cover story for Palate magazine that featured seven chefs on the rise, I wrote of Biship and Kelley: "What was striking when they opened Lark two springs ago was a freshness on its plates, driven by sparkling produce and a California sensibility that seemed almost startling in Dallas at the time. Their Asian-accented Modern American cooking, confident from the start, has only gotten more compelling."
The chef team has kept the quality high on Lark's plates since then, and the place, on my occasional visits, has continued to feel buzzy and busy. In September I included it on a list of my 12 favorite Dallas restaurants.
Now the fate of its plates is up in the air, as half of the team — Kelley — was laid off on Wednesday. "I was laid off yesterday afternoon effective immediately," says the chef. "Business hasn't been great."
Schlabs says it was strictly a business decision. "He and Melody have worked with us for four years," he says, "and they're great. But it’s competitive out there in the restaurant world, especially in our segment, and we simply couldn’t afford two chefs anymore. I think he’s a great chef, I love his food, he works hard and we’re going to miss him." He adds that no other changes are in the works. "We're just kind of reorganizing to handle the business without him. I think Melody has a good staff. And I think we can make it work with one chef."
Whether or not Bishop will continue beyond the short term is another question. "She will be staying on until the two of us can figure what our next chapter will be, since this was such a sudden move," says Kelley.