One delicious couple: Gemma's chef and manager traded Napa Valley for chef's hometown, Dallas


At wine mogul Leslie Rudd’s Press restaurant in Napa Valley, Stephen Rogers was chef and Allison Yoder was general manager. But this dynamic husband-wife duo had dreams of starting their own restaurant, a prohibitive proposition in California’s expensive wine country. So they left food-and-wine paradise — toddler twin boys in tow — and headed to Rogers’ hometown, where they’ll open GEMMA (pronounced “JIM-ma”) this month in East Dallas. (Yoder says they’ve always loved the word and its meaning: “The bud of the plant, the gem or the jewel.”) Family sealed the couple’s decision to move here. Rogers grew up in University Park, where he got an early start in the restaurant biz. “My first job,” he says, “was at Baskin-Robbins in Preston Center.” Yoder and Rogers packed not only their California sensibilities, but a toolbox influenced by globe-trotting — “We ate the best fried chicken in Slovenia,” Yoder says — and New York music careers. (He is a former classical pianist and vocal coach; she is a former opera singer.) Their plan at Gemma: Keep it simple and seasonal. Heard that before? Picture it driven by peak-only ingredients, such as roasted baby artichokes with Provençal vinaigrette, sheep feta, farm eggs and arugula. “Some people want their spring menu in March,” Rogers says. At Gemma, they’ll only get it when pea shoots and beets rise up and cry “Pick me.”

The couple’s restaurant is on Henderson Avenue in the same block as Veritas Wine Bar, in the space closest to Ross Avenue. Yoder describes the decor as Hamptons-inspired cush. “We like rustic,” she says, “and the space leaned toward Hamptons, with quite a bit of beadboard and wainscoting. We said ‘Let’s roll with it.’” Gemma, 2323 N. Henderson Ave., Suite 109; at press time, no phone number or website —Kim Pierce

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