Tim Love told his mother he'd gotten her the best Christmas present."I asked, 'Well, does it sparkle?'" says Margaret "Queenie" Love, a longtime Denton resident who shares her celebrity chef son's blue eyes and big smile. Everybody knows her as Queenie, she says, and nobody calls her Margaret.She was spending this past Christmas at Tim's Fort Worth home, where he had prepared a banquet for the family as he does each year, and she tore open a cellophane-wrapped package to reveal a tray engraved with a crown behind the words "Queenie's Steakhouse.""It took me a couple seconds to finally get it," she says.Queenie's Steakhouse opened in Denton's downtown arts district last month, providing Dentonites a much-needed fine-dining option.It replaced a Love Shack burger eatery. Queenie Love says she knew her son's former burger joint was turning into a steakhouse, but she never knew he planned to name the restaurant after her."I talked to him several times asking, 'What are you going to name it?' I had absolutely no idea until Christmas Day," she says. "It was pretty awesome, I have to say."Tim, the last of seven children and first-born Texan, grew up in Denton, spending many years alone with his mother after his parents divorced and his older siblings went off to work and college."Most of my close friends know him as 'Timmy,'" his mother says. "I used to take him to bridge club with me when he was little, so my friends have known him since he was quite small. They're very excited and proud of him like he's their own."Queenie Love is modest when it comes to her influence on her son, insisting that the Iron Chef America champion and occasional TV cooking competition judge didn't receive any culinary skills from her.But Tim remembers growing up with satisfying Southern classics like green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese and, one of his favorites, beef cream gravy slathered on a slice of toast, better known as S.O.S. (Tim shares his recipe for an upscale version of his mother's mac and cheese, available on Queenie's menu, here; it is made with orzo tossed in white truffle oil and topped with fried artichoke hearts.)"There was lots of macaroni and cheese ... and hot dogs," his mom says, hesitating before adding that often, when a bag of groceries would hit the table, it would be quickly ransacked by the kids for snacks, which would then be hidden and heavily guarded.Queenie has worked more than 30 years as a surgical assistant in Denton for the same doctor."It was pretty difficult. I was single since 1980, so it was a struggle," she says. "You fed them whatever stretched a long time, like spaghetti. Whatever was reasonably priced and easy to fix."With a house full of children, each had to learn to be somewhat self-sufficient."Tim never seemed to have a problem with that, though," she says. "He was always very independent because I had to go to work when he was young. He would get on the school bus by himself."Tim may not have inherited his culinary prowess from his mother, but he admired her work ethic from an early age."She's always worked really, really hard and never really compromised. I think that was a big influence on not only myself but on all of my brothers and sisters," Tim says.Among his siblings are two certified public accountants, a cath lab technician and two entrepreneur brothers."She's still working today," Tim says of his mom. "She's retired three times. Supposedly she is going to retire again this year. But maybe now that she's got a restaurant, she can retire."Though Tim spent most of his teenage years alone with his mother, he recalls as a small boy watching the pandemonium that often ensued in a house packed with seven children, plus all of their friends."I was so much younger, so I was constantly entertained by all the chaos, so it made it fun for me," he says. "You learn a lot, too, with basically six other parents, besides my mother, influencing me and telling me what's right and wrong, some of it good and some of it bad. We've got lots of stories; more stories than most, that's for sure."Queenie says it wasn't until Tim went off to college in Tennessee and got a restaurant job chopping salad that she caught a glimpse of her son's culinary talents. He soon worked his way up to cooking on the line, then began "running the show" in a matter of weeks."He is his own creator, amazingly so," she says. "Even now, with each restaurant, there's always something new and something different. It boggles my mind where he comes up with it because I am not that creative. It must be in the genes from a long time ago."The proud mother admits that she was incredibly nervous when Tim expressed his interest in leaving his secure chef job at Reata in downtown Fort Worth to open his own restaurant more than 10 years ago."Reata was a steady job, and had benefits and all that sort of thing," she says. "But he was determined. Lonesome Dove was his first big venture that everybody said he couldn't do and that it wouldn't work out. But he was successful immediately and it was outstanding for everyone."With the chef's newest venture, odds are against him again, as folks are asking if Denton will support an eatery of Queenie's caliber. Tim, who will admit his failures -- including a short-lived Lonesome Dove restaurant in Manhattan -- says they have made him better."Everyone says the restaurant business is very difficult," his mom says. "I'm in awe of him, to tell you the truth, and so are his brothers and sisters. He's had his ups and downs, don't get me wrong, but he seems to bounce back every time."
115 E. Hickory St.
Truffled Mac and Cheese
2/3 cup orzo
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
2 ounces heavy cream
4 ounces chicken stock
1/4 cup Manchego cheese, shredded
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1. Cook orzo according to package instructions, then lightly toss with truffle oil.
2. Heat cream and chicken stock over low heat.
3. Add orzo and cheese to stock mixture, and cook for approximately 2 minutes until thick. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
4. Top with fried artichoke quarters (recipe follows) and serve immediately.
Makes 4 pieces
1 cup polenta
1 tablespoon Tim Love's Wild Game Rub
1 fresh artichoke
2 lemons, cut in half
1/4 cup buttermilk
Peanut oil for frying
1. Mix together polenta and rub, and set aside.
2. Prepare artichoke by removing the outer 3 to 4 layers of leaves and cut approximately one quarter of the artichoke off the top.
3. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the lemon halves. Place the artichoke in boiling water and cook until the core is knife-tender. Remove artichoke and shock in ice water bath to rapidly cool. Remove remaining leaves until the heart is exposed. Remove any remaining stem and cut the heart into quarters.
4. Thoroughly coat artichoke heart quarters in buttermilk and dredge in seasoned polenta.
5. Deep-fry artichoke heart quarters for approximately 3 minutes until golden brown, using peanut oil at a temperature of 350 degrees.
6. Remove from fryer and drain well. Season with salt and pepper, and serve warm on top of truffled mac and cheese.
Note: Tim Love's Wild Game Rub can be purchased for $8 per bottle at Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, 2406 N. Main St., Fort Worth.