Photography by Kathy Tran.

About 35 years ago, Hedda Gioia Dowd started a company called Antique Harvest. She took yearly trips to France, buying vintage linens and silver kitchen and dining pieces from property owners. Americans wanted these high-quality items, and the internet wasn’t around to facilitate commerce.

On one 10-hour plane ride back to the United States, Dowd was pondering how her life wasn’t going as smoothly as she hoped. She told the flight attendant she wanted a glass of water and nothing else. 

“Sometimes in your life, and it hasn’t happened to me very often, there’s this overwhelming creativity that just takes over you,” Dowd says. “And you know it, and you know it’s going to work as much as you know your name. And there’s just this force that is evident in every sense of it, from the beginning to the end, and that’s what happened to me on that plane.” 

By the time she landed, she had planned how she would create a restaurant, Rise. She knew everything from which investors she needed to which chef she would ask to head the kitchen.

Dowd never expected she’d own a restaurant, but on the plane, she realized opening one would be “the most natural thing in the world” for her. 

“Sometimes I think it’s best, really, that you end up doing something you had no training for,” she says. “Fear, to me, is just the most wonderful thing — doing things you know nothing about and surrounding yourself with those who know more than you. Trust, you just have to trust and just jump in.”

It took three years to convince Cherif Brahmi to accept the role as executive chef, but Dowd never relented. She knew Brahmi, who began working in the industry at 14 years old, had 

to be involved. His culinary talents paired with his calm, thoughtful and business-minded nature made him the obvious choice. 

When he accepted, Dowd had few requests for the menu. She wanted some family recipes — a cookie by her grandmother, an artichoke sauce by her mother — to be included, as well as 10 savory and 10 sweet soufflés, plus a few items for people who don’t like eggs. Brahmi handled the rest. 

“As far as me telling him what to do, absolutely not,” Dowd says. “You cannot play heavy handed just because you come up with an idea, think that it’s yours. It’s a ‘we’ situation.”

Many doubted a restaurant specializing in soufflés could survive in Dallas, but she didn’t listen.

Though she had never owned a restaurant, she had plenty of experience with French food. Dowd can still describe “the most amazing meals” her mother made, dishes whose aroma she could smell as soon as she came home from school. Every summer until she was 21, Dowd traveled to France to visit her grandparents. She learned the language and was exposed to a different way of life and a distinct cuisine. Her mother and grandmother cooked savory soufflés often and very well, usually eating them with a salad to make a complete meal. 

It’s not just the menu at Rise that’s inspired by Dowd’s life.

Since opening in Inwood Village in 2008, the restaurant has prioritized environmental sustainability. Dowd witnessed it when she watched her grandmother make soups, and every part of the vegetables were used, either as food or compost. At Rise, when there’s not a pandemic, diners are given linens for napkins and drying their hands. Salt cellars — rather than individual packets — are placed on tables. Water is served in recycled glasses. 

The open kitchen and community sink are unusual in American eateries, but they’re central elements at Rise and mom-and-pop restaurants she has visited in France and throughout Europe.

Dowd, who has lived in Dallas since 1977, picked a place in Inwood Village because she knew it was “a shopping center for everybody” and wanted all of her guests to feel comfortable. 

That includes children. Dowd loves when parents bring kids to experience good food, just like she did when she was growing up. For her, food is a way to teach children to try new things and in doing so, enhance their lives. 

“If you can change how somebody eats, you’re actually changing how they think,” Dowd says. “And if they’re able to think because they’re well-fed, that person is changing the world in many ways. But if they aren’t fed, how can they do anything?” 

Rise, 5360 W. Lovers Lane, 214.366.9900

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