"You may have seen Cowboy Chef Newton on Season 8 of MasterChef presented by FOX. With a past in ranching, he quickly picked up the nickname on the show as the “Cowboy Chef.” He recalls it as a career changing experience influenced by Chef Aaron Sanchez and Chef Gordon Ramsey, as well as the many talented chefs he competed with, many of whom he continues to work with in various ways. The experience brought about a horizon of learning and trying new things, honing his skills as a culinary expert.
Mike Newton and his wife, Melanie, are both from Irving, Texas and have known one another since the first grade. They own The Cellar, an intimate restaurant steak house that offers lunch and dinner in Stephenville, Texas. Mike explains, “After being on Master Chef, I wanted something small and quaint, I had made the decision to semi-retire.” The kitchen and dining area are cozy, but after opening only months ago in November 2020, due to their immediate success they are already expanding. The Cowboy Chef can’t seem to help but be active, aiming to please 100% of people 100% of the time.
Prior to opening The Cellar, he collaborated with nonprofits all over the north Texas area raising over 1.4 million dollars for charities such as CASA, The Boys and Girls Club, Southlake Women’s Club, Harvest House in Burleson, Tarrant County Food Bank, and Meals on Wheels, to name a few. Now, starting in a restaurant (in the midst of a pandemic, no less) Chef Mike says, “I’m tempering what I’m doing. The restaurant takes a lot of my time, but I love it.” He has hired Whitley Bettis to manage the back of the house. She graduated from nearby De Leon and went on to complete her culinary degree with the Culinary Institute of America. She and Chef Mike Newton collaborate often on menu items and her professional contribution to the kitchen allows Chef Mike Newton to be more flexible with his time in and out of the restaurant for when he greets customers, oversees business doings, as well as meets with various local food purveyors. Some of these include Veldhuizen cheese in Dublin, Peterson Farms for pork, quail from Lockhart, Paula Lambert in Dallas for her mozzarella, pecans from De Leon, local produce farmers and even his own back patio garden for herbs.
The Cowboy Chef talks about the “dichotomy of Texas food” and how it expands much further than the expected barbeque and Tex Mex people associate with our state. He’s always loved good food and exploring wines and admits he’s a social person, as most service industry types are. He’s also always been a very independent man, excited to see where the next adventure takes him. He loves to learn new things and explains that he owes much of his success to the great mentors in his life including his two great aunts. He started his career as a waiter in the front of the house. His resume includes The Mansion, Gershwin’s and Houston’s. He eventually started cooking and worked for the Tony Vallone dynasty in Houston at La Griglia, as well as The Hotel Paisano in Marfa. With his new venture at The Cellar, he seems less retired and more energized than ever. The menu and the atmosphere seem settled, even familiar. It’s clear that he’s come full circle from all the adventures in his life. When you visit, tables six and seven are near the kitchen where you can see all the action taking place, much like a Chef’s table. Table 51 is in the front window and offers ambience, as well as excellent people watching. Be sure to make a visit at least semi-regularly because the Cowboy Chef will always have something new, something innovative and certainly delicious to offer."
~ Grape and Wine Trail Magazine, summer 2021
Make the short trip to Newton's Cellar in Stephenville and see what all of the fuss is about! Now offering a full bar menu and extensive wine list. Reservations available at newtonscellar.com.