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Dive In

Franchesca Nor is making waves with her fresh, organic, high-quality fare at DIVE Coastal Cuisine.

After moving to Dallas from Miami, chef and restaurateur Franchesca Nor opened DIVE Coastal Cuisine in 2010 to bring more healthy, fresh food to the city’s culinary landscape. Now, after more than a decade, the Snider Plaza staple is still going strong, serving sustainably sourced seafood, vegetables, and other organic bites and bowls to a loyal following. Nor channels her world travels and Southern California upbringing in her vibrant dishes, packed with flavor and wholesome ingredients. Here, she shares her path to cooking, her menu inspiration, and her recipe for the perfect meal.

DIVE has been open for more than a decade in Snider Plaza. What’s the story behind the restaurant?

I moved from Miami, where I attended culinary school and also worked numerous hospitality jobs. I started to dine in my new city of Dallas. I also began working at a popular restaurant called Neighborhood Services. That is where I got to know the community and meet people in the restaurant industry. After seeing what most women ordered there and noticing that many menus in Dallas were very similar, I could see clearly what cuisine was needed in this city. Menus seemed to be very rich and heavy. The women at Neighborhood Services were ordering the fish with spinach entrée pretty consistently. Well, fish and vegetables are basically my cuisine. All the work I had put in over the years to open my own restaurant had seemed to lead me to this realization and location. It seemed to be the right fit at the right time.

When did cooking first interest you?

I grew up in Los Angeles, and my parents always took us to the hottest restaurants there. I knew I loved the restaurant experience and really good food. It stayed with me, without me even realizing my dream until I was 21. I eventually enrolled in art school in Italy. As I was living in Florence, discovering the food in the city, I decided to take a cooking course at the famous Cordon Bleu. I loved it; it came so naturally to me. I would look all over the city for contemporary food that was not typical Italian. That was when the lightbulb turned on that I needed to open restaurants. Not just be the chef — but create the whole experience. I enrolled in the best culinary program back in the U.S., Johnson & Wales University in Miami Beach. I graduated top of my class, and that felt like the perfect foundation for my restaurant business journey. From there I worked in the kitchen with all kinds of chefs in Miami, and I also did catering and different front-of-house roles. I wanted to learn every trick of the trade. I ended up moving to Dallas to be near my sister and her young boys in 2009. That was the year I decided I was ready to conquer the dream, and DIVE was born in July 2010.

How have your experiences influenced DIVE?

All of my life experiences influence every part of the menu and feel. My father is from Brazil, so I definitely tend to use more Latin-based flavors, but my upbringing in Southern California brings in so much colorful produce. Seafood and poultry are the proteins I eat most, with an occasional nice cut of red meat, so the food I eat is born in the menu of DIVE. So thankful we have been open for 11 years.

What is your continued inspiration for the menu? 

I prefer mostly vegetables and light proteins. Organic ingredients are always important to me, and so are the oils. We only use a gluten-free organic rice bran oil in our fryer and on our line, along with ghee and high-quality olive oils in our dressings. I feel our oils and top-quality seasonal ingredients truly set us apart as some of the freshest and best in town.

What is most important to you when putting together a meal?

I’m all about balance: color, texture, and flavor. The dish has to hit all points. I often incorporate a crunch in a salad that is a healthy fat, like nuts or seeds. I always source our ingredients from ethical companies and sustainable brands to ensure we are getting a consistent and high-quality product. For example, I source my shrimp from a company that does not treat its shrimp with a formaldehyde bleach component, whereas most shrimp companies do so. I feel that focusing on quality instead of cost is very important — being healthy and thoughtful takes more time and effort.

What menu item is DIVE most known for?

We have had many original recipes that have put us on the map. But our claim to fame is the Seared Ahi Tuna Wrap. It’s a 4-ounce loin of sushi-grade tuna, seared in a burrito full of coconut rice, ginger slaw, cucumbers, and avocado, and it’s served with our house-made chili ponzu and sweet chili sauce. It’s a fan favorite.

How are you hoping to evolve DIVE for the future?

This year, I hope to grow in either a new concept or new neighborhood, but with being a single mother, my son is my first priority. When the time is right, we will grow. For now, the restaurant is still evolving and growing internally, with better efficiencies and better service. We never stop. We want you to always feel like you treated yourself to something good for you.

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