I have seen a great deal in my short life. Included in that is the transformation of the Houston restaurant scene. It’s like watching a child transform into adulthood. Gaining confidence to leave the nest and fly an original path. Realizing stepping on others will not get you to the top, instead ensuring you fall through the cracks. Appreciating how it feels to lend a hand. Making decisions that are not only good for yourself but the people around you. Maturity at its best.
I come from a restaurant family, so I’ve spent some time in restaurants as a kid. I slalomed through line cooks during dinner rush. I passed out at the bar with my Cherry Coke during closing. I slept in the office waiting to go home. I made bow and arrows with rubber bands, straws and cocktail swords. I learned that I could hide in a walk-in. I learned how to “fry” ice cream. I learned Spanish slang. And I learned that a restaurant becomes a family. You see so much of each other, they become part of your life. Some come and go, and that can be sad. But then you meet others that have worked at competing restaurants. And so the restaurant community is built.
The difference between now and then is the sense of community support. Community doesn’t necessarily mean support is present. Our restaurant scene was quite competitive back in the day. As most restaurant communities are, I’m not knocking our retro scene. It is a highly volatile industry which can breed fierce competition. But I feel like we haven’t quite matured until recently. We are not stepping on each other, we are going out of our way to help our community succeed. All the while still spreading our wings and flying our own paths.
I have best friends from high school and college, and then I have industry friends. I tell you what, my industry friends share something that I could never have with my non-industry friends. We get each other. There is an unspoken bond.
And now It seems all my industry friends are coming into their own and making their dreams realities. I can’t describe how excited I get when I walk into a restaurant space that is weeks from opening. The space that was, just months prior, gutted to the bare concrete and support posts is about to change lives. The cooks, the bartenders, the servers are being employed by this new dream and about to build their own life experiences. The experiences that could lead them to their own entrepreneurial aspirations. The patrons are going to engage in unforgettable meals that involve loved ones, family, first dates, blind dates, best friends, business meetings, and break-ups.
In the last few years I have had the pleasure and humbled opportunity to become friends with Houston’s new generation of restaurant and bar professionals. Its amazing for me to see this, coming from my childhood and seeing this generation blossom in front of my eyes. I am so proud to not only know these people, but share in the same trade.
Most of you are awaiting the opening of Pass & Provisions, as am I. I’ve seen these guys pursue their dream for the past few years. I met Seth when he started working at laidback manor with Randy Rucker. Also employed by laidback manor was Justin Yu and Justin Bayse. All four of these guys I’ve seen mature and come into their own. Justin Yu obviously has opened a success with Oxheart, aka #8. Justin Bayse put Stella Sola on the map and now works as R&D chef for the Pappas group. Rucker is in the process of making it happen again, this time in the ‘Trose.
David Buehrer has become the community support breeder. He loves his community. I first met David at a chef throw-down I was competing in at Stella Sola. David was set-up in the corner with a catering table making espresso drinks. I had a cappaccino and instantly knew it was something I had to have in my establishment. So I asked him how to make that happen. Two years later, I have a restaurant run by Baristas. Greenway Coffee is making waves not only in Houston, but nationally. And with Blacksmith on the way, David and Ecky are changing the coffee culture in this city, for the better.
I first met Bobby Heugel when he was changing the cocktail program at Beavers. Rucker told me he was the man and I had to have his drinks. An inspirational dude who just wanted to make amazing cocktails. And you can see where he is now…everywhere.
I met Morgan Weber when he was farming pigs at Revival Farms. I bought a Red Wattle from him. Now Revival Market is booming in the Heights and continuously gaining national exposure.
I may be getting off on a tangent, and you get the point. Our city is pretty damn cool. And there are tons of industry friends I am leaving off, but I could drag this on until you fall asleep.
And what is most amazing, I get to feed these people. There are no amount of stars or awards that can compete with this. There is no higher reward than to be recognized by your peers.
Someday we’ll be the old guys, we’ll be the mentors. We’ll see hot shots change our city once again. And we’ll know we had something to do with that.
Keep it up ladies and gentlemen. Houston is your canvas.