Chef Change

Promising Washington Ave restaurant starts the year with an exciting new chef

Promising Washington Ave restaurant starts the year with a new chef

Rolling Kitchen Mike McElroy
Mike McElroy is the new chef at The Durham House. Photo by Eric Sandler
Durham House interior
The Durham House emerged from the former Woodrow's Heights. Photo by Max Burkhalter
Rolling Kitchen Mike McElroy
Durham House interior

The new year means a new face in the kitchen at The Durham House, the promising upscale Southern/Cajun restaurant that replaced Woodrows Heights this fall. Original chef Don Schoenburg has departed. Mike McElroy, the popular local chef whose most recent post consisted of helming food truck The Rollin' Kitchen for Gr8 Plate Hospitality, took over on Monday.

Owner Raj Natarajan Jr tapped Schoenburg to transform Woodrows Heights into The Durham House, and the chef attracted strong initial buzz by replacing the restaurant's familiar po' boys and fried seafood with elevated dishes like stuffed rabbit loin and lamb tartar. According to Natarajan, Schoenburg is departing for personal reasons. 

While Schoenburg's presence will be missed, McElroy's extensive resume suggests he'll be able to step in. Prior to developing The Rollin' Kitchen's menu of casual Cajun fare like boudin balls and shrimp etoufee, McElroy worked in celebrated New Orleans restaurants like Redfish and Commander's Palace. 

"I felt the offer of the position was a great opportunity that I couldn't pass up," McElroy tells CultureMap. 

"Our selection of Mike as the executive chef was a function of our desire to bring in a person with deep roots in the food community of Houston, and the greater Gulf Coast, as well as a proven skill set that would contribute to the continual refinement of the dishes and preparations coming out of the kitchen of The Durham House," Natarajan writes in an email. "Serendipitously, Mike’s desire to move into a full kitchen, the style of his food, his extensive butchery and charcuterie experience, and his background in New Orleans, San Francisco, and Houston aligned perfectly with most every point on our chef wish list, and thus effective 1/4/2016 he will be officially joining the team!"

Look for McElroy to expand the restaurant's cold bar, introduce grass fed beef and develop an in-house charcuterie program. "Mike is going to be reducing the over all number of items on the menu, so that we can assure that every item on the menu will be truly incredible, and we can execute an extremely refined level of service such that dishes can be modified as desired, as well as adjusting dishes on the fly to amplify the harmony between food and beverage pairings," Natarajan adds.

A new menu rolls out January 20 — just in time for the start of crawfish season.