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Restaurant shakeup: Hot young chef leaves a top Houston seafood spot for a mysterious new project

Restaurant shakeup: Hot young chef leaves a top Houston seafood spot

Layne Lynch, sous chefs, January 2013, Ryan Lachaine, Underbelly
Sous chef Ryan Lachaine will leave Reef on Saturday.  Photo by © Julie Soefer
Ryan Lachaine at Indie Chefs Week Foreign and Domestic Austin
Lachaine will cook at the RAW:Almond pop-up in Winnipeg before returning to Houston to work on his next project.  Photo by: Kate LeSueur
Layne Lynch, sous chefs, January 2013, Ryan Lachaine, Underbelly
Ryan Lachaine at Indie Chefs Week Foreign and Domestic Austin

Ryan Lachaine's second stint at Reef has come to an end. The talented sous chef, who won an Eater Young Gun award during his time working alongside Chris Shepherd at Underbelly, tells CultureMap that Saturday will be his last day at Bryan Caswell's Midtown seafood restaurant.

"On Monday I'm going to Winnipeg to do the Raw:Almond pop up on the river. I'm also going up to Portland to help my buddy BJ Smith open his new place Smokehouse Tavern and then a trip to Vietnam," Lachaine writes in a text message.

 Lachaine is slightly more vague about his long term plans, but promises he's staying in Houston. 

It'll be the second year Lachaine has returned to his hometown of Winnipeg for the Raw:Almond event, which is a pop-up restaurant on a frozen river that was recently praised by Conde Nast Traveler. 

Lachaine is slightly more vague about his long term plans, but promises he's staying in Houston. "Let's just say I'm working on something that I need to devote 100 percent of my attention to," he writes. 

Whatever Lachaine's plans are, the chef explains that he's grown professionally from his return to Reef's bustling kitchen. "I learned a lot about the business side of a restaurant. Reef is a very busy place, plus they have a catering company now that does a lot of offsite events." In addition to the business side, Lachaine says he benefited from working alongside Caswell in the kitchen.

"If I wanted to buy some weird product from PJ (Stoops), he could always tell me not just how to utilize it properly but why I should be using it in specific dishes."

Caswell is similarly complimentary of Lachaine: "Ryan is a good friend of mine. He's very talented. It's been a pleasure working with him and seeing how he’s progressed talent wise." Caswell says he sees Lachaine as part of a movement of restaurants that are moving away from fine dining and towards a more casual atmosphere.  

Caswell says he and Lachaine have discussed a variety of possibilities for the chef's future and thinks his protege will be successful at whatever he decides to do. "Ryan has the ability to do whatever he wants," Caswell says.

Just as he benefited from his time working for celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten before going off on his own, Caswell says it's gratifying that he's able to pay forward the kindnesses that were shown to him with the next generation of chefs.  

"It’s so much fun for a guy like me to see a guy from the beginning to the middle to where now he’s not only capable of doing what he wants but of opening his own place," Caswell says. "Not to be too corny about it, but it’s gratifying for a guy like me to help him get to that point."