Austin | Dallas | Houston
Foodie News

Chef who mysteriously left a top Houston restaurant resurfaces — and he's cooking on a frozen river

Enlarge
Slideshow
Ryan Lachaine at Indie Chefs Week Foreign and Domestic Austin
Ryan Lachaine enjoying a well-deserved beer following his service at Indie Chefs Week in Austin.  Photo by: Kate LeSueur
Ryan Lachaine at Indie Chefs Week Foreign and Domestic Austin pickled shrimp
At Saturday night's dinner, Lachaine served pickled shrimp in gazpacho as one of 24 courses.  Photo by: Kate LeSueur
Ryan Lachaine at Indie Chefs Week Foreign and Domestic Austin
Lachaine with other chefs.  Photo by: Kate LeSueur
Ryan Lachaine at Indie Chefs Week Foreign and Domestic Austin
Twenty-four chefs in a kitchen may seem like a lot, but Lachaine said everything was very organized and ran smoothly Photo by: Kate LeSueur
Ryan Lachaine at Indie Chefs Week Foreign and Domestic Austin
The chefs worked together to plate each course.  Photo by: Kate LeSueur
Ryan Lachaine at Indie Chefs Week Foreign and Domestic Austin
Ryan Lachaine at Indie Chefs Week Foreign and Domestic Austin pickled shrimp
Ryan Lachaine at Indie Chefs Week Foreign and Domestic Austin
Ryan Lachaine at Indie Chefs Week Foreign and Domestic Austin
Ryan Lachaine at Indie Chefs Week Foreign and Domestic Austin

Former Underbelly sous chef Ryan Lachaine has been off the foodie radar since his unexpected departure from the restaurant in November, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been active in the culinary world. Lachaine sat down with CultureMap to discuss his recent travels and prospects for the future. He politely declined to discuss his time at Underbelly or the reasons it came to an end.

Just days after Lachaine's abrupt departure from Underbelly, a waitress sued the restaurant for "emotional distress." Lachaine isn't named in the suit and there's no indication that he's involved. 

For the last two months, Lachaine says that he's mostly "been at home, been hanging out with my kids for awhile, being a dad for a little while, (and) having some fun," but he couldn't turn down an invitation from Foreign and Domestic chef/owner Ned Elliot to participate in Indie Chefs Week, which is a week-long series of dinners held at the Austin restaurant in which chefs from around the country gather to serve cutting-edge cuisine.

 "Got a couple things I’m looking into . . . I’m not sure how soon, but I’ll be back in a restaurant."  

"It was an awesome time," Lachaine recalls."The way it worked was it went Tuesday to Saturday. Seven cooks on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Then 24 guys going Saturday: Very, very organized. We emailed the stuff we wanted for our dishes. You put your dish together. The other days you just tried to stay out of everyone else’s way.

"Saturday is a little fucking crazy, but an awesome group of guys. It worked out really smoothly for having 24 guys in a restaurant."

Seeing as Lachaine's primary cooking experience comes from time at both Reef and Underbelly, it's no surprise that his dishes blended Asian techniques with Gulf Coast ingredients. On Wednesday, he served charred Carolina rice with gochujang (a spicy, Korean paste), pickled vegetables and water spinach sourced from Houston fishmonger PJ Stoops. On Saturday, he served red pepper and watermelon gazpacho with pickled shrimp.

"I’m usually never happy with what I cook," Lachaine says, "but the guys cooking said it was good. That’s nice to hear."

In February, Lachaine will travel to his hometown of Winnipeg to participate in the RAW:ALMOND pop-up that's a collaboration between restaurant Deer + Almond and the Raw Gallery. The pop-up is unlike any other in the world.

"Basically, they’re building a big tent and makeshift kitchen on one of the major rivers that flows through the city," he says. "We’re cooking outside there."

He still hasn't decided what to serve on a tent in the middle of a frozen river, but the experience should be memorable. "I’ve never cooked in my hometown before. When I was up there, we spoke about it, and he said come on and do it. I’m really excited about it."

Lachaine doesn't know yet what the more distant future holds. "I’ve spoken to some people and sat down with some guys. Got a couple things I’m looking into . . . I’m not sure how soon, but I’ll be back in a restaurant."

Asked about whether he would follow Shepherd and Caswell's path in terms of style of cuisine, Lachaine responds in the affirmative. "Definitely, it’s all I know," he says. "It’s fun to do. You can play with some stuff."

In the meantime, any Houstonian who is desperate for his cuisine can make plans to fly to Winnipeg in February. Just dress warmly. 

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Houston news, views + events

The Dining Report

News you can eat

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address