On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," organizer Grover Smith, Riel chef-owner Ryan Lachaine, and Ichi Sushi chef-owner Tim Archuletta (San Francisco) join CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss Indie Chefs Week, the traveling food festival that recently came to Houston for the second time this year. Unlike other food festivals that are designed as dine around tasting events with small portions, Indie Chefs Week gathers 24 chefs who serve 12-course plated dinners over three nights.
Archuletta and Lachine are Indie Chefs veterans who have participated in a majority of the festival's appearances over the years, and they discuss the various reasons they find value in the experience. Even though Archuletta is a classically-trained sushi chef with over 20 years of experience, he says he finds something to learn during ICW.
"I spent most of 23 years learning how to make sushi. When I opened my own restaurant, I had to have some other dishes. Basically taught myself how to cook, so coming to these events and being able to work next to these amazing chefs and learn some of their techniques and recipes," Archuetta says. "The inspiration of hanging out — I even say a lot of times if I could just be a dishwasher at these guy's restaurants it'd be the best. I could sit and watch — then you get to sit next to them and have them plate your food. It's pretty awesome."
The chefs also discuss the status of their individual restaurants. For Archuletta, it's tough to stay relevant in San Francisco's turbulent dining scene, and Lachaine says he's still getting learning things about operating a restaurant after a year in business. For his part, Smith has plans to take Indie Chefs Week to three more markets this year and six more in 2019. The trio also offer some insight into the important role post-dinner partying plans in ICW bonding.
Prior to the interview, Eric and co-host Matt Harris discuss the news of the week. They go in-depth on which of this summer's upcoming restaurants they're most looking forward to, banter about the prospects of Musaafer by The Spice Route Company, and share some thoughts on the latest additions to downtown food hall Finn Hall. In the restaurants of the week segment, Harris and Sandler describe their visits to Tuk Tuk Crab, a new street food concept near Chinatown; Aqua S; the Australian-based ice cream shop known for its Instagrammable cones; and the Wagyumafia pop-up at Blacksmith.