Buried in its weekly roundup of restaurant openings and closing, the Houston Press reported Friday morning that James Beard Award finalist Peter Chang had opened a restaurant in Katy, but has he really?
Other signs suggest that something is amiss. No mention of the Katy location exists on Chang's official website that lists seven restaurants in Maryland and Virginia. The website for the Katy restaurant, which is under a separate domain, is still blank.
Sure, restaurants from across the country are opening in the Houston-area all the time — Monday's frenzy at Hopdoddy is proof that people are excited to sample the newcomers. Still, the lack of almost any publicity for a new restaurant from such a high-profile chef should trigger some skepticism.
Has Peter Chang opened a restaurant in Katy? The answer turns out to be somewhat complicated.
In response to an inquiry from CultureMap, Chang's business partner Gen Lee denied any involvement in the Katy restaurant. Asked if they've contacted the Katy restaurant about changing its name, Lee writes that he's counting on media exposure to "find out the truth."
Local businessman Stone Shi owns the Katy restaurant. He tells CultureMap that he and Chang were childhood friends who lost touch after Shi moved to America in 1990. After Chang left a high-profile role as the chef at the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., he opened a number of acclaimed restaurants in Virginia and Maryland that serve Sichuan-style Chinese food. When the friends reunited, Shi says they began to discuss opening a restaurant in Katy.
"(Chang) came here three times. We decided to open a few locations," Shi says. "We signed a lease. Then, we get started remodeling. Suddenly he tells me from a manpower standpoint and a capacity standpoint he can’t come here."
When Chang asked Shi to remove his name from the restaurant, Shi told him it was too late. He'd already signed a lease with the name "Peter Chang" and secured a business license. A simple statement clarifies the relationship between the Katy restaurant and the Virginia-based chef.
"All the chefs are from Peter Chang. Our menu is from Peter Chang, but Peter Chang is not involved in this restaurant," Shi says.
Whether Peter Chang China Grill in Katy can match the standards set by its famous name remains to be seen, but its success or failure will depend entirely on its staff. The restaurant's famous namesake won't be there to help.