“The three of us are a team . . . It’s all for one and one for all. That’s it. Teamwork. That will make the difference between before and now.”
Don’t tell chef Manuel Pucha, a veteran chef who worked with Philippe Schmit at Bistro Moderne and Philippe before leading the kitchen at La Table, that the building at 1010 Studewood is cursed. Where three previous restaurants — Bedford, Stella Sola, and the short-lived Black & White — failed, he has a plan to succeed with a French restaurant that’s a little different than all of the other concepts flooding into the Heights.
Pucha has enlisted the aid of his brothers, pastry chef Victor and sommelier/mixologist Cristian, to join him in Houston to open a new French restaurant called Maison Pucha Bistro. Slated to open this fall, the restaurant will draw on the Puchas’ combined 60 years of restaurant industry experience to create a flexible, upscale casual restaurant that the brothers hope will be a welcome addition to its neighborhood.
“I love the Heights. I would say it’s a good neighborhood to do upscale-casual, even fine dining, where people aren’t scared to go out two or three times a week,” Manuel Pucha tells CultureMap. “I think it’s the right place because it’s part of a neighborhood. That’s part of why we chose the name ‘maison.’ It means ‘house.’ ‘Maison Pucha Bistro’ means ‘our house.’”
In addition to restaurant's name alluding to the brothers’ literal home of Houston (Victor and Cristian moved here last month), the cuisine will draw on their homeland of Ecuador. Manuel plans to utilize Ecuadorian seafood like shrimp, tuna, and mussels in dishes that will bring a South American touch to classic French fare. Victor will utilize chocolate from the country in his desserts, including a white and dark chocolate souffle.
Veteran restaurateur Shepard Ross, who recently left his role at Pax Americana to devote himself fulltime to hospitality consulting, is working with the brothers to bring Maison Pucha to fruition. Having operated Glass Wall in the building next door for a decade, Ross has a unique perspective on what it takes to be successful in the Heights. He thinks the restaurant has a good chance of being successful thanks to its potential to serve equally well as both a place for a casual bite during happy hour and an elaborate multi-course dinner with wine pairings selected by Cristian.
“I think those flexible dynamic models are the places that work in Houston,” Ross says. “Those are the things I think help you long term.”
Designer Erin Hicks (Pax Americana, Helen) is currently putting together ideas to transform the space, but the brothers aren’t waiting for a contractor to start the renovation. They already removed the black and white octopus from the floor. Short of burning sage in every corner of the building, that seems like an important first step to move beyond the past and embrace the future.