Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Tarakaan, the eagerly-anticipated Asian fusion restaurant coming in September to Midtown, is who will be the chef? After all, the restaurant proposes to serve a rotating menu of only five appetizers and five entrees that pull from all of the region's cuisines. Finding a chef who's equally adept at executing elevated versions of, say, Chinese potstickers and Korean bibimbap could prove challenging.
On Thursday, Tarakaan announced that "after an exhaustive search of local and national culinary talent," it has selected Houstonian Micah Rideout to be executive chef. Rideout is the son of American missionaries who was born in Bangkok and raised in northern Thailand. His resume includes stints at high-profile restaurants ranging from Main Kitchen in the JW Marriott downtown to The Inn at Dos Brisas, Uchi and Robert del Grande's Ava and Alto.
"It was important for us not only to engage a chef who had a strong culinary background to implement our ideas, but one who also shared our passion for the cuisine and could provide an authenticity to dishes, said owner Piran Esfahani in a statement. "We’re extremely excited to provide a platform for this rising star."
Rideout tells CultureMap that he reconnected with his culinary heritage when he worked as chef de cuisine at Songkran Thai Kitchen. When the owners first explained their concept of a high-energy restaurant that served food from across Southeast Asia his first reaction was "you want me to cook the food that I grew up eating? That's great."
Another aspect of Tarakaan that Rideout says appealed to him is the owners' focus on shared plates. ""I’ve always loved that concept," he says. "It’s sort of the Asian thing. Everyone has something to talk about. I’ve just always enjoyed the concept of people being able to share."
Rideout has ideas about the opening menu but will wait until his kitchen is fully installed and he begins training his staff before comitting to specific dishes. Still, he says one overarching philiosophy will govern everything he does at Tarakaan.
"Pretty much what I’m hoping to do is bring those flavors of Southeast Asia to a high-energy setting where people can have those flavors but with a fresher look on it."