On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Melange Creperie chef and co-owner "Buffalo" Sean Carroll joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss his unusual career in the food industry. After leaving the art world, Carroll taught himself to make the street-style crepes he and his wife and business partner Tish Ochoa had enjoyed during a trip to Paris. In 2011, he joined Houston's then-nascent food truck scene with a tiny cart that operated in a Montrose parking lot.
Carroll explains that the journey from cart to Melange Creperie's restaurant isn't the Heights hasn't always gone smoothly. Carroll grew his audience by becoming a regular presence at the Urban Harvest farmers markets in the Upper Kirby area on Saturdays and downtown at City Hall on Wednesdays. He briefly served at H-E-B's Montrose Market. When a plan to take over the Eatsie Boys Cafe space in Montrose fell through, Melange became one of the first tenants at the Conservatory Food Hall. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Melange opened in the ultra-trendy Heights Mercantile development.
Carroll's banter — the "heck yeahs" and "alrights" — are part of what made eating at the cart so memorable. Since the restaurant's greater capacity and longer hours require that others make the crepes, how did he train his staff to develop their own feel for the interactive patter?
"It's always based on someone's personality . . . You can't copy it, but in everybody's personality there is a little bit of that street busker," Carroll says. "It has to be based on your own references, what you can bring, what you do to connect with other people. I do love that I've found some amazing employees who really can do that . . . It's got to come from within more than anything else."
Prior to Carroll joining the show, Sandler and co-host Matt Harris discuss the news of the week. Their topics include Hickory Hollow closing its Heights-area location and Ninfa's plans to open a new location in the Galleria area. Then, the two hosts go "thumbs up or thumbs down" on GQ correspondent Brett Martin's list titled "How to Eat Houston in 8 Dishes." In the restaurants of the week segement, Sandler shares his first impressions from a very promising breakfast at Vibrant, the newly opened restaurant in Montrose where all of the dishes are dairy-free and gluten-free. Then, he explains why a first visit to Shell Shack, the Dallas-based seafood restaurant that just opened its first Houston location on Washington Avenue, ranks as one of his worst meals of the year.