On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," legendary Houston chef Monica Pope joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss her career, her involvement in Vinegar Hill Houston, and next weekend's third annual Butcher's Ball. The conversation begins with Pope explaining how, at the age of 17, she decided she wanted to "change the way Houston eats," which she achieved by promoting local farmers at her four restaurants: the Quilted Toque, Boulevard Bistro, t'afia, and Sparrow Bar + Cookshop.
Recently, Pope united with Axelrad owner Adam Brackman to convert the original location of Beaver's into a new bar called Vinegar Hill Houston that will also provide up-and-coming chefs with the opportunity to hold three month residencies in its kitchen. "We are going into this knowing we're going to set the bar again, and 12 years from now everyone is going to be following in our footsteps and trying to hit that bar," Pope says.
She's also presenting a children's cooking class at The Butcher's Ball. Now in its third year, the event shines a spotlight on farmers and ranchers who follow sustainable practices with a full day of tastings, competitions, demonstrations, and entertainment. "It is a great event, and I'm excited to be back this time," Pope says.
"I think they try to do good, which is more than I can say for some of the food frenzy out-of-control stuff," she adds. "There is a good end to these events."
Participating chefs include a number of former podcast guests, such as Dominick Lee (Poitin), Patrick Feges and Erin Smith (Feges BBQ), Bobby Matos (State of Grace, La Lucha), Ryan Lachaine (Riel), Sean "Buffalo" Carroll (Melange Creperie), and E.J. Miller (International Smoke). Tickets ($100) are available now.
Prior to Pope joining the show, Sandler and co-host Rebecca Masson (chef-owner of Midtown's Fluff Bake Bar) discuss the news of the week. Their topics include a lively debate about the prospects of the chef residencies at Vinegar Hill, whether the shuttering of Smith & Wollensky means a slowing down of Houston's steakhouse boom, and how much they're looking forward to the arrival of Light Years, the new natural wine bar and shop in Montrose. In the restaurant of the week segment, the duo rave about their meal at Eunice, the Cajun-Creole brasserie that recently opened near Greenway Plaza.