One of Houston foodies' favorite chefs is ready to make a move.
Chris Shepherd has earned raves for his pitch-perfect takes on Southern flavors and globally-influenced street foods recreated as modern, elegant plates while serving as executive chef at Catalan almost since the opening of the restaurant in the fall of 2006.
Now he's planning his own restaurant, called Underbelly, to open in half of the former Chances space on Westheimer just west of Montrose. Last week, it came out that Bobby Heugel and Kevin Floyd of Anvil would be converting the space into a beer bar called Hay Merchant.
As expected of any outfit by Chris Shepherd, the new spot will have a focus on fresh, local ingredients, particularly the pork dishes that Shepherd has become known for. (Even the name Underbelly is a reference to Shepherd's cane syrup pork belly bites that have wowed locals and travel writers alike.)
In addition the restaurant "will feature its own full-scale butcher shop so that Shepherd can further explore his fascination with 'whole animal' cookery," reports the Houston Chronicle's Alison Cook.
Shepherd also clarified that with the addition of Underbelly the design of the two spaces will split the current Chances building, which in itself was two separate structures cobbled together awkwardly.
Shepherd's departure will be the second in a year for Catalan, whose popular wine guru Antonio Gianola left last September to focus on opening his own space. However with Underbelly planning a fall debut, Shepherd will remain in the kitchen at Catalan through May.
Shepherd leaves with the blessing of Catalan owners Charles Clark and Grant Cooper.
"Chris is just getting bigger and better, which shows that we picked the right person," says Clark. "Chris, Randy Evans and I were all in culinary school together and our dream was to each own our own restaurant and now it's happening."