On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," James Beard Award winner Chris Shepherd joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss his busy 2021. Shepherd's Underbelly Hospitality has big plans for the coming year, including winding up One Fifth, opening Georgia James Tavern in downtown's Market Square Tower, and opening a new restaurant as part of the renovations at the Houston Farmers Market.
The conversation begins with Sandler congratulating the chef on his recent wedding to Lindsey Brown and a brief discussion of how the Southern Smoke Foundation has benefitted from celebrity chef David Chang's $1 million win on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. From there, the conversation turns to Georgia James Tavern with Shepherd describing some of the motivation for opening a more casual, affordable version of his signature steakhouse and why he chose the downtown high-rise for its first location.
Shepherd has been involved with the plans to renovate the Houston Farmers Market since the project was first announced in 2017. Todd Mason, his business partner in Underbelly Hospitality, is also a founding partner at MLB Capital Partners, the investment firm that purchased the market. Sandler asks Shepherd to describe what the experience at the renovated market will be like when it opens this summer.
"There's going to be over 500 parking spaces, a bunch of different retail, restaurants, and green space. Someplace you can go any day of the week and get lunch, get your meat, your fish, your bread for dinner over the next couple of days or go have dinner. That's the whole goal," Shepherd says.
"People are nervous it's not going to be what it was. It's not, but it's going to be a rendition of what it was. In the '80s, it was different than what it was in the '40s."
The conversation concludes with Shepherd elaborating on his opinions about the role of influencers in the food world and providing an update on the Independent Restaurant Coalition's efforts to get components of the proposed RESTAURANTS Act into the Biden administration's new coronavirus relief package.
Prior to the interview, local beverage consultant Linda Salinas joins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: the Kirby Group's plans to open Buffalo Heights Bier Garten and Emma Jane Bakery on Washington Ave.; industry veteran Kerry Pauly opening a new bistro in the Memorial area; and West Coast favorite Dutch Bros. Coffee making a major push into Texas.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Salinas and Sandler describe their recent meal at The Nash, a new restaurant in downtown that serves steak, pizza, and other American fare. They also rave about 93 'Til, the new Montrose lounge where chefs Gary Ly and Lung Ly serve an eclectic array of small plates.