A Culinary Train Wreck?

Chefs and sommeliers swap places and anything goes in innovative pop-up dinner

Chefs and sommeliers swap places for innovative pop-up dinner

Southern Goods exterior
A who's who of Houston chefs, sommeliers, and bartenders will hold a pop-up to raise money for a mental health charity. Photo by Eric Sandler

Update 4/18: Due to today's floods, the event will be rescheduled.

Depression in the service industry is a serious topic that deserves more discussion than it gets. Former Tony's chef Grant Gordon's suicide in 2014 shocked many members of the city's restaurant community. A fundraiser in 2015 helped establish a foundation in Gordon's honor to address depression among those suffering with neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, but another group of chefs wants to do more to raise awareness of the resources available to those suffering from depression.

"Chefs are supposed to be these big super men," Southern Goods executive chef/owner Lyle Bento tells CultureMap. "It can be hard to say, 'I need help.' I think that needs to be addressed."

Towards that end, Bento has rounded up a group of some of Houston's highest profile chefs, sommeliers, and bartenders for a fundraiser with a twist. Instead of the usual sit down dinner with multiple courses, Monday's event, dubbed The Tables Have Turned, will feature front of house professionals cooking the meal and chefs serving it at Bento's popular restaurant Southern Goods. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Depression and Bipolar Alliance of Greater Houston, which provides free and confidential support groups for individuals living with, or family and friends affected by, depression and bipolar disorders. 

Rather than take reservations, the night will operate like any other at the restaurant. Diners will show up without reservations and order from a special menu created by the front of house members who are working as cooks for the night. The staff won't know who's coming or when. 

Thankfully, Southern Goods's regular line cooks will also be on hand to make sure food gets out and the place doesn't burn down. After all, even the most charitably-minded of diners deserves to get their food eventually

"It's gonna be a train wreck, but that's kind of the point," Bento says. Hopefully it helps a few people, too.

Here's the full roster of participants in Monday's event:

Alex Gregg, co-owner/bartender: Moving Sidewalk
Matthew Pridgen, sommelier/general manager: Underbelly
Mike Sammons, co-owner/bartender: Weights + Measures, Mongoose versus Cobra, 13 Celsius
Evan Turner, sommelier/partner: Helen Greek Food & Wine
Chris Frankel, owner/bartender: Spare Key
Robin Wong, co-owner: Glitter Karaoke

Front of House
Patrick Feges, Southern Goods sous chef, and Erin Smith, bartender, Camerata
​Becky Masson, chef/owner: Fluff Bake Bar
Jody Stevens, chef/owner: Jodycakes
Adam Garcia, sous chef: Coltivare
Gary Ly, sous chef: Underbelly
Maitre d's: J.D. Woodward, Southern Goods chef de cuisine and Chris Shepherd, Underbelly chef/owner
Food runner: Brad Moore, co-owner Big Star Bar, Grand Prize, The Honeymoon, etc.

Lyle Bento, chef/owner: Southern Goods
David Cordua, executive chef: Cordua Restaurants
Peter Jahnke, sous chef: Oxheart