Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company has tapped one of Houston’s hottest rising star chefs to lead the restaurant it’s opening at its massive new brewery in Sawyer Yards. When the $14 million, 28,000-square-foot, three-story complex’s 200-seat restaurant opens later this summer, patrons will feast on food created by executive chef Arash Kharat.
Yes, that means Kharat will depart his current post as the executive chef at Beaver’s in mid-June to assume his new role. While the relationship has been mutually beneficial for both parties — Kharat has grown his reputation from a pop-up legend to a widely recognized culinary talent and Beaver’s move to Briargrove has been successful — the chef tells CultureMap he couldn’t pass on the position.
“Whenever I found out that the vision of what they wanted to do and seeing the space, it just hit me. This is going to be a great place for me,” Kharat says. “Beaver’s has been my little baby for the last couple of years; I was really torn. I had to take this chance and take this opportunity.”
That opportunity centers around the vision that Buffalo Bayou founder and CEO Rassul Zarinfar and director of hospitality Daut Elshani have for the restaurant. Put simply, they wanted to hire someone who could bring the same level of creativity to the brewery’s food that already exists in its brews.
“On the beer side, we’re taking really intense flavor theory and combining it and twisting it around where you haven't seen beer expressed,” Zarinfar says. “Houston is such a culinary city, if you phone it in with a burger, wings and pizzas, it’s disrespectful to the whole community . . . This culinary scene is on fire. We want to contribute to it.”
Elshani says he interviewed dozens of people for the position, but Kharat’s history with the brewery — he worked with the Blood Bros going back to their monthly pop-ups there, has hosted Buffalo Bayou beer dinners at Beaver's, and even smoked the malt for the brewery's Smoke on the Bayou Scotch ale — gave him an edge when it came to understand the brewery’s ambitions for its culinary efforts.
“Bringing Arash in, honestly, the timing could not have been any better,” Elshani says. “Once we met a couple times, we instantly just clicked on our vision of what we want to do for the Houston culinary scene. Our brewtopia, what our vision is with that, what kind of food and menu we want to present and not be a typical brewery that serves up a typical brewpub menu.”
The biggest change from Kharat's work at Beaver’s will be a move away from the Central Texas-style barbecue that he's become known for. Instead, dishes at the brewery will likely feature a smoked element. In addition, he'll also be able to indulge the passion for pizza he's been displaying on Instagram. Dishes he created for events like the Houston Barbecue Festival or The Butcher's Ball could find permanent places on the BuffBrew menu.
"Stuff that I played around with at Beaver’s. Maybe it didn’t perform well there," Kharat says. "It might perform better at a different arena; the birria tacos, something like that would complement great beer."
Best of all, Kharat is leaving Beaver's on good terms. Co-owner Jon Deal is also the developer of Sawyer Yards; as he notes, his office is within sight of Buffalo Bayou's new facility.
“We consider ourselves fortunate to have had Arash on our team at Beaver's for the past two-and-a-half years and wish him the best in the new venture. He left his mark and set a higher standard for team Beaver's to follow," Deal said in a statement.
As Saint Arnold demonstrated last year, a brewery's restaurant can become incredibly popular if the design, food, and service are well-executed. With Elshani and Kharat in place, Buffalo Bayou has clearly demonstrated its ambition to meet or exceed that standard. If it all goes according to plan, it will be an exciting addition to Houston's food scene.