On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," chef Evelyn Garcia joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss her time on Top Chef Season 19 and her upcoming restaurant, Jūn by Kin. The conversation opens with Garcia explaining her decision to participate in the show and how she reacted when she found out it would be filmed in her hometown of Houston.
The conversation touches on a number of topics, including Garcia's status as the unofficial "tour guide" for her fellow cheftestants, her favorite dishes from the various challenges, and when she started thinking about the dishes she served during the final episode. Sandler asks the chef about her emotional interviews where she wasn't afraid to get a little weepy.
"Guys were like, 'oh, I'd never cry on TV.' I was, like, whatever. I don't care," Garcia says. "This is who I am. I feel all the emotions, and I feel all the emotions now. If I'm not trying to hold back in my cooking, I was like I'm not holding back on being me."
The conversation concludes with Garcia discussing Jūn by Kin, the restaurant in The Heights she's opening with her business partner Henry Lu. She explains Lu's role in the project and describes the process of recruiting him to move from New York to Houston. Sandler asks about how the cuisine will be different from her stint at Decatur Bar & Pop-Up Factory, the innovative concept that closed in 2019.
"As we've seen in the show, it's very important for me to connect with my food. It's part of my philosophy and the way that I cook. That's the core of what Jun is going to be," she says.
"It's going to speak to my story, Henry's story. We're both first-generation American. I'm Mexican-Salvadorian. He's Chinese American via New York. We're calling it 'New Asian American,' because it's inspired by Asian flavors but Henry has a lot of influence from Peruvian flavors. His ceviches are killers. It's really going to speak a lot to Houston and really going to connect to us."
Prior to the interview, Sandler and co-host Matt Harris discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: the Texas winners of this year's James Beard Awards; Phat Eatery's plans to open a new location in The Woodlands; Ronnie Killen hiring former J-Bar-M Barbecue chefs Willow Villarreal and Jasmine Barela; and globally-renown South African restaurant Nando's Peri-Peri's upcoming entrance into the Houston market.
In the restaurant of the week segment, Sandler and Harris discuss their recent meal at Hugo's. Listen to the full episode to hear why the Houston classic might be better than ever.