On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Tasos Katsaounis, Christopher "Chico" Ramirez, and Scott Simonson join CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss White Elm Cafe Bakery. Newly opened in the Memorial area, White Elm unites Katsaounis, the founder of Bread Man Baking Company, with Ramirez, a co-founder of The Boot and Field & Tides, and Simonson, who owns Humble's acclaimed French restaurant Chez Nous with his wife, chef Stacy Simonson.
Ramirez begins the interview by explaining how he saw an opportunity for a French-influenced neighborhood cafe with a full pastry program. He recruited the three other partners and built a team with chef de cuisine Jesus Salinas (Field & Tides), general manager Richard Brown (Guard & Grace), and executive pastry chef Jamie Orlacchio (La Table). The Simonsons contributed an array of dishes ranging from a banh mi sandwich made with duck confit to pizzas topped with lamb meatballs and pan-seared Gulf snapper. Katsaounis added an array of pastries that Bread Man couldn't sell via its traditional wholesale channels, such as the PRW croissant (filled with pistachio pastry cream) and the Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek dish made with crispy filo dough and semolina custard.
Simonson mentions that he and Stacy have a number of ideas for how the menu could be expanded or even tweaked to suit the tastes of different neighborhoods. That prompts Sandler to ask Ramirez if he expects to open multiple locations.
"I'm a big believer in the whole city," Ramirez says. "I've spent the last 10 years running restaurants in a pretty specific geographic area, but looking at areas like the westside, here in Memorial, further west to Katy, up north in Kingwood . . . Pearland, Sugar Land, these are all parts of town that have the same demographics, the same families, the same incomes as any part of Houston that deserve this same type of food. I see absolutely no reason not to take this concept, once we've dialed it in, and take it to as many places as will have us."
Prior to the interview, Houston BBQ Festival co-founder Michael Fulmer joins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: the recent acquisition of two locations of Liberty Kitchen by State Fare owner Culinary Khancepts; the prospects for Acadian Coast, a new seafood restaurant coming to the Second Ward; and Riel chef Ryan Lachaine's new sandwich concept, Louie's.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Fulmer and Sandler share first impressions of Street to Kitchen, a newly opened Thai restaurant in the East End, and rave about their recent meal at Rosie Cannonball in Montrose.