Market Watch

Houston celebrity chef teases future of highly anticipated farmers market

Houston celeb chef teases future of highly anticipated farmers market

Houston Farmers Market front entrance
The work is going on to transform the Houston Farmers Market.  Courtesy of MLB Capital Partners

Plans are still underway to transform the Houston Farmers Market. Announced last year by MLB Capital Partners, the process will convert the currently shabby facility, better known as the Canino’s market after its largest vendor, into a “destination retail experience offering more diversified products, renovated facilities and community programming.”

Other than an animation that showed more detail about the plans, the project has been mostly quiet, with little word from MLB about when construction might begin. However, that doesn’t mean things aren’t happening behind the scenes. Chris Shepherd, chef-owner of Underbelly Hospitality (UB Preserv, Georgia James, etc.), and his business partner Kevin Floyd are consulting on the project. They’ll be helping select vendors and working on the overall layout of the 18-acre tract on Airline just south of 610.

Floyd recently told the Houston Business Journal that he and Shepherd have two projects lined up for 2019 and 2020 but didn’t offer any details. 

“Now when people call me asking if I want to look at a piece of real estate, I tell them, 'Sure, if you're cool with me doing 2021. If you're not, I don't want to talk to you because I'm never going to do two major projects in a year again,’” Floyd said.

When CultureMap interviewed Shepherd about the opening of his new steakhouse Georgia James, we asked Shepherd what he and Floyd are working on for the next two years. The James Beard Award winner revealed that his role at the market will have his attention in the coming months.

“We’re working on the market. That’s going to consume a lot of time,” Shepherd says. “That’s the projects I’m looking at right now. I want to make sure the market is the best it can be. That’s going to take up a lot of my time in the next couple years.”

Currently, the project is still in the design phase. The owners are assessing what the various need and space requirements are for the type of tenants they hope to attract. Eventually, they’ll start soliciting proposals. Once that happens, things should move more quickly.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity for really cool things to happen there as far as what vendors go in, trying to get actual farmers in there, too,” Shepherd says. “I need a seafood guy and a meat guy [and others] to be a sustainable market. It’s just having conversations and seeing how we go.”

From the chef’s perspective, the biggest problem isn’t that process appears to be moving slowly from an outsider’s perspective. It’s that he has to attend so many meetings.

“Eric, I fucking hate meetings,” Shepherd says. “If I can’t get it done in 10 minutes, I’m pretty much fading. It’s just my lifestyle. Let’s cut this real quick and we’ll go.”

Whether he likes it or not, the meetings will go on. Eventually, more news will come on the market’s transformation. For now, just know the people who are responsible for the transformation are putting in the time to make sure it's done right.