What's Eric Eating Episodes 341 and 342
Acclaimed Houston Thai restaurant's dynamic duo dishes on Beard Award win and more
On this week’s episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” Street to Kitchen owners Benchawan Jabthong Painter and Graham Painter join CultureMap food editor to discuss their award-winning Thai restaurant. Last year, Benchawan, known to friends and colleagues as “Chef G,” won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Texas.
The conversation begins with the couple telling the story of how they met. After living in Asian for several years, they moved to Houston to be closer to Graham’s family. That’s when Chef G began working at Houston restaurants including SaltAir Seafood Kitchen and Theodore Rex. After building a following through pop-ups, events, and a weekly stand at the Urban Harvest farmers market, the couple opened Street to Kitchen’s original location in an East End gas station in the summer of 2020.
Since the location had been a fast food fried chicken franchise, Graham insisted that Chef G serve Thai fried chicken at Street to Kitchen. As he explains, it almost “cost me my marriage.” Chef says she understood serving the dish would come with a lot of challenges.
“I know we have a lot of fried chicken in the neighborhood, but there wasn’t any Thai food,” she says. “I talked to Graham, I said, ‘you won’t make any profit, and you have to have a lot of space.’ I tried to talk him out of it, but he was really sure.”
“We thought people would be fresh to what we’ve offered, and there’s no better catalyst than fried chicken,” Graham says. “The thought was, I’ll win you over with fried chicken, and hopefully you’ll start trying some of the things you’re less familiar with. The opposite happened. The neighborhood has been supportive from the get-go, but the majority of people were coming from Urban Harvest. Cypress, Rice Village, Galveston — we couldn’t believe it. They were getting fried chicken, but they were also getting noodles, curries, and everything else.”
Needless to say, Chef G got her way. Fried chicken is no longer on the menu, and Graham doesn’t tell her what to cook anymore.
Listen to the full episode to hear the couple discuss The Prsv, the tasting menu restaurant they operate in collaboration with Eculent chef-owner David Skinner. They also talk about the experience of winning the Beard award and their aspirations for the future.
In this week’s other episode, Sandler and co-host Mary Clarkson discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: Bar Bludorn, chef Aaron Bludorn’s new restaurant coming soon to Memorial; chef Kaitlin Steets leaving Theodore Rex; and a new Japanese restaurant coming to the former One Fifth space in Montrose.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Clarkson and Sandler discuss their recent meals at two Thai restaurants. First, they share thoughts on Street to Kitchen’s new location in the Plant mixed-use development. Then, they discuss the highs and lows of a dinner at MaKiin, an upscale restaurant in Upper Kirby.