What's Eric Eating Episodes 290 and 291
On this week’s episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” Chris Shepherd joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss all of the changes the James Beard Award-winning chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and media personality has made in the past year.
That starts with his decision to leave Underbelly Hospitality, the Houston restaurant group he founded that operates establishments such as Georgia James, Wild Oats, and Underbelly Burger. Shepherd shares why the time was right to move on and discusses some of the personnel who are still in place ensuring the restaurants operate at high standards.
From there, the conversation turns to the Southern Smoke Foundation, the non-profit Shepherd founded to provide emergency assistance to hospitality workers. He shares some of his observations from traveling the country on the organization’s behalf and discusses some of the chef he’s most excited to have participating in this year’s Southern Smoke Festival.
The chef made some news this week when he announced Eat Like a Local, his new TV show that will debut in September on KPRC 2. Sandler asks him about the show’s approach — including why you won’t see Shepherd cooking on air. He also shares some of the topics he plans to feature on the show, such as the connection between Lebanese shawarma and Mexican pastor and the way Barrier Beauties cultivates its oysters.
Shepherd has also kept a foot in the culinary world by consulting for clients in California. Sandler asks if those experiences, and recent restaurant openings by chefs such as Terrence Gallivan (ElRo Pizza & Crudo) and Lucas McKinney (Josephine’s, a seafood restaurant in Midtown that had an invite-only preview last weekend) have inspired him to open a new restaurant.
“It’s a different world, for sure. I’m finding my footing in doing other cool things that still go back to cooking and restaurants. I get that itch scratched a little bit, but I still like to do dinner service for two,” he says. “[My wife and I] talk about it. I’m not going to say it won’t ever happen, but right now I’m finding the things that really engage me. It helps me be a better steward of the community.”
Listen to the full episode to hear Shepherd share the moment at last year’s Southern Smoke Festival that moved him to tears. He also talks about his time as CultureMap's Wine Guy.
Prior to the interview, Sandler and co-host Linda Salinas discuss the news of the week. Their topics include West U. restaurant El Topo partnering with Benjy Levit to rebrand; The Burger Joint expanding to the Rice Village area; and CounterCommon Beerworks & Kitchen closing after only a year of operations.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Salinas and Sandler discuss their visits to Citizens, the New York City-based Australian-inspired coffee shop and cafe that recently opened in Montrose. Then, they share thoughts about a the tasting menu at Musaafer, the Indian fine dining restaurant in the Galleria.