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TXChef5: Mutt City Cuisine: Chris Shepherd

Seared White Gulf Shrimp and Pimento Cheese Grits

It’s hard to figure out where Texas cooking is headed right now. There are a lot of different trends going on and they have little to do with each other. In fact, sometimes it seems like the chefs in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin arrived here from different planets. In this series, I’ll check out food from some hot Texas chefs and look for clues about the big picture.

Chris Shepherd's pulled chicken salad with nuoc cham

Chris Shepherd’s menu at Underbelly is a cultural mash-up: there’s Germanic “Pork Schnitzel and Caraway Braised Red Cabbage,” Southern “Gulf Shrimp and Pimento Grits” a Nawlins via Tokyo “Waygu Beef Debris Po’ Boy,” East Texas “Biscuits and Gravy” served in a black cast iron skillet, and spicy “Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings,” to name a few. Toppings include Creme Fraiche, Buttermilk Dressing, Aioli and Japanese Kewpie Mayo. The top of the menu at Underbelly reads in part: “We hope you will enjoy Chris Shepherd’s refined take on Houston’s New American Creole Cuisine.”

So what exactly is this New Creole Cuisine?
read more TXChef5: Mutt City Cuisine: Chris Shepherd »

TXChefs4: Haute Heritage: Tim Byres

Chicken Scratch tenders

It’s hard to figure out where Texas cooking is headed right now. There are a lot of different trends going on and they have little to do with each other. In fact, sometimes it seems like the chefs in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin arrived here from different planets. In this series, I’ll check out food from some hot Texas chefs and look for clues about the big picture.

At his Dallas restaurant, Smoke, Tim Byres weds Texas barbecue with fine dining. The kitchen at Smoke is dominated by the enormous A.N. Bewley wood-burning pit and there is always something cooking inside it. The dinner menu features:

“Pulled All Natural Whole Hog, NC Style with Blue Cheese Slaw; Texas BBQ Coffee Cured Beef Brisket with Bread/Butter Pickles & Mustard Seed Potato Salad; Dry Rubbed Pork Spare Ribs with Mac n Cheese & Pickled Green Beans; and Smoked Berkshire Pork Chop with Apricot Preserve, Potato Dumplings, Wilted Greens & Unfiltered Green Olive Oil.

On the side, there’s housemade pickles, and an assortment of sophisticated barbecue sauces.

An appetizer of three kinds of housemade smoked sausage includes a stunning rabbit sausage. By adding blue cheese to the cole slaw and making wilted greens with expensive olive oil, Byres transforms heritage recipes into fine dining with a single wave of the magic whisk.

Tim Byres at Chicken Scratch


read more TXChefs4: Haute Heritage: Tim Byres »

TXChefs3: Trashfish Creole: Bryan Caswell and Felipe Riccio

It’s hard to figure out where Texas cooking is headed right now. There are a lot of different trends going on and they have little to do with each other. In fact, sometimes it seems like the chefs in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin arrived here from different planets. In this series, I’ll check out food from some hot Texas chefs and look for clues about the big picture.

Felipe Riccio’s “Rainbow Runner-Mayhaw Ceviche” appetizer at Reef in Houston, is a marvel. It combines two unique ingredients in a sensational dish that neatly sums up the restaurant’s philosophy.

read more TXChefs3: Trashfish Creole: Bryan Caswell and Felipe Riccio »

TexChefs2: Rootsy Radical: Matt McCallister

It’s hard to figure out where Texas cooking is headed right now. There are a lot of different trends going on and they have little to do with each other. In fact, sometimes it seems like the chefs in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin arrived here from different planets. In this series, I’ll check out food from some hot Texas chefs and look for clues about the big picture.

Chef Matt McAllister


Chef Matt McCallister served lunch at Springdale Farm in Austin during the Foodways Texas Symposium last month. It was the first time I got a chance to sample the Dallas wunderkind’s cuisine. The salad was made from vegetables and flowers picked minutes ago from plants growing in the urban farm where we were seated. “Roots, leaves, stems, soil,” read the menu description.

I watched as the salads were assembled by McCallister and his volunteer assistants. You sure can’t call this tweezer food–the chef encouraged his helpers not to waste time arranging things, but rather to put the ingredients randomly around the plate. Carrots, kohlrabi and beets were the roots, the leaves included dinosaur kale, chard and lettuce, dill and other herbs were the stems. The soil was an amazing blend of brown powders including sumac (a Middle Eastern ingredient sometimes used in zaatar), cocoa powder, nuts and spices. Olive oil powder was sprinkled here and there among the vegetables–it turned slippery when you reconstituted it in your mouth.

read more TexChefs2: Rootsy Radical: Matt McCallister »

TexChefs1: Molecular Cowboys: Stephan Pyles and David Gilbert

It’s hard to figure out where Texas cooking is headed right now. There are a lot of different trends going on and they have little to do with each other. In fact, sometimes it seems like the chefs in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin arrived here from different planets. In this series, I’ll check out food from some hot Texas chefs and look for clues about the big picture.

Arctic Char with Bananas and Apple Slice

The title on the menu at the new restaurant in the Elian Hotel in the Hill Country outside of San Antonio reads: “Sustenio, Modern Southwestern Cuisine by Stephan Pyles.” The test tube full of melon puree had a capsule inside that exploded in my mouth as I drank it–it was melon juice. The flavor reminded me it would soon be time for Pecos cantaloupes. The crispy-skinned arctic char with creamy rutabaga puree, freeze-dried banana chunks and a glazed apple slice with a perfect star in the middle was wonderful. Though it brought to mind the question that restaurant critics and chefs in Texas used to grapple with: “What makes this dish ‘Southwestern?’”

read more TexChefs1: Molecular Cowboys: Stephan Pyles and David Gilbert »