Houston’s top chefs–who are just as interested in showcasing other independently-owned restaurants as their own–continue their mission into 2013 to introduce locals and visitors alike to the Texas town’s culinary diversity by showing participants where they themselves eat on their days off.
This program gives participants intimate knowledge about the city and its diverse cultures: unexplored neighborhoods, “undiscovered” restaurants and markets that contribute to the locally-driven menus of each chef.
Several Houston culinary legends have joined the tours this year. James Beard nominated chefs Robert del Grande, Anita Jaisinghani and Levi Goode will all be leading tours, in addition to The Next Iron Chef’s Bryan Caswell, Top Chef Masters’ Monica Pope and Top Chef Just Desserts’ Rebecca Masson. Additional tastemakers have been incorporated into the program, including Saint Arnold Brewing Company founder Brock Wagner.
The Houston Culinary Tours, limited to 16 participants each, are $180 per person (includes tastings at each stop, complimentary local Saint Arnold’s beer, “limobus” transportation and gift bag). Proceeds from the tours benefit Foodways Texas, a nonprofit organization founded by several of the participating chefs to preserve, promote and celebrate the diverse food cultures of Texas. Central Market is the presenting sponsor for the third year in a row.
January 13: Farm with Randy Evans, Claire Smith and Monica Pope
Get outta town! Canopy and Shade Chef Claire Smith, Chef Randy Evans of Haven restaurant and Sparrow Bar + Cookshop’s Monica Pope venture beyond the Loop to celebrate all things locally-grown. Visit each of the chefs’ favorite farms for pick-your-own produce and a tour of the land. Then, chase down some of Houston’s top food trucks known for their locally-sourced cuisine.
January 20 – Korean with Chris Shepherd and Ryan Pera
Join Chef Ryan Pera of Revival Market and Underbelly’s Chef Chris Shepherd as they spotlight the ‘underbelly’ of Korean cuisine in Houston. Guests will go beyond barbecue, discovering traditional Korean fare in everything from a classic noodle house and Korean sushi bar to a Long Point Road mainstay and authentic Korean grocery store. Live octopus, anyone?
February 17 – Oyster with Bryan Caswell and Robb Walsh
Catch the bus when cookbook author Robb Walsh and Chef Bryan Caswell of Reef set out in search of all-things oyster. Discover where to find the best bounty in the city, helpful shucking tips and get a lesson on the difference between East Coast and Gulf varieties. Caswell and Walsh will also highlight the local seafood counters selling Galveston Bay oysters, before bellying up to a few H-Town oyster bars for a taste of the sought-after seafood.
March 17 – Seafood with Bryan Caswell and Levi Goode
Celebrate living along the Gulf Coast with a seafood-filled day in the city. Ride along with avid fisherman and Reef Chef Bryan Caswell, as he teams up with Goode Company president Levi Goode for an exploration of Houston’s top seafood selections. Among the day’s stops, guests will check out a soul food spot that draws crowds for its crab claws and rich gumbo, dig into top-notch sushi and discover where the chefs shop for the best catch in town.
April 21 – Vietnamese with Ryan Pera and Monica Pope
As home to the largest Vietnamese population in Texas and the third-largest in the U.S., it’s safe to say that Houston is well-versed in the art of Vietnamese culture and cuisine. Chef Ryan Pera of Revival Market and Chef Monica Pope of Sparrow Bar + Cookshop share their favorite spots to find pho, bo bia and banh mì.
May 19 – Pig with Chris Shepherd and Robert del Grande
Pigs have recently been on the front burner of some of the nation’s most sought-after kitchens-much to the dismay of animals of the porcine variety. But these days, the culinary masterminds are leaving little behind, thanks to an emphasis on nose-to-tail cooking and a little epicurean wherewithal. Tag along with Underbelly’s Chef Chris Shepherd and RDG + Bar Annie’s Robert del Grande as they share their favorite places to find, buy and delight in the city’s best pork. Head to a sustainable shop in the Heights to learn about locally raised heritage pigs, before heading out in the city to taste how different cultures put their spin on the savory meat.
June 23 – Taco with Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan
Any local can tell you, regular taco consumption just goes with the territory in H-Town. But around here, the sizzling fajitas have to share the spotlight with more than just Tex-Mex. Ride along with The Pass and Provisions’ Chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan as they spotlight the rolled-and-wrapped fare in Houston. From breakfast tacos and barbacoa varieties to Korean lettuce-wraps and taqueria-style selections, guests will walk away with a whole new appreciation for the take-along treat.
July 21 – Long Point Road with Bryan Caswell and Chris Shepherd
Anyone that’s ever driven down Long Point Road in West Houston’s Spring Branch district knows that it’s a melting pot for the city’s culinary scene. Join Underbelly’s Chef Chris Shepherd and Chef Bryan Caswell of Reef as they guide guests on a diverse and well-edited selection of their favorite undiscovered hole-in-the-walls. From wallet-friendly taco trucks and authentic Thai food to Korean barbecue and Korean fried chicken, it’s an eclectic mix of cuisines that are sure to please.
August 18 – Vegetarian with Robert del Grande and Anita Jaisinghani
Going meatless in the Lone Star State isn’t always easy, but Indika’s chef Anita Jaisinghani and Chef Robert Del Grande of RDG + Bar Annie are teaming up to prove Texas can turn out vegetarian fare just as well as anyone. Hop on the bus as both James Beard-nominated chefs share their favorite meatless menus in the city and point out the traditional places that knock vegetarian offerings out of the park. From Indian dosas and a Vietnamese mainstay to traditional basen ladoo at a 100 percent vegetarian-owned biz, guests will delight in a diverse mix of animal-free delicacies.
September 22 -BBQ with Levi Goode and Robb Walsh
Goode Company president Levi Goode and Legends of Texas Barbecue cookbook author Robb Walsh team up to showcase the most interesting barbecue Houston has to offer. Get ready for an array of offerings from Tex-Mex barbacoa tacos to interior Mexican, cabrito al pastor and lamb barbacoa, to falling-off-the-bone ribs and dirty rice at a family-owned, Bayou City-staple.
October 13 – Brewery with Rebecca Masson, Kevin Floyd and Brock Wagner
Spend the day brewery hopping with Fluff Bake Bar’s Rebecca Masson, Hay Merchant’s Kevin Floyd and Brock Wagner, the founder of Saint Arnold-Texas’ oldest craft brewery. From grain to glass, guests will get an inside glimpse at the beer-making process at four of Houston’s most ground-breaking breweries. To round out the experience, a handful of the city’s top food trucks will be on site to serve up savory street fare with a modern twist. Discover everything from a mobile pizza biz and Vietnamese vendor to a sassy sandwich maker and comfort food truck.
October 27 – Day of the Dead with Hugo Ortega and David Cordua
Join restaurateur-chef Hugo Ortega–of Montrose’s Hugo’s–and Chef David Cordua of Americas for an afternoon filled with cuisine and culture. Stop by the Museum District where a local gallery celebrates art, music and the practices of Mexico during a series of Día de los Muertos events. Later, the group will dig into savory snapper a la plancha at a Mexican mainstay, take a guided tour of Airline Market and swing by a Heights bakery for pan de los muertos.
November 9 – Southern Comfort with Randy Evans and Rebecca Masson
Take a trip down memory lane and enjoy the best homestyle fare the city has to offer. Haven’s Chef Randy Evans and Fluff Bake Bar’s Rebecca Masson take guests on a tour of the comfort food restaurants that take them back to their childhood. From a momma-approved pie shop and a Cajun-inspired soul food joint to an old-fashioned fried chicken spot and an old-school barbecue classic, guests will be treated to all of the true flavors of the south.
December 8 – Chinatown with Justin Yu and Ryan Pera
Grab a seat alongside Oxheart’s Justin Yu and Ryan Pera of Revival Market as they share the secrets and standouts of both Houston’s Chinatowns. Join them as they highlight delicious dim sum destinations and visit a couple of Vietnamese outposts known for their bahn cuon, bánh mì and spicy crawfish. Plus, learn the ins and outs of navigating one of the largest Asian markets in the city.
(Photo courtesy of Houston Culinary Tours)