Chris Shepherd Makes Big Changes to His Restaurants

With new restaurants on the way, Underbelly Hospitality announced on Tuesday some major changes to its internal structure. Namely, chef/owner Chris Shepherd has shifted from the executive chef role at his restaurants, though he will consult with each chef on his menu.

“The company is growing, and this has been the plan all along,” Shepherd said in a press release. “My job now is to support the next generation of restaurant leaders. Each of these people have shown integrity, compassion, skill and empathy and have worked through so many challenges this year. I can’t wait to see what they’ll accomplish next.”

Here’s what the new structure looks like:

Georgia James, Hay Merchant: Greg Peters, former chef de cuisine of Georgia James, is now the executive chef of both restaurants. Jeff Taylor, former general manager of Georgia James, is now the general manager of both restaurants. Ben Snellenberger, former executive chef of Calle Onze and sous chef of Coltivare, is the now sous chef of Georgia James.

UB Preserv: Nick Wong is now the executive chef of the restaurant. Tara MacMullen, former service director of Momofuku restaurants, is now the general manager of the restaurant.

These changes come as Underbelly readies for the opening of Wild Oats at the new Houston Farmers Market, where Nick Fine will serve as executive chef and partner when it’s unveiled this summer, and Downtown’s Georgia James Tavern, where Matt Coburn will serve as chef de cuisine when it opens in late spring or early summer. Also, One Fifth is scheduled to close its doors at the end of September.

Plus, Shepherd is involved in a 5,000-square-foot, live-fire-focused restaurant set to open in late 2021 at Regent Square in the Allen Parkway corridor.

Of course, Tuesday’s news is big for Peters and Wong, who will get to direct Georgia James and UB Preserv in a way that matches their visions for the restaurants.

“With this change, I hope to really push forward with solidifying who we are as a restaurant and establishing our voice here in the community, while still respecting where we came from,” said Wong in a press release. 

The Roastery, a coffee concept from a chef group known as Four J—Jonathan Waxman, Jimmy Bradley, Joey Campanaro, and Jason Giagrande—announced Tuesday that on Sunday it would close its locations, which are inside select H-E-B stores across the Houston area. 

“We’re incredibly appreciative of all the support that you’ve shown us and hope that we’ve contributed a small amount of happiness to your days,” read a post on social media Tuesday. The post adds that The Roastery will look “to relocate in the near future to continue to serve our Houston family.”

The Roastery began operations in fall 2018 and expanded into multiple H-E-B locations through the beginning of 2019.

“H-E-B has thoroughly enjoyed The Roastery concept within our stores and we wish the team the best in their future endeavors,” read a statement from Lisa Helfman, public affairs director of H-E-B Houston. “We are working through plans for the space and will share details when appropriate. H-E-B is always open to adding new Partners (employees) as opportunities exist and is happy to work with The Roastery employees to determine if options fit within our stores.”

Julep owner Alba Huerta and Luis Villegas, owner of Big Ice HTX, have created a pop-up retail shop for cocktails.

Called Ready to Drink, the store is located in the private room off of the Julep patio (1919 Washington Ave.), and featured 100 bottled classic and modern cocktails. It also sells large-format ice and cocktail-themed accessories (think prosecco gummies, negroni soap, whiskey-flavored popcorn, jiggers, shakers, and more).

There’s also boozy ice cream on offer, and you can buy some of the best cocktail books around (including Huerta’s Julep: Southern Cocktails Refashioned). 

“The pandemic forced us to get creative in so many ways,” said Huerta in a press release. “The idea of a pop-up shop was a great way for us to create an alternative revenue stream during a time when bars were closed, and now that we’ve reopened, this shop complements what we’re doing inside the bar at Julep so beautifully.”

Ready to Drink is open from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

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