Chef Chat, Part 1: Joe Apa of Rudz
Sitting at the bar at Rudz, I noticed that Chef Joe Apa was having one of his epic beer tastings on Valentine's Day, serving five courses paired with beer. I had never been to one of these events, which usually fall on the last Thursday of the month. The dinner started and ended with several beers and plates that all complemented each other -- at times, it was hard to believe we were at Rudz. The food was gourmet and brilliantly conceived: truffle egg toasts, a celery soup with an amazing Bosque blue cheese from Houston Dairymaids that was paired with an unbelievably good Porter. There was even a perfectly braised lamb shank that was so big, the bone hung over the edge of the plate. I needed to interview Joe Apa.
I entered Rudz on a weekday, and he was sitting at a table drinking coffee and staring at his laptop. He said he'd spent 22 years in Austin honing his craft -- at Jeffries as well as Mars, one of my favorite restaurants of all time -- before coming to Houston, where he has been a caterer and personal chef and worked for Monica Pope. I asked him how he scored the awesome job of being the chef/beer taster for Rudz, and he made it sound like he sat at the bar long enough that they offered him a job. He's now done 39 beer dinners and is sourcing out local craft beers to use in them, including St. Arnold's, Shiner and Southern Star.
As we started tasting beers and eating fried-oyster nachos that were perfect and out-of-this-world scrumptious, we chatted. "I like hanging out with Jeff Boudroux at Alabama Ice House and eating tacos," Apa told me, adding that working at Rudz is the best job in the world. "I got food, great beer and music. There is an art to creating the perfect burger."
EOW: What's a typical day like for you at Rudz?
JA: I usually start by checking emails and going over invoices. Then I cut meat and make sauces. Fridays and Saturdays I will expo and run food. If there is a show upstairs, like the Sword, I will go up and watch it.
EOW: What other restaurant do you like to eat at?
JA: Vieng Thai, when I need a Thai fix.
EOW: What is the best part of your Job?
JA: The crazy staff that entertains me!
EOW: How many beer tasting have you done at Rudz?
JA: Valentines Day made 39 and we have never repeated a beer.
EOW: Are there any beers you have used for the tasting that have stood out?
JA: The Real Ale Barley Wine and the two-year-old, cask-conditioned Sisyphus.
Check back tomorrow, when Apa and I drink more beer and decide to embark on impromptu road trip.