Chef Chat, Part 1: Greg Lowry of VOICE

Categories: Chef Chat

Chef Greg Lowry.jpg
It's been nearly a year since Greg Lowry took over as the executive chef at VOICE, and he has settled into the position with confidence and style.

Trained at Culinary Institute LeNĂ´tre with a specialization in French pastry, Lowry jhas had stints at Tony's, Farrago, Mulberry, Max's Wine Dive (the latter two in Austin), and, most recently, as executive sous chef at the short-lived but borderline legendary Rockwood Room. Eating Our Words recently sat down with Chef Lowry to discuss the evolution of the VOICE menu, the Toque 5 dinner series, growing up a Red Sox fan in Houston, and more.

EOW: When did you first know you wanted to be a chef?

GL: When I decided I disliked college. I'm not one to sit in a classroom; I'm a real hands-on learner. I was 19, and I had just started college when I injured my knee. I was a college soccer player, so I was trying to rehab my knee, travel with the team, train with the team, and keep my grades up, and it just got to be not what I wanted to do. I grew up in a heavily Italian family, and we were cooking from the time we could hold a spatula. And I'd worked in restaurants since I was 15, so I decided that culinary school was the way to go.

EOW: What was your first job at a restaurant?

GL: My first job was at Kelly's Del Frisco's Steakhouse out on FM 1960, which is no longer there. I think they got sued by Del Frisco's Double Eagle. But it was the premier fine-dining establishment for North Houston for a long time. I was the food runner - low man on the totem pole. It wasn't all that enjoyable, but I really liked being in the kitchen, watching the guys cook and seeing the energy that came out of it.

EOW: I understand VOICE just redesigned its menu. When Michael Kramer left VOICE last year, it was after the hotel announced it wanted to go in a more casual direction. What sort of parameters were you given when you came in, and how have things evolved since then?

GL: Some things had changed before I was brought in. When Kramer left, we had an interim chef -- a sous chef from one of our properties in California -- and the restaurant had just started doing a bento box concept called the VOICE box, which operationally was a nightmare. It was killing our PPA [per person average], because it was three courses for $29 as opposed to a steak for $29 plus a salad or appetizer or what have you. As of last Wednesday we decided to do away with that, and have replaced it with a new spring menu.

As for being "casual," we don't want to consider ourselves fine dining, but we still want to serve fine-dining food and have fine-dining service. We also want people to be able to come in wearing shorts and a T-shirt and enjoy dinner. And if they want a burger, they can have a burger. It's a hotel, so we've got to appeal to our entire clientele.

EOW: Why did you move away from being a pastry chef?

GL: I got burned out on it, to be honest. But having a pastry background is invaluable. Pastry teaches you a discipline that hot food doesn't, because everything is done by the recipe, as opposed to a little pinch here, a little pinch there. Baking is a science, and having that perspective is imperative. Pastry also allows you to balance your flavors and textures. I think you'll see that we have more textures than the average restaurant, and a lot of that comes from pastry concepts.

EOW: Is it difficult for you not to look over the shoulder of your pastry chef?

GL: Yes and no. She's pretty short, so it's easy to look over her shoulder. [pause for comic effect] No, she and I collaborate a lot. I give guidance; I don't like to tell her, "This is what you have to do." For the new menu, my sous chef, my chef de partie and I brainstormed and then we started cooking through stuff. It's not just me writing a menu and saying, all right, you guys go execute it. Same thing goes with pastry.

Tune in tomorrow for more with VOICE executive chef Greg Lowry.



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3 comments
jodycakes
jodycakes

Chef Greg is doing great things at Voice!!! Keep it up, chef!

puncha-you-face
puncha-you-face

"borderline legendary Rockwood Room?" you're kidding right? Maybe legendary for an executive chef who lost multiple jobs in this town.

Matthew Dresden
Matthew Dresden

I wasn't kidding, but I will cop to using an intentionally loaded term in "borderline legendary." Before it went supernova, the Rockwood Room received a lot of attention, not all of it positive, and provoked strong opinions, not all of them positive. And part of that surely stemmed from people's feelings about executive chef Michael Dei Maggi. So yes, your use of the word legendary is part of what I meant.

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