Stella Sola: Behind the Review

Categories: Restaurant News

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Photos by Troy Fields
Cheese those meatballs!
What happens when the chef de cuisine at a chef-driven restaurant -- the man who, in Stella Sola's case, runs the kitchen on a day-to-day basis -- tenders his resignation after you've already written your review?

You rewrite it. Mostly.

Especially when it contains lines like, "And considering that Basye wasn't the restaurant's first chef de cuisine (the original partnership with chef Jason Gould fell apart days before the restaurant opened), it's a tribute to Basye's young talent that I can't even picture Stella Sola without him."

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So much wine, so little time.
The truth is that now I do have to picture Stella Sola without one of the most talented young chefs in the city at the wheel. But I'm enthusiastic about his replacement, Adam Dorris. And as much as I thought the original idea of Bryan Caswell and Bill Floyd -- Stella Sola's owners -- leaving Basye to his own devices in the massive kitchen was an intriguing and exciting idea, I think promoting Dorris to the chef de cuisine position was an equally smart move.

And the real truth is that many more of the things I love about Stella Sola won't be affected all that much by Basye's departure. The wine list that's creative and well-priced under the stewardship of sommelier Nathan Smith; the relaxed bar area and excellent cocktails; the dining room that's both impressive enough for a fancy dinner yet comfortable enough for a lazy brunch with friends; these things will stay intact.

At least, one can hope. It's the nature of things in this industry, after all, where the only constant is change.

Not that change is a bad thing, of course. As the Upanishads teach us, creation comes out of an act of destruction. In the same way that I'm excited to see Chef Chris Shepherd "destroy" Catalan to create his own restaurant, Underbelly, I'm equally excited to see what newly appointed chef Brandi Key will make of Catalan's new incarnation, Coppa Ristorante Italiano.

And as much as I'll miss Justin Basye at Stella Sola, I'm just as intrigued to see what paths of creation he'll take here in Houston and to see what young Adam Dorris makes of the place now.

For more photos from Stella Sola's busy kitchen, check out our slideshow. And be sure to read the review itself here.



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Location Info

Stella Sola - CLOSED

1001 Studewood, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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29 comments
Oakie
Oakie

Perhaps some of the misgivings laced throughout these comments are based on truth. As a frequenter of many restaurants and an individual that is far from a reviewer/blogger/tweeter/whatever else, I hope my opinions are fair and unbiased. By not being in the limelight I am not friends with JB, WW or AD. Our dear friend Ms. Shilcutt, by her mere title, runs into these individuals more. Not to say she is a mouthpiece, but rather, reviewing a friend unfavorably and objectively is much more difficult than for someone without connection. I love Caswell's group and what they're done for our city's food scene. I have been a number of times to "Lone Star" and find the food good, not great. It is not in my rotation of top Houston restaurants. That's me, disagree as you wish, but we are all title to our opinions. Concerning those opinions, perhaps Ms. Shilcutt is slightly biased by proximity to the chefs, I know that if I discussed underwear sizes with someone and then reviewed their restaurant, it would pose it much more difficult to give them a poor review. Katherine is one of my favorite reads, but it all comes with a grain of salt. http://blogs.houstonpress.com/... " I ended up on the back porch at Grand Prize Bar (1010 Banks, 713-526-4565) smoking cigarettes -- I don't smoke -- and yelling at Justin Basye for interrupting a conversation I was having with a ladyfriend of mine about bra fittings. I blame the four successive shots of Fernet Branca that came after dinner." - KS

Ricardo Luna
Ricardo Luna

Just a reality check, today is Dining Out for Life, a national fundraiser for the AIDS Foundation. There are several Houston restuarants participating and they will donate a portion of their sales to the foundation. So today go out and eat while supporting a great cause. Our motto is "Eat a Burger, Save a Life!"

Peanutswirlfizz
Peanutswirlfizz

Think it's good (and accurate) to be optimistic about this place; Basye was a cool, soft-spoken cat who's talented, as is Dorris. It's striving to be better along the way, whichever way that is. Mangia, friends, without bittermelon in your craw!

Will Walsh
Will Walsh

Being that Adam Dorris is one of my best friends, not to mention my Ghetto Dinner brother-in-arms, one might say that I may be biased........ and they would be right. That being said I will congratulate another friend, JB, for everyhting he has created at Stella, but in the same breath applaud Bryan Caswell & Bill Floyd in their keen ability to recognize blossoming talent when they see it. Adam is not only a great chef, but an enthusiastic student of micro-regional Italian food & my favorite Charcutier around. I think that this will prove to be a great thing for Houston in the end, letting Justin Bayse spread his wings & at the same time allowing the city to be introduced to another local chef who, for lack of a cooler cliche, will knock their socks off. I am a dork & feel free to bash me all that you like....... Good day.

PM
PM

If you follow this blog and Houston food community at large, you would know that Adam Dorris has generated a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for his skills through his dinners at Grand Prize. The majority of attendees were probably in the food service industry or proximate to it. With that in mind, it's probably inaccurate to attribute the author's optimism to blind allegiance to "overblown epicurean egos in our city." Rather, perhaps she is genuinely curious about what a relative up-and-comer that has piqued a lot of interest can do with the resources and established platform that Stella Sola provides?

fallen souffle
fallen souffle

Funny how seemingly "bad" news about Stella Sola is almost immediately followed by spin in a positive, "feel-good" direction by EOW. Further evidence that this blog's authors (and I use the term very loosely) are largely mouthpieces for many of the overblown epicurean egos in our city.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Heh. Although if you'll read what you just quoted, I yelled at him for interrupting a conversation I was having - exclusive of him or anyone else - with my girlfriend. I certainly did not discuss underwear sizes with him, nor would I with any chef. Get tipsy with my friends at a bar? Yes, although I'm not proud of it. Talk about embarrassing situations openly so that our readers know I tell it like it is even when I'm not proud of myself? Absolutely.

Will Walsh
Will Walsh

Fallen Souflle, you are like the "epicurean" version of Christian Slater in Pump Up the Volume. Please let everyone know when the rally at the light tower will be so we can all fight the biased Food Parties agenda "Souffle" style. Man, do you do an "epicurean" bit similar to Gleaming the Cude for Food Trucks?????? That would be f**cking awesome!!!!!!!!!!

brandius
brandius

Funny how your seemingly "constructive" comment directed towards the author is almost immediately followed by a spin in a negative "fighting dirty" direction. Further evidence that you are kind of a dick (and I use the term very seriously).

(Hint: People in this thread do not like you as you have been trollin' up the joint. Dude, just go rub one out and chill.)

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Also, just because I'm feeling extra cheeky today, I find it very interesting, "fallen souffle," that you consistently chime in and comment negatively on any post having anything at all to do with Bryan Caswell, Jonathan Jones, Bobby Heugel or any of the city's more visible industry folks. And you have done so for at least the last year, according to your IP activity.

What should we call that? Being a reverse mouthpiece, maybe? I like that idea. Reverse mouthpiece.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I am fairly certain that if you tried to tell any of the chefs in Houston that I was their mouthpiece, they'd laugh you out of the restaurant.

Megan
Megan

Wow, "fallen souffle", bitter much? Katharine is the same person who called Brennan's out for falling short after they reopened (in her first review, no less!). Why do you feel the need to assume that she is a mouthpiece for the "overblown epicurean egos" in Houston? Why can't she be excited to see where Dorris is going to take the restaurant? Maybe you should take your conspiracy theories and go jump in the Ship Channel.

Txvet
Txvet

Oh, whatever. Get over yourself.

Oakie
Oakie

Katherine, I believe you missed the point. Could knowing and potentially being friends with a chef and others in the food community affect how you review a place? Just a thought. Maybe I'm off base.

Maggie_May
Maggie_May

Jealous that somebody is capable of writing something more substantive than a Tweet?

JeffnotbeauB
JeffnotbeauB

wait, katharine, are you saying you look at commenters' IPs? is that standard practice with sites? that seems intrusive, in fact, it hurts me deeply

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

The opposite of "mouth" could be seen as "ass"; the opposite of piece is whole. In all honesty, not calling names, just putting the pieces together.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Not to mention that the original story was written before the Stella Sola news came out. But hey! Let's all just jump to whatever conclusion best fits our preconceived notions!

kylejack
kylejack

Aren't you the monster that ruined the restaurant charcuterie industry in Houston? :P

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I absolutely see your point and agree with it. It would be quite a stretch to call any "relationship" that I have with any chef in town a friendship. I go to great pains not to fraternize with chefs or other industry folks except on a professional level, although I did make friends with a few industry people before I was hired at the Press. It's inevitable. I keep my few industry friends at a distance from my work and am not rushing to make any more; I think they understand why. :)

And, so we're perfectly clear for the record, Justin Basye is a great chef although not a personal friend of mine. He happened to be at the same bar that night, for Ghetto Dinner just like everyone else who was there, and that's the extent of it. :)

LbalkelOver
LbalkelOver

actually, an interesting topic. via tweets have shown to be a lower demo in terms of income and education.some houston sites have almost exclusively tweeted stuff.almost no formed ideas and sentences.yet these same sites would claim to reach an 'upscale demo'....what gives?

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

"is that standard practice with sites?"

Yes, especially when commenters begin to straddle that abusive/trolling line.

Apettitfours
Apettitfours

NicHall, Human Centipede says: mouth and anus might not be opposites; instead, an elaborate glorious synthesis, a never-ending story as it were...

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

If certain chefs are to be believed, then yes - that was me "ruining" things for everyone. Don't mind the fact that charcuterie is still happily on the menu at all of those places, and still selling like hotcakes. :D

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