Chef Randy Evans Talks Haven's Closing and What's Next for Him

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Photo courtesy Haven
Chef Randy Evans is moving on to smaller and more southern things.
It was a celebration last night at Haven, chef Randy Evans's farm-to-table restaurant famous for its fried chicken and upscale comfort food. December 19 would have marked Haven's fifth anniversary, but the restaurant closed unexpectedly after service last night to make way for a new business in the cozy space.

"We had a great night last night," Evans says. "There was a huge crowd, and everyone was toasting. We kinda had the last hurrah, if you will."

Evans says he'd known the restaurant was up for sale by the owner, Rhea Wheeler, since January, but he wasn't expecting the text he received Thursday telling him not to place an order for Houston Restaurant Weeks, in which Haven was expected to participate.

"It gives me a chance to go on and do something different," Evans says. "It makes it easier to leave when big things happen. I left Brennan's because of the fire after Hurricane Ike, and now I'm moving on again."

It seems that Wheeler is liquidating much of his properties due to health problems, leaving an opening for the owner of Union Kitchen, Paul Miller, to purchase the space. According to a report by the Houston Chronicle, Miller plans to turn the building into "an upscale, chef-driven restaurant overseen by Paul Lewis, formerly of Osteria Mazzantini and Cullen's."

Evans is taking the closure in stride and already making plans to open a new venture sometime in the future, possibly in the Garden Oaks/Heights area.

"Simple counter service, true southern food, straightforward, soul food," Evans says, naming some of the descriptors he has in mind for the new restaurant. "None of that white tablecloth stuff. I've been there and done that most of my career. It's time to peel the layers back and focus more on family food."

He estimates that opening is at least a year out, even though he has some properties in mind, because it takes a long time to get permitting from the city and he wants to do the whole thing on his own, without an investor calling the shots. He also wants to take some time to be with his family, which includes seven- and four-year-old children. Evans says his kids are thrilled that they'll be able to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day with their dad this year.

In the meantime, he's also planning on doing some catering and consulting, and he's already gotten requests from Houstonians who love his food.

"I'm sort of open to whatever comes my way," Evans says. "I like to cook, so I'll probably get down to just cooking again. You end up managing more than you cook sometimes, so I'm getting back down to just cooking."

He hasn't given much thought to the specifics of the menu at his eventual new restaurant yet, but he emphasizes that it will be simple. Fried okra, smothered pork chops and fried shrimp and oysters might find their way to the menu. He anticipates continuing his emphasis on local ingredients, but perhaps not to the extent he did at Haven, which had its own garden.

Based on the response to our initial article about Haven closing, we imagine Evans will have no trouble making a name for himself with a new, simple, homestyle family restaurant. He's thankful for all the support he's gotten already, but says he isn't quite ready to go online and read comments.

"I'm not reading Facebook now cause it'll make me tear up," he says. "It's been great, but I'm going to go back to what I do, what I love to eat."



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13 comments
Jeffrey
Jeffrey

I was given a $50 gift certificate to Haven for Christmas last year that I never redeemed because it closed.  Sounds like it was a great place!  Anybody have any ideas of who I can contact?  Thanks!

gagglerreflex
gagglerreflex

Good luck Randy and JP, have some great memories at both places and you guys made it happen for longer than most!

Anon4790
Anon4790

And where is KaitlinS going next? We'll follow her, too.

ghiselane
ghiselane

I've heard that Randy Evans and Eric Sandler are teaming up as Texas restaurant consultants. Eric is very close to obtaining a patent on a restaurant diagnostic tool, one that's based on the "Secrets of the TABC Reports". 

Earlier Sandler introduced his business tool to Evans, noting that Haven's liquor sales had declined nearly 50% within a year, and predicting 'problems ahead' if the trend continued and worsened. Evans was reportedly so impressed with Sandler's predictive instrument that he offered to come on as a partner almost immediately. 

It's unclear whether the two will start locally, or state-wide. Sandler claims his tool is highly secretive, but divulges that he can access numbers "from Odessa to Lufkin and beyond!".

Anh Minu Nguyen
Anh Minu Nguyen

Lol I know! Good thing we got to use our coupon :-). So sad for them. The food was delicious.

Maddux
Maddux

How about the fate of Jean-Philippe? Any word? Houstonia had planned a big story about him and Cove for September, I'm told.

billtonpetroleum
billtonpetroleum

So that persistent rumor about Evans reuniting with Chris Shepherd, Jamie Zelko and Carl Walker to do an inner-city ice house and diner has been neither confirmed nor denied?

Anon4792
Anon4792

@Anon4790 (Kaitlin, they're not kidding. I'm sorry. Click my parents profile above. They've got this weird obsession with following Houston Press writers. They still wax poetic about Alison Cook during dinner sometimes.)

softserve
softserve

@ghiselane C'mon cut the guy some slack, lol, he picked up the story so late he had to find SOME angle, since he wasn't first to 'break' the story. 

'Uh, yeah, as I suggested months ago through my super-secret-syrup analysis, Haven was doomed to fail....'.

KaitlinS
KaitlinS

@Maddux Been trying to get in touch with him. He's a talented fellow, and we're very interested in where he'll end up, too!

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