Spatchcocked Turkey and Fresh Wassail: Houston Chefs Have Some Great Cooking Planned for Their Thanksgiving Gatherings

Photo by Molly Dunn
What do Houston chefs put on their Thanksgiving dinner table?
Earlier this week, we spoke with some Houston chefs about their Thanksgiving preparation and cooking advice.

Today, the chefs share with us what they are making for Thanksgiving this year, whether they're planning to spend the holiday at home or in the kitchens of their restaurants.

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Chef Chat, Part 2: Paul Petronella Tells the Story of How Camerata Wine Bar Came Into Being

Categories: Chef Chat

Photo by Mai Pham
Paul Petronella contemplates wine at Camerata.

This is the second part of a two-part Chef Chat interview. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

In Part One of this week's Chef Chat, Paul Petronella of Paulie's and Camerata told the story of growing up in an Italian-American restaurant family and what it was like to take over the family business and try to implement change. Since assuming leadership at Paulie's, Petronella has been instrumental in supporting young chefs by hosting pop-up events at the restaurant. In addition, he is part-owner of OKRA Charity bar, a not-for-profit that donates to charities in the Houston area. Petronella created the menu for the bar, picking up the slack on days when they are short-staffed. And somehow, in the midst of all this, he found the time to conceptualize and open Camerata, the focus of our conversation today.

EOW: Let's go back to you being a chef and being creative. Was there a formal education, or was it just growing up in the business?

PP: Just growing up in the business. I took a short trip to Italy for three weeks right when I came back to the restaurant. I tried to work where I could, but a lot of people didn't really want a white kid in their kitchens. I just ate a lot -- saw what was different from the Northern regions to the Southern regions to Sicily. Found out what I wanted to do -- found out really what I thought I could bring back and translate. Because if you opened a truly authentic neighborhood restaurant that you'd find in Venice or Tuscany, honestly, I don't think it would succeed here, because it's so simple. It's just like fresh pasta, maybe one herb and maybe a protein, and I think most Americans would be disappointed about how little was on that plate.

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Chef Chat, Part 1: Paul Petronella of Paulie's Talks Family, Longevity, And Good Coffee

Categories: Chef Chat

Photo by Mai Pham
Paul Petronella has known the inside of an Italian kitchen since he was toddler.

This is the first part of a two-part Chef Chat interview. Check back with us tomorrow to read Part 2.

When we talk about neighborhood restaurants around town, Paulie's on Westheimer has been a Montrose staple for years. Celebrating its 15th year in business this year, the casual Italian restaurant offers a menu of pastas, pizzas, sandwiches and classic Italian favorites like ossobuco and lasagna that have cultivated a steady, regular crowd, who visit as much for the comfort of and consistency as much as they do for convenience.

Now, with the recent expansion to include an adjacent wine bar -- Camerata at Paulie's -- there's even more reason to visit frequently. The wildly successful wine bar, a favorite among industry and sommeliers around town, has once again placed Paulie's in the spotlight, and with it, Paulie's owner, namesake, and chef, Paul Petronella, the subject the of this week's Chef Chat.

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Baker Spotlight: Kit Seay, Amanda Bates Spread (Mother and Daughter) Joy Through Tiny Pies

Photo courtesy of Amanda Bates
Mother-daughter team Kit Seay and Amanda Bates love working side-by-side in their business, Tiny Pies.
Who says a pie has to be large? Why can't a pie be handheld or even bite-size? Mother and daughter duo Kit Seay and Amanda Bates decided to make a business around smaller, personal pies, hence the name, Tiny Pies. But the idea didn't come from either of them.

"My grandson suggested that we make tiny pies so that they would go into his lunch better when he goes to school," Seay says. "He loves pies, and he would take slices of pie and they would be messy, or he would forget to bring the plastic container home, so his suggestion was, 'Why don't you make tiny pies?' and we thought that that was a pretty good suggestion."

Seay and Bates are based out of Austin, but sell their wares throughout the state at Central Market and several specialty grocery stores, such as Revival Market in Houston. Their products are also available by phone or online. The pair have also expanded Tiny Pies into catering, weddings and corporate gift giving. And it has been only three years since the two began selling their pies to the public at local farmers' markets in Austin.

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Chef Chat, Part 2: David Denis of Le Mistral Talks Foie Gras, 9/11 and Energy Corridor

Categories: Chef Chat

Photo by Mai Pham
Chef David Denis of Le Mistral. Sit at his chef's table and let him 'go crazy' on the food.

This is the second part of a two-part chef chat interview. To read the first part of our chat, click here.

This week we're chatting with David Denis of Le Mistral, a French restaurant located in the Energy Corridor. Yesterday, Denis shared his history working as a private chef, and told us his reason for opening outside of the Inner Loop. Today we continue our conversation.

EOW: If you were so successful at the former location, why did it take seven years to open this current location?

DD: We own our building and our land. I'm not rich. I started with nothing. I didn't have mom and dad give me money -- we give them money. So, what we did, we ran this other restaurant for seven years. And we were booming. The last two years at that location, this area became the Energy Corridor.

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Chef Chat, Part 1: David Denis of Le Mistral

Categories: Chef Chat

Photo by Mai Pham
David Denis of Le Mistral came to America as a private chef.

This is the first part of a two-part Chef Chat interview. Please visit us tomorrow to read Part 2.

We hear the argument all the time: Houston is so much more than what you find in the Inner Loop. Venture over to the west side of town, and you'll find gems like the international food emporium Phoenicia Specialty Foods, the quaint Peruvian Bistro Lemon Tree, Akaushi burgers at The Burger Guys, delicious Pan-Asian at Rattan Asian Bistro, and authentic French cuisine at Le Mistral, where chef and owner David Denis has been offering great cuisine to a multinational clientele and sophisticated palates for 11 years. One of the first restaurants of its caliber to open on the West Side, Le Mistral took a big chance outside the Loop. We sat down for a candid chat with Denis to find out what made him choose that particular location in lieu of something closer to the center of town.

EOW: I think you took a big risk moving out here in the Energy Corridor. I know you've been here for a while. What made you open your restaurant here?

DD: You're right. It was a big risk. When I opened the restaurant, people said, "Man, you're opening in San Antonio."

EOW: It is far.

DD: It is far, but really it's not too far. It depends on where you live in Houston and the time that you want to come, for sure. If you jump on I-10, it's very fast. I live on Chimney Rock, and people who live in this area jump on I-10 and it takes only 20 minutes. Anyway, when we started 11 years ago, it was a small little place down the street not far away from this location.

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Baker Spotlight: Angela Rowley, of Blackbird Foods, Is Taking Meat Pies to Another Level

Categories: Chef Chat

Photo by Molly Dunn
Angela Rowley merges her love for gastropubs with savory pies, with tasty results.
Just because it's a pie doesn't mean it has to be sweet. Angela Rowley, owner of Blackbird Foods, chose to focus her business on savory meat pies. Growing up in Port Arthur, Texas, introduced Rowley to the flavors and spices of Cajun cuisine at a young age.

"I have always baked pretty much my whole life," Rowley says. "Even when I was a kid, I used to bake from scratch, which at the time I used to not think anything of, but my grandparents would brag on me and be like, 'Oh, she bakes everything from scratch.'"

All of the pies Rowley bakes for her company are inspired by food memories -- the Cajun-style fried pies her Great Aunt Rose brought to family reunions, or the pies she feasted on while living in England.

"I went over and lived in England for a while and I really fell in love with the pies there," Rowley says. "And then you just start to make the connection in your mind that there are pies all around the world and you have them in different cultures. So when I came back, I was craving the British-style pies, and I married a Brit, too, so that just sort of led to me developing it."

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Chef Chat, Part 2: How Trevor White of Morton's Grille Was Forced to Cook For Himself

Categories: Chef Chat

Photo by Mai Pham
Trevor White's mother 'encouraged' him to cook when he was 13.

This is the second part of a two-part Chef Chat feature. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

This week, we're chatting with Trevor White, a regional chef with Landry's, whose job is to oversee 20 restaurants, among them Morton's The Steakhouse, The Oceanaire and the new Morton's Grille in The Woodlands. In Part 1 of our chef chat, White described his role in the Landry's organization and shared the process for developing the new menu at Morton's Grille. Today he talks about the events in his life that led him to become a chef.

EOW: How much time are you spending traveling now? What is a typical week like for you?

TW: I usually fly out on Monday. If I go to a cluster group -- let's say the L.A. area -- then I'll usually hit two or three restaurants that week, make a quick trip and go through. I've done weeks on end in a restaurant. We just opened in Biloxi, but it's usually Monday through Friday, and I usually fly home in the afternoon and try to spend as much time as possible with my family.

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Chef Chat, Part 1: Trevor White Has Morton's Grille Serving Up Some Fine Food

Categories: Chef Chat

Photo by Mai Pham
Trevor White, regional chef of Morton's Grille, Morton's The Steakhouse, and The Oceanaire.

This is the first part of a two-part Chef Chat feature. Come back tomorrow for Part 2.

For people who love meat and steak but don't want the formality or cost that goes along with dining at a high-end restaurant like Morton's The Steakhouse, there's a new place for you to try: Morton's Grille. The new concept, which debuted in The Woodlands last month, is a lighter, cheekier version of its older sibling, featuring classic American dishes that will delight any meat-and-potatoes lover.

When I visited the restaurant recently to try out its new lunch service, the attractive space was busy and bustling, the bar area well occupied despite the midday hour (the bar, incidentally, looked like a great happy-hour spot). While I dined on their signature tater tot nachos, or "Tot'chos," indulged in a belt-busting serving of Smokey Joe's mac and cheese, and savored barbecue baby back ribs that had been braised in bacon fat, Trevor White, the regional chef in residence, came out to introduce some of the dishes and check on our experience. He was so personable that I asked him to sit down for a chat so that we could get a glimpse into his life as a regional chef for Landry's, Inc.

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Baker Spotlight: Belen Bailey, Sweets by Belen

Categories: Chef Chat, Sweets

Photo by Molly Dunn
Belen Bailey never learned how to cook or bake in a professional setting -- everything she learned came from her mother and grandmother.
You don't have to graduate from a culinary institute to be a successful baker. Belen Bailey, owner and baker of Sweets by Belen, proves that a love for a mother's sweets and treats, combined with a passion for baking, is more than enough to make a name for yourself in the Houston culinary world.

As a child, Bailey lived in Peru, and became accustomed to having sweets or desserts with just about every single meal.

"I started baking because back in Peru, my mom and my grandma always had some kind of treat -- something sweet, at home," Bailey says. "In Peru, the people have the main dish and then soup, but in my house it was the main dish and dessert. So, when I moved to Louisiana, I started looking for something sweet. After a while, I was missing my mom and my grandma's sweets."

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