Houston tastes like fish sauce.
You can’t be a foodie in Houston and not know his name.
Georgia James – and now Georgia James Tavern. The late Underbelly, now turned UB Preserv. And One Fifth – the ingenious five-year concept, with a different genre of food each year.
Chris Shepherd is a James Beard Award winner and was even named the world’s BEST chef in 2019. And in September 2019, he launched a new book called Cook Like a Local.
What ‘cooking like a local’ means for Shepherd is drawing on the foods of the most diverse city in the nation. However, “local isn’t just about the ingredients but about the people.” Shepherd has spent much of his career studying with immigrant cooks, in kitchens from Bellaire to Spring Branch. This shaped his now-closed restaurant Underbelly, buying locally and drawing inspiration from the various cultures and cuisines of Houston.
On the menu at UB Preserv, Shepherd even lists twenty other restaurants that you have to visit, before you come back to his own UB Preserv. The list includes some of my favorites like Crawfish & Noodles and Al Aseel. “We want to be the gateway drug,” Shepherd says about leading his guests to restaurants beyond the Loop.
Shepherd’s recipes within Cook Like a Local are organized by six key ingredients that he believes define Houston: fish sauce, chiles, soy, rice, spices and corn. Throughout his book, Shepherd shares his obsession for browsing the aisles at H-Mart, the history of how that yummy rice fritter came to America, and his childhood growing up in the Midwest shucking corn.
This book isn’t just about recipes. But about a philosophy for food, and a philosophy for life.