In a 2012 Houston Eater article, Houston's food scene was described as "decadent" by Urban Harvest, "reinvented" by a KHOU anchorwoman and "broadening" on the blog Arbitrary Criticism. With an old American food tradition of down-home and barbecues, Houston is a city where the finest rib and burger joints exist in harmony with 24-hour diners, hopping live-music venues and restaurants serving French, Italian, Indian and Mexican. The variety, as well as the rising number of James Beard semifinalists, makes it a great place to study the culinary arts.
Houston culinary scene
"Houston scores semifinalists in 2013 James Beards Awards," touted the February 19, 2013 Houston Chronicle. In all, Houston made the list eight times, with the following restaurants and chefs:
- Oxheart: Best New Restaurant; Oxheart's Justin Yu: Rising Star Chef of the Year
- Underbelly: Best New Restaurant; Underbelly's Chris Shepherd: Best Chef Southwest
- Anvil Bar & Refuge: Outstanding Bar Program
- Uchi's Tyson Cole: Outstanding Chef
- Goode Company Restaurants' Levi Goode: Outstanding Restaurateur
- Hugo's: Best Chef Southwest
While a James Beard affiliation carries deserving weight, off-the-list establishments serve as food havens to devoted diners, too. When the Eater asked restaurant critics and other local foodies to share their favorite Houston food haunts, the following were among those named: Mockingbird Bistro for its hamburgers and martinis, Teotihuacan for thoughtful Mexican food, LA Bar for oysters, Down House's bar for relaxing coffee and cocktails and Provisions, because My Table magazine contributor Phaedra Cook has "developed some kind of weird restaurant crush" on it (Eater, 2012).
Houston culinary schools and barbecue
To have a long line of love-struck and hungry suitors is a goal of future chefs everywhere. Students attending culinary schools in Houston are tossed into a culinary atmosphere that pleases diverse tastes, including the omnipresent barbecue. According to a 2012 Houston Press article, Texas barbecue is a tradition predating the Civil War, although many of the old BBQ methods have gone by the wayside. In the 1800s, mutton, beef clod and pork shoulder were roasted over long, low open trenches filled with oak and pecan wood. Crews tended big cuts of meat all night long, throwing smaller bits on in the morning. Flare-ups were extinguished by squirts of water and shovels of sand.
Today's barbecues suffer fewer flare-ups, with the regular use of closed pits and metal-rod baskets to rotate the meats, usually consisting of brisket, pork ribs and sausage. Meat is cooked more quickly over the flames and then thrown into ice chests to encourage slow cooking. Even as some lament the loss of the old methods, most agree that the results are more than pleasing. Some restaurants, including two-time Best Barbecue of Houston award winner Gatlin's, employ the "low and slow" old school Texas barbecue methods, without a pit, proof that there are many ways to make BBQ good.
Students of culinary schools in Houston, Texas might be wise to learn old- and new-school barbecue tricks. But BBQ is far from the final stop in Houston cuisine, and opportunities continue to abound. According to the Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau, Houstonians eat out more than residents of any other American city: 4.1 nights per week versus the national average of 3.1 (Visithoustontexas.com, 2013). The Greater Houston Restaurant Association concurs, specifying that Houston's restaurant sales are $3.2 billion annually (GHRA.com, 2013). This is encouraging news for budding chefs and foodies alike.
Facts and Figures: Houston at a Glance, http://www.visithoustontexas.com/travel-tools/about-houston/facts-and-figures/
Houston Chronicle, http://www.chron.com/
Houston Eater, http://houston.eater.com/
Houston Press, http://www.houstonpress.com/
Houston Restaurants, http://www.houstonrestaurants.com/
New York Magazine: Grub Street, http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2013/02/james-beard-semifinalists.html
Restaurant.org Study: Houston's restaurants, hotels energize local economy, http://www.restaurant.org/News-Research/News/Study-Houston%E2%80%99s-restaurants,-hotels-energize-local
For information on Culinary Schools in Houston, please visit any school below and request more information.