Alex Gregg is not only an award-winning bartender at Anvil; he is also a professional photographer, and he recently put his skills to work last October at the very popular Les Sauvages Supper Club dinners. The fruits of his labor are now on display at Catalina Coffee on Washington Avenue.
The dinners featured several notable local guest chefs, including Chris Shepherd. Even chefs from other cities traveled to cook for Houstonians at the dinners, such as Jackie Blanchard of August in New Orleans and Ned Elliott of Foreign & Domestic in Austin.
Catalina Coffee has been a tremendous supporter of Houston's local artists. Installments rotate every month or so, and the shop does not charge the artists a commission or any other fees. Max Gonzalez, the owner, commented, "This is our way of supporting the art community. Besides, I don't want to look at the same thing all the time!"
The show that Alex has put together tells a story, not only of two young chefs putting on a series of highbrow dinners, but that of Houston's restaurant industry at large. It tells a story about tremendously talented chefs who had no permanent home at that moment, but who do have a lot of friends. (As of this writing, guest chefs Shepherd and Antoine Ware, are still waiting for their restaurant, Underbelly, to open. Ryan Hildebrand is now settled in at Triniti. Michael Kramer was at Felix 55, but no longer, and is now staging pop-up dinners of his own.)
While those who know these people and have a personal connection with them get something extra out of the images, anyone with an interest in chef culture will get something out of this show.
What, you didn't know chefs have their own culture? Indeed they do. Forget the commercials featuring investment bankers who drive pickups and "work hard and play hard." Chefs know how it's done and don't have to buy a new car to do it. Witness the dignified young Peter Jahnke putting on a brilliant white chef's jacket, surrounded by Lone Star cans in the kitchen. A photo of Justin Bayse with an "I can't believe that just came out of your mouth" expression will have you craning over, trying to catch what was said.
Ready for a shocker? "I'd never shot food before," said Gregg. "A lot of the food was not staged; it was on its way to the table. The photos are testament to the quality of the presentation."
The dramatic lighting and color in these photos make it almost unbelievable that he'd never shot food before. Colorful vegetables look so real that you might want to try to pluck one out of the frame.
Gregg did not even decide to turn the Les Sauvage dinners into a project until it was winding down. "I was talking with Peter Jahnke, and we were coming to the realization that it really was ending. For it to just vanish seemed unfair," said Gregg.
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The framed photos are reasonably priced at either $150 or $100 each, and it's easy to pick out a few to make your own little story at your home or business. Hurry, though; seven of the 19 sold on the opening night of the show, and there is no reason to believe it won't sell out in the next few weeks.
I strongly recommend you go check out the show with a warm, espresso-tinged cortado in-hand.