Chef Chat, Part 1: Jalal Esmailkhanloo of Epicure Café

Epicure Café has been in the same quaint spot on West Gray for 21 years. It's a little piece of Europe nestled between stylish boutiques and the River Oaks Theater, with a decadent pastry case and a unique wine list. You'll want to slow down and hang out here for awhile. That's exactly what we did recently when we chatted with with Chef Jalal Esmailkhanloo.

Eating Our Words: Tell us a little bit about your training.

Jalal Esmailkhanloo: I've always been in the food industry. I went to culinary school in Vienna and spent 12 years there. Then, I worked for Intercontinental Hotel for another 12 years. I'm traveled a lot throughout my career and have visited almost every continent.

EOW: Your travels must have influenced your cooking style. What is the concept behind Epicure Café?

JE: Epicure Café is a European-style bistro. We have a lot of Austrian and Swiss customers. The pastries are mostly Viennese-inspired, which my brother, Amir, makes. The berry cake with apricot glaze is one of our most popular pastries, because it's low in sugar and fat.

EOW: Do you try to use local ingredients in your menu?

JE: I have used Chappell Hill tomatoes and watermelon, which were delicious. However, my focus is more on flavor and quality, not necessarily where the ingredients come from. My customers can always tell when I've changed ingredients.

EOW: You've been all over the world. Why did you choose Houston for your restaurant?

JE: I did try New York, but it was too expensive. Houston is much easier to open a restaurant. Plus, we have relatives here.

Check back soon as Esmailkhanloo talks more about his influences and what he does on his days off.

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