Last year, Chef Jeramie Robison had his bags packed. He was leaving the Houston area, and along with it, a bumpy road during his stint at Tesar's in the Woodlands, when he received a call from Dan Zimmerman at La Colombe d'Or.
Robison initially told Zimmerman that he was leaving town, but changed his mind and decided to stop by La Colombe d'Or for a meeting on his way to Austin. And guess what? He never left.
We caught up with Robison last Friday at Cinq at La Colombe d'Or for an afternoon chat.
EOW: You're one of the youngest executive chefs in town, do you mind my asking how old you are?
JR: I'm 27, I'll be 28 on the 19th of this month.
EOW: You must have had an early start. When did you start cooking?
JR: This is going on my 11th year. I started at home with the family, but when I was 16 I started working at Anthony's Seafood and Pasta as a saute cook. When I was 19, I left for Denver for Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts.
EOW: Why Denver?
JR: For the mountains [smiles]. I didn't know anybody. One year into it, my dad got into a near fatal motorcycle accident, so I packed up and moved home to Rustin, Louisiana.
EOW: You took care of him?
JR: I helped with the job he was doing. He was a district manager for a company that makes filters for AC units. They put me with another guy in the company. I stopped cooking for seven months, but I got to see almost every Southern state. It comes with that kind of work.
EOW: And then?
JR: He got better. My girlfriend at the time moved to Dallas and I moved with her. I interviewed with John Tesar and Eric Brandt at the Mansion in Turtle Creek, and they hired me on as Cook I, but I did everything. I did banquets, I was the saucier, I cooked lunch, dinner, for the chef's room...I didn't have a set position. I was was also enrolled in culinary school.
EOW: But you didn't finish culinary school there...
JR: No. I had an opportunity to move to NYC. I had to take it. So I sold everything and left town with John [Tesar] to work at David Burke's Fishtail in New York. John was the sous chef for David Burke, and I was the cook. We worked with all kinds of fish -- sashimi, ceviche, shellfish -- every type of seafood.
EOW: Was there some seafood you worked with there that you don't see here?
JR: Yeah, dover sole, langoustines, skate...you don't see a lot here.
EOW: So what was it like in NYC?
JR: I stayed at a friend's place for the first three weeks, then moved to Astoria, Queens with some other cooks. It was like living in the video game Vice City, fast-paced. For four months I worked every day from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m., then I'd get stuck on the train til 2 a.m., sleep at 3 a.m., and get up again at 8:30 a.m.
EOW: Did you get a chance to see anything, or try any restaurants in NYC?
JR: I got to try Daniel Boulud's GBDB, they have a good burger. And I did a 13-course chef's tasting at WD50. I would bike over the Queensborough Bridge and bike all over the city.
EOW: So what brought you back to Texas?
JR: Ten months after I moved to NYC, these people from Texas offered John a restaurant, and he had to have me, so he convinced me to come back with him.
EOW: That was Tesar's, in the Woodlands, right?
JR: Yes, I was the Chef de Cuisine there. But they tried to do too much. We opened with a sushi bar, pizza, hamburgers, steak...they were trying to cater to everybody. Then five months into it, John was asked to leave. I was co-Executive Chef for a bit, but things went downhill fast, and I finally quit.
EOW: And that's what brought you here.
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JR: No, actually, I was moving to Austin. I had talked to the Chef at Olivia, and everything was lined up. I was packed up and leaving town when the phone rings...it was Dan Zimmerman, asking me to come in for a meeting, and I told him "I'm moving to Austin today, I'll give you a call Monday." But then I thought about it and I ended up driving the U-Haul down.
EOW: And how did that go?
JR: It was July, it was slow. They only had one guy cooking. They never even tasted my food. They told me I was hired and to come back within a week. Everything I owned was in the back of the U-Haul, so they put me up in one of their villas. I'm still staying there now.
Check back with us tomorrow when we talk to Robison about what he's been doing since he took the job at La Colombe d'Or in Houston.